Pixel Scroll 4/16/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Pixel’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) CONTRACT GUIDES NOW OPEN ACCESS. The Authors Guild has released its Model Book Contract to the public for the first time. They have also produced a separate Literary Translation Model Contract for U.S. translators and literary agents.

“We updated the Model Trade Book Contract last year right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We never could have predicted just how deleterious the crisis would be on working writers, with 71.4 percent of authors reporting losing, on average, 49 percent of their regular pre-pandemic income, based on our latest member survey,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Given this situation, we have been exploring various ways to help ease the lives and careers of professional writers, which is why the Authors Guild Council recently voted to remove the Model Trade Book Contract from behind our member paywall and make it freely accessible for all writers, publishers and anyone interested in book contracts. We hope that publishers will look to its terms in creating their own or adopt it, and we want authors around the globe to have access to it so they can understand what terms and issues they should be aware of before signing any book deal.”

(2) THEY’RE BACK. “Wakandans Featurette/Marvel Studio’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube is a trailer from Disney+ that announces that Wakandans have shown up in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.

(3) SPFBO. Mark Lawrence has announced that he will be starting the next Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off on June 1st.  They need another blogger/reviewer.

(4) FINALS EXAM. Cora Buhlert has 2,000 well-chosen words to share on the subject: “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Finalists”.

… When the Best Series Hugo was proposed, the argument was that a lot of popular and long-running series are overlooked by the Hugos – or the Nebulas for that matter – because the individual novels don’t stand alone very well and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

However in practice, such series, no matter how popular, are rarely nominated. Particularly The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is notable by its absence, even though the Best Series Hugo seems tailor-made for this series.

Instead, the Best Series ballot tends to consist of trilogies by authors Hugo voters like and where individual volumes have often made the ballot before as well as of works set in the same wold that form a series if you squint really hard. I guess most Hugo voters simply aren’t series readers.

That said, the actual Best Series ballot looks pretty good this year. The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a hugely popular series where prettty much every installment has either been a finalist or would have been, if Martha Wells hadn’t withdrawn two Murderbot novellas from consideration in 2019. It’s also a great series….

(5) HAVE YOU RED IT TOO? The Heinlein Society has a good reason for suggesting that you watch this trailer and note what books the kids are reading at about 28 seconds.

(6) IT’S JUST TAKING A KIP. Meanwhile, back at the Red Planet, NASA’s InSight lander is “in crisis”: “NASA’s InSight Mars Lander to Hibernate so Batteries Don’t Die” at Business Insider.

… Unlike other sites where NASA has sent rovers and landers — including the landing spot of the new Perseverance rover and its Mars helicopter — powerful gusts of wind have not been sweeping Elysium Planitia. These winds, called “cleaning events,” are needed to blow the red Martian dust off the solar panels of NASA’s robots. Without their help, a thick layer of dust has accumulated on InSight, and it’s struggling to absorb sunlight.InSight’s solar panels were producing just 27% of their energy capacity in February, when winter was arriving in Elysium Planitia. So NASA decided to start incrementally turning off different instruments on the lander. Soon the robot will go into “hibernation mode,” shutting down all functions that aren’t necessary for its survival.

By pausing its scientific operations, the lander should be able to save enough power to keep its systems warm through the frigid Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to negative-130 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The amount of power available over the next few months will really be driven by the weather,” Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager, said in a statement.

InSight is still in good condition — it’s even using its robotic arm — but an out-of-season storm could cause a power failure. If the lander’s batteries die, it might never recover.

“We would be hopeful that we’d be able to bring it back to life, especially if it’s not asleep or dead for a long period of time,” Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator, told Insider. “But that would be a dicey situation.”

(7) THE HOLE NINE YARDS. Let James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five Books That Use Wormholes to Plug Plot Holes” at Tor.com. First on the list –

Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein (1953)

This novel long predates the heyday of wormholes; it doesn’t even use the phrase. But it uses spacetime anomalies, which are just like wormholes. With one exception: they don’t just have an entrance and an exit. They can take you all sorts of interesting places if you enter the anomaly with the wrong approach vector. A small error calculating the vector and a hapless ship could find itself light-millennia off-course, with no clear idea how to get home. No prizes for guessing if this happens to the Asgard, the very ship on which the eponymous Starman Jones is serving. Nor is this worst that will happen to the unfortunate castaways.

(8) MCCRORY OBIT. Actress Helen McCrory, OBE, (1968-2021) died April 16 reports GEEKchocolate.

We are hugely saddened to hear of the death of the wonderful Helen McCrory, known to us as Rosanna Calvierri’s in Doctor Who’s Vampires of Venice, but with a resume which stretched from Interview with the Vampire, Charlotte Gray, The Count of Monte Cristo, Skyfall, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, a recurring role in Harry Potter as Narcissa Malfoy, and a long stint as Polly Grey on Peaky Blinders, as well as two appearances as Cherie Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship.

(9) FELIX SILLIA OBIT. The actor who played Cousin Itt on The Addams Family, Felix Sillia, has died at the age of 84 reports SYFY Wire.

In addition to playing Cousin Itt, Silla’s other best-known roles include playing the robot Twiki / Odee-x on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and an evil miniature “Hitler” in 1975’s The Black Bird. He also had smaller parts in much-loved movies, such as playing an Ewok on Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Dink in Spaceballs. He also worked as a stuntman on E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialPoltergeistIndiana Jones and the Temple of DoomHoward the Duck, and Batman Returns.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 16, 1955 –On this day in 1955, Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 16, 1891 – Dorothy Lathrop.  Illustrator and author.  Historically a lot of good fantasy has been written for children; folks who appreciate fantasy know to look there.  DL illustrated twoscore books, writing nine herself, also nonfiction.  Rachel Field’s Hitty, illustrated by DL, won RF a Newbery Medal; DL’s illustrations for Helen Fish’s Animals of the Bible won DL a Caldecott Medal.  Here is DL’s cover for an ed’n of The Little Mermaid.  Here is a dandelion soldier.  Here is an interior for Mopsa the Fairy.  This is from DL’s Fairy Circus.  Here is Across the Night Sky.  Here is a 2011 appreciation with another score of pictures.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. Genre adjacent (well sort of), he played Hercule Poirot twice. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Anti-Death League and The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction which was published in the late Fifties sounds fascinating as he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube despite there already being some. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both an excellent radio and a superb television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. The film version would be nominated for a Hugo finishing sixth in the balloting at Noreascon I, a year where No Award was given. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1953 – J. Neil Schulman.  Four novels, half a dozen shorter stories; collection Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories (speaking of Hobbes’ Leviathan, I used to joke that the tiger should have been Calvin, and the boy Hobbes because he was nasty, brutish, and short); “Profiles in Silver” for The Twilight Zone; two Prometheus Awards.  I can’t remember ever agreeing with him, but I miss him.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1954 Ellen Barkin, 65. Usually I don’t do a birthday listing for just a few genre appearances but I make an exception for those performers who appeared in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Barking played Penny Priddy in that film and that was her only genre appearance other than playing Kathleen in the Into The West film about Irish Travellers and a very special horse named Tír na nÓg. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 59. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb. She has a most excellent website — Kathryncramer.com. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1970 – Brandon McKinney, age 51.  Here is a fine cover for John Whitman’s novelization Star Wars.  Here is a cover for JW’s Phantom Menace.  Interiors for both.  Here is Batman, here is Robin.  Here is Spider-Man.  Here is Bruce Lee in The Dragon Rises.  Also Elfquest; see here.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1975 Sean Maher, 46. Doctor Simon Tam In the Firefly verse. And Dick Grayson (Nightwing) in a staggering number of  animated DAC films, to wit  Son of BatmanBatman vs. Robin,,Batman: Bad Blood, Justice League vs. Teen TitansTeen Titans: The Judas Contract and Batman: Hush. He showed up on Arrow as Shrapnel in the “Blast Radius” and “Suicide Squad” episodes. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1978 – Amy Ruttan, age 43.  Four novels for us; two dozen others.  “Half the fun of writing historicals and being swept away in a different time period is the research….  let someone else you trust have a look over your work.  You’ll be surprised what you as an author won’t pick out.”  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1983 – Thomas Olde Heuvelt, age 38.  Too little (say I) of his work has been translated from Dutch into English.  “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” was and won a Hugo, which may be some encouragement.  Six novels, sixteen shorter stories; one novel, five shorter stories in English so far.  Three Paul Harland prizes.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1990 – Kusano Gengen, age 31.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Only three stories yet translated into English; one is “Last and First Idol” – yes, alluding to Olaf Stapledon – which won a Seiun, and is the lead story in a 2018 collection with the other two.  KG drew a thousand words from Jonathan Clements, of which I’ll quote a few about “Idol”: “Described by one of the Hayakawa Sci-Fi Contest [which “Idol” won – JH] panelists as ‘stupid’, and by an employee of his own publisher as ‘abysmal’, Kusano’s work of recursive SF provocatively combines the breathless, vapid prose of a teenage school story with the portentous, epic concerns of Space Opera, turning each into a wry commentary on the pomposity of the other.”  Meanwhile Kusano-san went off to Hokkaidô University for a Ph.D.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) IMAGINARY PAPERS ON YOUR DOORSTEP. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today published the 6th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination.  

This issue features writing from media scholar Lisa Yin Han, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, and learning sciences researcher Ruth Wylie.

Here is a link for subscribing to future issues.

 (14) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has scheduled three more FanHistory Project Zoom Sessions. To attend, send an RSVP to fanac@fanac.org in order to receive a link. 

  • April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  

Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and  Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. 

  • April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. 

Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. 

  • May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. 

Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and more. 

(15) BEAMING INTO YOUR HOME. Stay tuned as Galactic Journey boldly goes through 1966!

(16) BIG BUCKS. Smaug’s dead, so they can’t borrow it from him.“Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Costs $465 Million for Just Season 1” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings television show is going to cost all the gold in the Lonely Mountain.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Amazon will spend roughly NZ$650 million — $465 million in U.S. dollars — for just the first season of the show.

That’s far above previous reported estimates that pegged the fantasy drama as costing an already record-breaking $500 million for multiple seasons of the show.

“What I can tell you is Amazon is going to spend about $650 million in season one alone,” Stuart Nash, New Zealand minister for economic development and tourism, told Morning Report“This is fantastic, it really is … this will be the largest television series ever made.”

The figures were released as part of as part of the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act and initially reported by the New Zealand outlet Stuff. The documents also confirmed the studio’s plan to film potentially five seasons in New Zealand — as well as possible, as-yet-unannounced spinoff series.

By comparison, HBO’s Game of Thrones cost roughly $100 million to produce per season, with its per-episode cost starting at around $6 million for season one and eventually rising to around $15 million per episode in season eight….

(17) THE TRAIN TO NOWHERE. Mashable’s reviewer Belen Edwards says “’Infinity Train’ Season 4 is a strong end to a show that deserved more”.

… However, part of the beauty of Infinity Train has always been its conciseness. The animated series takes on an anthology format. Each season follows a different passenger on the titular train, where each car holds a new world. Passengers are assigned a glowing green number that goes down as they learn more lessons and work to resolve the problems in their life. When their numbers reach zero, they can exit the train. Each season is only 10 episodes long, and at 11 minutes each they pack in an astounding amount of character development and heart. …

(18) KING OF THE MOVIES. There will be an online “Dollar Baby film festival” hosted by Vancouver’s Baker Street Cinema of unreleased Stephen King movies from April 23-25. Full details at the link.  

Hosted by Canadian film production company Barker Street Cinema, the virtual festival, called STEPHEN KING RULES, will screen 25 submissions by filmmakers from all over the world, many of which have never been seen by a global audience before.

Since 1977, the Master of Horror – Stephen King – has allowed emerging filmmakers to adapt his previously unproduced short stories into films that may help launch their careers through what is called the Dollar Baby Deal. Barker Street’s STEPHEN KING RULES Dollar Baby Film Festival will showcase an exciting line-up of these independent movies, including interviews and panel discussions with the filmmakers themselves….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Dann, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day MixMat and Cliff with an assist from Jack Lint and Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 3/24/21 I Scrolled Pixel Rae’s Lawn

(1) JEOPARDY! Tonight’s installment of Jeopardy! featured an entire category about the Nebula Awards. The first clue even mentioned the L.A. Science Fiction League of 1937. Andrew Porter provides screencaps. (Click for larger image.)

(2) TURN BACK THE CLOCK. Internet Archive Blog proudly points to a“Major SciFi Discovery Hiding in Plain Sight at the Internet Archive”.

Fans of science fiction learned last week that the word “robot” was first used in 1920—a full three years earlier than originally thought.The “massively important yet obvious” change in date was confirmed with a search of the Internet Archive, which has a digitized first edition of the Czech play, R.U.R. Rossum’s Universal Robots, published in 1920. There on the title page, hiding in plain sight in an English-language subtitle to the work, is the earliest known use of the word “robot.”

This important piece of information is one of many little-known facts captured in the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. The project was completed this year by historian Jesse Sheidlower,…

(3) PROGRESS REPORT. Alastair Reynolds, in “We’ve been landing on Mars for a long time”, compares the length of time probes have been going to Mars with a benchmark in the history of eartbound aviation.

(4) THE WRIGHT STUFF. There was a lot more mileage left in the old bird after all: “Part of Wright brothers’ 1st airplane on NASA’s Mars chopper” reports AP News.

A piece of the Wright brothers’ first airplane is on Mars.

NASA’s experimental Martian helicopter holds a small swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer, the space agency revealed Tuesday. The helicopter, named Ingenuity, hitched a ride to the red planet with the Perseverance rover, arriving last month.

Ingenuity will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet no sooner than April 8. It will mark a “Wright brothers’ moment,” noted Bobby Braun, director for planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio, the Wrights’ hometown, donated the postage-size piece of muslin from the plane’s bottom left wing, at NASA’s request….

(5) BLUE PLAQUE SPECIAL. “Campaign to buy JRR Tolkien’s Oxford home fails” reports The Guardian.

An appeal to the public to raise £4.5m to buy JRR Tolkien’s former home in Oxford has failed.

Project Northmoor launched a crowdfunding campaign in December to raise money to acquire Tolkien’s former house at 20 Northmoor Road in Oxford, before it was put on to the market. Backed by names including Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen, who played Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf in adaptations of Tolkien’s novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the campaign said it wanted to turn the Grade II-listed property into “the first literary centre in the world dedicated to Tolkien”, and that it needed £4.5m to do so.

The Tolkien Society distanced itself from the project, after being approached for support by organisers, saying that the house “would not be a museum and would not be open to the public”, and that given the property is a listed building and already has a blue plaque celebrating the author, it is “well protected under the law and not in need of rescue”. The Tolkien Society was also concerned that plans it had seen for the property included “spiritual retreats”, that the charity’s “business model includes running a bed and breakfast, with a full-time resident warden”, and that its “primary intention appears to be to run creative workshops, rather than educational programmes about Tolkien”. It was also critical of the fact that “no prominent members of the Tolkien community – be they writers, academics, artists etc – are directors of the company”…

(6) “BLERDS” EXPLORE INTERSECTION OF BLACKNESS AND NERDINESS. Adam Bradley of the New York Times offers an insightful article titled “The Black Nerds Redefining the Culture”. In it, he traces how race and nerd subcultures overlap and affect each other.

“Blerds still love the same types of content [as other nerds],” Terril “Rell” Fields, the 33-year-old founder of the Raleigh, N.C.-based blerd.com says. “A Blerd just sees nerd culture through their Black cultural lens.” They may notice things that other nerds don’t: a Black or brown supporting character in a comic book that might otherwise be forgotten; a political allegory of race and democracy played out in a sci-fi television series.

(7) THEY CAME IN FROM THE COLD – TO WRITE. In “The Best Spy Novels Written by Spies, According to a Spy” on CrimeReads, sf writer Alma Katsu, a former spy, recommends her favorite spy novels by people who served in intelligence.

…As a retired intelligence professional and a published novelist, and now the author of a spy novel, I’m here to set the record straight: Even when you’ve been in the espionage business, it’s hard to write a good spy novel.

The heart of a good spy novel is not the caper but the personal or moral issue facing the protagonist. In a nutshell, that is the spy business, particularly on the clandestine side. You’re constantly asking yourself, am I doing the right thing? Do the ends justify the means? If I do this questionable thing, what does it mean about me as a person? The best spies—like the best people in general—question themselves. Test their motives. And try to hold themselves accountable. Because—like Spiderman—spies have great power, and with great power comes great responsibility….

Joe Weisberg, An Ordinary Spy

That’s right, the mind behind the brilliant TV series The Americans put a few years in with one of the three-letter agencies. Before his transition to television, he wrote this absolutely true-to-life novel. There was a tussle with CIA’s pre-publication review board that resulted in redactions, which the publisher cheekily decided to leave in. Without fail, when asked what it’s like to work at the Agency, this is the book I recommend. An Ordinary Spy perfectly captures what happens in the beginning, when your James Bond dreams crash into reality.

(8) THERE ARE OLD EQUATIONS, AND BOLD EQUATIONS, BUT THERE ARE NO OLD, BOLD COLD EQUATIONS. Netflix dropped a trailer for Stowaway, about a stowaway aboard a Mars mission,

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 24, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that its birthday but let’s skip past that technically please. Quark was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. It starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and  Cyb Barnstable. It specialised in satirizing popular SF series and films and the Wiki article says three episodes were based upon actual Trek episodes. It lasted but eight episodes, beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 24, 1852 – Edward Page Mitchell.  Editor-in-chief of the New York Sun; pioneering SF author.  “The Crystal Man” predated Wells’ Invisible Man; “The Clock That Went Backward” predated The Time Machine – though Wells must be credited for that superb name, and story; faster-than-light travel (“The Tachypomp”) in 1874; other firsts.  See Sam Moskowitz ed., The Crystal Man (1973).  More here.  (Died 1927) [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1874 Harry Houdini. His literary career intersects the genre world in interesting ways. Though it’s not known which, many of his works were apparently written by his close friend Walter B. Gibson who as you know is the creator of The Shadow. And one famous story of his, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”, was actually ghost written by Lovecraft! ISFDB lists another piece of genre fiction for him, “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstad”. (Died 1926.) (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1897 Theodora Kroeber. Mother of Ursula K. Le Guin. Anthropologist, Ishi in Two Worlds is the work she’s most remembered for. ISFDB lists her as having but one genre work, a children book titled Carrousel with illustrations by Douglas Tait. Ishi is available on the usual suspects. (Died 1979.) (CE) 
  • Born March 24, 1911 – Gabriel Mayorga.  I know of five covers, half a dozen interiors for us, but he may have done more.  Tuned a notable artistic vision to the demands of our publishers.  Here is the May 40 Super Science (Fred Pohl, editor).  This Jun 40 Astonishing was re-used by Justine Larbalestier for The Battle of the Sexes in SF.  Here is the May 41 Super Science Novels (also Pohl).  Painted, sculpted, and taught in New York City, working in oil, pastel, watercolor, epoxy, plastic and polyester plastic.  Here is Strength (1928) carved from a bar of soap for a contest.  He illustrated this Theory and Practice of Fencing.  More here.  (Died 1988) [JH] 
  • Born March 24, 1930 Steve McQueen. He got his big break by being the lead, Steve Andrews, in The Blob. Setting aside the two different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents he had which are at least genre adjacent, The Blob is his only genre appearance in his brief life. He died of a heart attack. (Died 1980.) (CE) 
  • Born March 24, 1946 Andrew I. Porter, 75. Editor, publisher, fan. Major member of NYC regional fandom starting in the early Sixties. Editor of Algol: The Magazine About Science Fiction which became StarshipAlgol / Starship started in the Sixties and was a five-time Hugo nominee in the Seventies, and exceedingly superb reading it was. He won a Hugo for Best Fanzine in 1974, in a tie with Richard E. Geis, who was doing SFR. He founded the newzine Science Fiction Chronicle in May 1980 and published it monthly, eventually selling it to DNA Publications in May 2000.  He has won myriad awards including the Big Heart Award. He has attended hundreds of science fiction conventions and nearly forty Worldcons since his first in ‘63. He was Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1990 Worldcon. And with John Bangsund, he was responsible for Australia hosting its first Worldcon. (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1946 Gary K. Wolfe, 75. Monthly reviewer for Locus for twenty-seven years now and yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death  resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever.  Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006 in Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction. (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1949 Tabitha King, 72. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None of her books are with her husband which surprised me. (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1949 – Bob Walters, age 72.  A score of covers, a hundred eighty interiors.  Here is Sunspacer.  Here is the Dec 84 Asimov’s.  Here is the May 85 Analog.  Here is A Thunder on Neptune.  [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1960 – Lene Kaaberbøl, age 60.  A score of novels for us; also crime fiction.  Nordic Children’s Book Prize.  Morgensen Prize.  First published at age 15.  “I was born in Copenhagen, by mistake, really, since my parents are both Jutlanders…. the distinction may appear trivial to non-Danes, but to insiders it is a crucial one!…  The Morning Land was one of the first … Danish fantasy novels for adults.”  Silver medal in pétanque at the World Championships.  [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1975 – Carl Hancock Rux, age 46.  Author of novels, essays, poems, plays, songs; actor and director; instrumentalist, singer (five solo albums, a dozen singles). Village Voice Literary Prize, NY Fdn. for the Arts Prize.  Alpert, Bessie, Doris Duke, Obie Awards.  Asphalt (novel, play) is ours.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1988 – Viktoria Gavrilenko, age 33.  Three covers for us.  Here is Villains, Inc.  Here is Young Sentinels.  Freelance concept artist and illustrator (also as “Viccolatte – call me Vik”); other occupations, tea drinking, writing, staring at ducks.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd’s “IMDb Vaccines” illustrates an eccentric thought experiment about a scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
  • Frank and Ernest discuss the legal issues of a monster stomping on a city.

(12) INTERNET RANDALL. Lorelei Marcus replays a famous (at the time) production of Arsenic and Old Lace with Boris Karloff for Galactic Journey readers: “[March 24, 1966] Dark Comedy and Birthday Wishes (a Tony Randall double feature)”.

… For those who are unfamiliar with the show, Arsenic and Old Lace is a dark comedy about two sweet old ladies who murder for fun, and their poor nephew, Mortimer Brewster, who discovers their nasty habit and tries to clean up the whole mess. Further conflict arises when Boris Karloff- I mean Jonathan Brewster, Mortimer’s brother and a notably malicious murderer, returns home to hide out for a while. As you might imagine, insanity ensues….

Though the rest of the cast is marvelous, I’d have to say Tony Randall gives the best performance as Mortimer Brewster, the straightman nephew. You may believe I have a slight bias in favor of Randall at this point, and that’s probably true, but I think it’s also fair to say that his execution of Mortimer ties the whole show together.

(13) BEEN THEN, DONE THAT. The Science Fiction 101 podcast returns in episode 2, “It’s About Time”.

Phil [Nichols] and Colin [Kuskie] consider the persistence of the concept of time travel. And we have a little guess-the-mystery-sound competition, albeit with no prizes to speak of other than (a) some small kudos and (b) a shout-out on our next episode. (Post a comment if you can identify the sound.)

(14) THE LARCH. “This Wooden Sculpture Is Twice as Old as Stonehenge and the Pyramids” says Smithsonian Magazine. Image at the link – it looks like Groot imitating “The Scream.”

Gold prospectors first discovered the so-called Shigir Idol at the bottom of a peat bog in Russia’s Ural mountain range in 1894. The unique object—a nine-foot-tall totem pole composed of ten wooden fragments carved with expressive faces, eyes and limbs and decorated with geometric patterns—represents the oldest known surviving work of wooden ritual art in the world….

Based on extensive analysis, Terberger’s team now estimates that the wood used to make the Shigir statue is about 12,250 years old. Carved from a single larch tree with 159 growth rings, the object itself was likely crafted around 12,100 years ago, at the end of the Last Ice Age, reports Michelle Starr for Science Alert.

(15) BEFORE 42. CBC previews a new book that reveals “Even Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy author Douglas Adams struggled with writer’s block”.

Writing didn’t always come easily for Douglas Adams.

That may be a surprise to fans of the late British comedy and sci-fi writer, whose prolific resume includes the iconic novels The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, as well as classic episodes of Doctor Who and Monty Python. 

But it’s no surprise to his sister Jane Thrift, who was there when he was writing some of his most famous works, and often got a sneak peek at his earliest drafts. 

“If it was going well, oh, it was exciting. He’d call you in and print it off the printer or show you what he’d written and he’d stand there. And it was a bit tricky sometimes because he was just waiting for the expression or the laugh,” Thrift told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

“But the times when it was difficult — those were difficult. Those were hard. It was hard to watch him go through that process. And I think it was probably as he became more successful, he knew the value of each word and it had to be perfect.”

Adams’s insecurity about his own writing is one of revelations about the author’s inner-life that will be explored in the forthcoming book 42: The Wildly Improbable Ideas of Douglas Adams. …

(16) THEY CAN’T SEE YOU COMING. Smithsonian Magazine answers “How Does Your Vision Compare to Other Critters in the Animal Kingdom?”

Ever wondered what the world looks like through a cockatoo’s eyes? How about a giraffe—or even a butterfly?

For a new study published last month in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, a team of researchers set out in search of answers. As lead author Eleanor Caves explains in a press release, humans have higher visual acuity than most members of the animal kingdom, who “see the world with much less detail than we do.” And in recent decades, researchers have been slowly teasing apart how clear (or blurry) each critter’s view of the world is.

… As the measure decreases, an animal’s (or individual’s) vision worsens: At less than 10 cycles per degree, a human is deemed legally blind. The majority of insects, however, are lucky to see even one cycle per degree.

(17) STILL MORE SHAT! Birthday week continues with “William Shatner for the Commodore VIC-20” on YouTube. Shat learns that in 1982 you can play computer games on a computer!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Cloudy Dog Talk About” on Vimeo is a cartoon by Asami Ike for Filers who know dogs are their friends!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/10/21 If I Could Save Time In A Jay Kay Klein Bottle

(1) A SECOND MEOW. Geoff Carter, in “Inside Meow Wolf’s immersive Omega Mart art installation in Las Vegas” at the Las Vegas Weekly, reports on the second Meow Wolf installation, “Omega Mart,” which opened last month in Las Vegas.  It apparently starts as a pretend supermarket and gets much weirder! Their first permanent space, in Santa Fe, is in an old bowling alley purchased for their use by George R.R. Martin.

Omega Mart is Meow Wolf’s second permanent installation—arriving after Santa Fe’s House of Eternal Return—and their second entry into Las Vegas; the group took over the Life Is Beautiful festival’s Art Motel space in 2017. If you were there, you have some idea what Meow Wolf has to offer: laser harps, portals to the unknown, room-size bowls of “ramen.” The collective has a unique talent for producing and soliciting works of maximalist art, collecting them in warehouse-size spaces with innocuous facades and tying all those artworks together through inventive visual segues and mystery-box narrative.

“Our work is for people that don’t necessarily go to art galleries and art museums, who feel like they want to see artwork and have it [as] an important part of their lives, but might feel a little alienated by the art world,” says Corvas Brinkerhoff, Meow Wolf’s executive creative director. “We’re trying to build a bridge to those people and say, look, art is valuable. And all this brilliant work that all these artists are making deserves to have a place where it can be seen, and where the artists can be supported in the process of making it….”

…Brinkerhoff notes that there are several giant stories unfolding within the space, including those of a shadowy corporation (Omega Mart’s parent company “Dramcorp”). Brinkerhoff says it’s “trying to save humanity from itself” by experimenting with what looks like alien technology. A zealous resistance group—shades of Meow Wolf’s beginnings here—is standing against these corporate overlords wielding what little it has.

There are RFID-accessed computer terminals and old-fashioned phones scattered throughout that yield clues to the mystery (Brinkerhoff says the phones mostly deliver recorded messages, though “you also might get a live human”), and videos that advance the story—about three hours’ worth of original footage….

(2) LEARNING FROM PRATCHETT. Ziv Wities’ project “Story Structure Lessons From The Discworld.” is a series of videos aimed at readers and writers, where he talks about “what structure is, how you spot it in what you read and watch, how you choose it and build it up in your own work.” Why Discworld? “The Discworld subseries aren’t just about different characters and different events. They’ve got different structures; they’re each built differently. So Discworld is a single series, but it tells many shapes of stories — which makes it a perfect example to learn structure from.”

Structure is fundamental to fiction. So often, though, we lack basic terms and ideas to talk about story structure. We have trouble getting past basic intuition. What *is* structure? What makes structure “good”? When one story is better-structured than another — what is the actual difference? To answer these questions, we’re using Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld novels. Because one interesting thing about the Discworld is how it’s divided into sub-series — different books following different characters and different story arcs. Throughout these videos, we’ll see that the Discworld sub-series not only follow different characters — they follow different structures. By comparing and contrasting, we’ll understand what those structural differences are — and how to think about story structure in what we read, and in what we write.

(3) GET READY TO HAVE A BLAST. [Item by David K.M. Klaus.] Everybody who registered with TWA and PanAm for moon tickets back in 1969 has another chance. Another eight names will be drawn from a dimensionally transcendental (*) hat for a trip on SpaceX’s mis-named “Starship” (since technically it’s not a starship, but merely a spaceship) and there’s no initial mention of an age/health requirement so maybe even D. D. Harriman could go. Inverse has the story: “SpaceX Moonshot: How to win a seat on Yusaku Maezawa’s trip to the Moon”.

You can’t win if you don’t enter, and even if you wind up like the crews of Shuttle Orbiters Challenger and Columbia, you’ll still be part of Earth history not to be forgotten.  You will be remembered.

(*) Doctor Who reference, Tom Baker years

HOW TO APPLY TO GO TO THE MOON

According to the new video, the way to enter into the competition is not as straight-forward as putting your name in the hat, as it were. But it does start that way.

  1. Go to the dearMoon website, the site set up to release new information regarding the project.
  2. There, people are invited to preregister with the mission by giving their name, country of origin, and email.
  3. Entrants are also asked to upload an image of themselves.
  4. Entrants are also asked to select which of Maezawa’s many social profiles they follow, too.

“Everyone who pre-registers will receive an email about the selection process,” the dearMoon site reads. They will also receive a “crew candidate” certificate with their name and picture on it, according to the site.

(4) DOCTOR WHO MARKS THE DAY. “Doctor Who female stars discuss International Women’s Day 2021” – a Radio Times from March 8.

Mandip Gill – actor, Yaz Khan in Doctor Who

International Women’s Day to me is a day to celebrate women’s progression politically, socially and economically. It’s also a day for us as a whole to recognise the further improvements needed. Ultimately it’s about the celebration of women.

Doctor Who saw what most people could see, in that it wasn’t an equal playing field.  They absolutely took a stand in changing the space to one much more equal by having Jodie as the Doctor. This challenged things that were just a given and showed the audience why we should continually challenge these structures and roles.

From the first meeting I knew the significance of this change to Doctor Who history and knew I wanted to be a part of that change. You could feel the significance and positive energy of what was to come from my first audition with Jodie.

Personally, I love the weight of being a south Asian female companion and do hope young people take inspiration from my role in Doctor Who as I did watching the cast of Goodness Gracious Me.

(5) WORK V. ARTIST. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron discusses “Can We Read Their Books While Not Forgiving Them?” on Saturday March 13 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

P. Djèlí Clark, Stephen Llano, and Alan Bond will join Gadi and Karen to discuss the challenges faced by the community when considering problematic authors and how to treat their works.

(6) BEING PROFESSIONAL. [Item by N.] Show creator Owen Dennis offers insights about marketing and how creators have to keep mum about a lot of details regarding the future of their shows/projects in this Twitter thread.

The previous day he’d announced this –

(7) THROUGH ALIEN EYES (OR WHATEVER THEY USE). James Davis Nicoll isn’t surprised that most sff is told from a human viewpoint, however, it certainly isn’t limited to doing so: “Five Classic SF Novels. Written From an Alien Perspective”

Pride of Chanur by C. J. Cherryh (1982)

The Compact comprises seven technologically sophisticated species, each shaped by its own evolutionary history. In spite of sometimes profound communication problems, the seven coexist peacefully enough that violence is retail, not wholesale.

At Meetpoint Station, Tully, a hairless primate of a new, unfamiliar species , takes refuge in the hani trading ship Pride of Chanur. For reasons that made sense at the time, Pyanfar Chanur grants the furless, blunt-fingered alien sanctuary. In so doing, she offends the kif Akkhtimakt. In Akkhimakt’s eyes, Pyanfar has stolen Akkhimakt’s property. The kif do not forgive affronts. Pyanfar’s act of mercy makes her ship the target of a kif vendetta.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1981 — Forty years ago, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien won the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award. (From 1971 until 1991, they gave but one award for all fantasy literature. Starting in 1992, they expanded to this award into two: one for adult literature and one for children’s literature.)  It was published by  George Allen & Unwin Publication in 1980. This is yet another collection of tales edited by Christopher Tolkien. It would also win a Balrog Award from the Intentional Fantasy Gamers Society.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe. His first role was in Lost Horizon as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script for the latter surprisingly enough. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty  science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed their own and each other’s works.  A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M Miller”.  Having not read these, I’ve no idea what this entails. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye, 83. Formerly the editor of Weird Tales, he has also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. His Cold Blue Light novels with Parke Godwin are quite superb. The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award. He writes the “Marvin Kaye’s Nth Dimension” for the Space and Time website. (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1958 Sharon Stone, 63. Damn she’s the same age I am. She’s been in three genre films, her first being the original Total Recall where she played the deservedly ill-fated Lori Quaid. Her next was Sphere where she was cast as Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Halperin, and last was in, errr, Catwoman where she was Laurel Hedare, an assassin. (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1977 Bree Turner, 44. She’s best remembered for her role as Rosalee on Grimm. She also starred in the pilot episode (“Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”) of Masters of Horror. She was in Jekyll + Hyde as Martha Utterson. Confession time: I got through maybe three seasons of Grimm before giving up as it became increasingly silly. (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1979 Fonda Lee, 42. Her Jade City novel was a finalist for a Nebula Award for Best Novel and won the World Fantasy Award. It’s sequel, Jade War, was published last year. And her Cross Fire novel was named Best YA Novel at the 2019 Aurora Awards for best Canadian speculative fiction. (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1913 – Carlos Ochagavia.  Three dozen covers, a few interiors.  Here is A Scanner Darkly.  Here is Universe 8.  Here is The Best of Keith Laumer.  Here is Dream Park.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born March 10, 1920 – Boris Vian.  Author of prose, poetry, plays, music, criticism; actor; translator; inventor, engineer.  Active in French jazz, among other things liaison for Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, commenter for Le Jazz Hot, trumpeter at Le Tabou (yes, that’s “The Taboo”); also, it seems, wrote the first French rock ’n’ roll songs.  Strange books, e.g. L’ecume des jours variously tr. as Froth on the DaydreamMood Indigo (twice), Froth on the Daze; half a dozen ours, anyway; fifty shorter stories, still few available in English but «Le bons élèves» appeared 2010 as “Honor Students”.  Some fiction attributed to a fictitious Vernon Sullivan whom BV supposedly translated.  (Died 1959) [JH]
  • Born March 10, 1955 – Walter Riess, age 66.  Five dozen covers, mostly for Anticipatia (which is SF in Romanian, just as Anticipation was the 67th Worldcon in Montreal).  Here is The Einstein Intersection.  Here is A Time for Changes.  Here is The Demolished Man.  Here is the 1999-2000 Anticipatia Almanac.  [JH]
  • Born March 10, 1962 – Amy Casil, age 59.  One novel, two dozen shorter stories.  Studied at Chapman under James Blaylock.  Poem “Joshua Swims in the Ocean of Dreams” in Mythic Delirium.  Three terms as SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Treasurer, including while John Scalzi was President and Mary Robinette Kowal was VP, hello, you two – or three: Amy, do you read this?  Outside our field, biographies of Buzz Aldrin and John Dewey.  Recent collection, The Instrumentality of Women. [JH]
  • Born March 10, 1972 – Lynette Mejía, age 49.  A score of short stories, three dozen poems, recently in Liminality.  Interviewed in Redstone.  “When I’m not working, I mostly read, think, and talk to trees.  Every once in a while, they talk back.”  Website – which, possibly because of her Louisiana connections, has a section “lagniappe”.  [JH]
  • Born March 10, 1975 – Claire Merle, age 46. Four novels.  Shadow Weaver won a B.R.A.G. (Book Readers Appreciation Group Medallion.  Be independent!  [JH]

(10) PLEASE, SIR, I WANT SOME MOA. Polygon finds a way to make your hunger pangs extinct: “Pringles releases Halo potato chips that taste like Moa Burgers from Halo Reach”.

Microsoft has teamed up with chip-maker Pringles for a new flavor of potato chip: Moa Burger. As in the Moa, the flightless bird indigenous to the planet Reach (and also the name of an extinct species of bird here on Earth), from Halo: Reach.

In the Halo fiction, Moa were a source of food on Reach, and were served in wing, nugget, and burger form. Pringles’ new Moa Burger aims to approximate what a quadruple hamburger made of ground space bird, plus cheese, pickles, lettuce, onions, and an unidentified sauce, would taste like. They are artificially flavored, naturally.

(11) GALAXY OF THE MONTH CLUB. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus comes up with an eye-opening hook to begin his review of the latest – in 1966 – issue of Galaxy: “[March 10, 1966] Top Heavy (April 1966 Galaxy)”.

Stacked

For as long as I can remember, American culture has really liked people who have extra on top.  Whether it’s Charles Atlas showing off his wedge-shaped physique or Jayne Mansfield letting herself precede herself, we dig an up front kind of person.

So I suppose it’s only natural that this month’s issue of Galaxy put all of the truly great material in the first half (really two thirds) and the rest tapers away to unremarkable mediocrity (though, of course, I’m obligated to remark upon it).

(12) WANDAVISION DEBRIEFINGS. Two semi-dissatisfied customers tell what they think WandaVision’s shortcomings were. NATURALLY THERE ARE SPOILERS.

Abigail Nussbaum discusses “America’s Sweetheart: Thoughts on WandaVision at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…It’s impressively weird, in other words, and as if that weirdness weren’t enough, every now and then, strange occurrences interrupt the domestic idyll and gentle comedy. Some of the Westview residents experience alarming fugue states. A voice on the radio urgently calls out to Wanda. Out of place items and people—a colorized helicopter toy; a man in a beekeeper outfit—appear with no explanation. The “show” is interrupted by sinister commercials with obvious relevance to the events of Wanda’s life—a Stark toaster that beeps ominously, like the bomb that took her parents’ lives; Lagos-brand kitchen towels with which to mop up blood-red liquid, a reference to her failure to prevent a Hydra bombing in Captain America: Civil War.

This glut of strange, disparate details is incredibly enticing, inviting audiences to parse references and spot easter eggs….

Film Crit Hulk’s “Watercoolering With WANDAVISION – Season One Finale” is a free Patreon post.

So. The finale, as a finale, does the things that finales are supposed to do. We wrap up our general story, we send some bad people to their respective fates, and we send some good people on their respective ways, all with a series of lessons seemingly learned. Because of this, I imagine that there are many who are satisfied with the overall experience. Especially as it did not make any egregious surface-level errors that have often plagued other finales (especially those that tend to treat their audience with more hostility). But Wandavision aimed for safety and it delivered on the base promises of the narrative itself. It even delivered on some genuinely nice beats in the process. And so, all seems well.

My personal feelings are little bit different.

Because my experience with the finale was one where I felt like I was constantly rocked back and forth between the positive and negative aspects of certain choices. Because of this, I want to take a different approach and single out the things where I was like “oooh, neat!” along with all the things where I really got tripped up. Because when you really, really look at some of those moments, something more problematic emerges….

(13) DIDN’T SEE THIS COMING. Vox Day’s own Castalia House blog reviewer likewise criticized WandaVision, calling it “acceptably mediocre,” prompting Day to write a dissenting post in which he said that what the other reviewer called shortcomings hadn’t affected his own enjoyment of the series — “In which I disagree” [Internet Archive link].

…While I always hesitate to share an opinion that is massively less-informed than a genuine expert’s perspective, what I think we have here is a distinction between an informed Marvel fan’s perspective and an uninformed non-Marvel non-fan’s perspective on the series. Unlike Dark Herald, I didn’t watch Wanda Vision from the perspective of someone who knew considerably more about the subject than having seen less than half of the MCU movies, most of which had only been viewed in order to learn how to write superhero movie scripts.

And at least from the ignorant, non-Marvel non-fan’s perspective, Wanda Vision was a surprisingly good, surprisingly powerful story about a woman wrestling with horrific grief. The alternative interpretations and possibilities that were not pursued are meaningless to me, because I didn’t know anything about the various historical storylines from the original comics, and therefore the production pyrotechnics with the evolving TV sitcom styles were presented were sufficiently intriguing to hold my interest in that regard.

There was, of course, an amount of the usual Marvel SJW nonsense, but it was minimal by today’s standards and did not conflict with the storytelling….

(14) A LOT OF LOTR. “Colbert and Andy Samberg Get Real Geeky About LORD OF THE RINGS”Yahoo! previews the video clip.

…In keeping with his usual vibe, Samberg maintained a sense of humor about Colbert showing him up in Tolkien knowledge; likewise, Colbert copped bashfully to his proclivity for long-winded rants when it comes to these stories. All in all, the two comics enjoyed a fun nerd sesh about one of the nerd world’s favorite topics.

(15) JEOPARDY! Genre stumped two contestants again on tonight’s Jeopardy. Andrew Porter shares his notes.

Category: Characters in Children’s Lit.

Answer: When Wendy first meets Peter Pan, he’s flown into her room searching for his lost this.

Wrong questions: What is a thimble?; what is childhood?

Correct question: What is his shadow?

(16) SPACE COMMAND. Showrunner Marc Scott Zicree has made available Space Command Episode One – “Mira Furlan’s Last Great Role” – to YouTube viewers.

(17) SUPER RESULTS. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert featured a very positive report from the North Carolina bookstore owner featured in the show’s small-business counterpart to the kind of celebrity-laden commercials aired during the Super Bowl: “Sales Triple At Foggy Pine Books After Receiving The Colbert Small Biz Bump” – video at the link.

The “Colbert Bump” is real! Just ask the owner of Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina, who enjoyed a huge surge in sales after being featured on our Super Bowl special.

(18) OF COURSE HE GETS WET.  The original cast of the 1984 movie Gremlins is reunited to plug Mountain Dew. “Gremlins Mountain Dew Commercial: Gizmo & Zach Galligan Return”.

Gizmo’s all grown up and still getting into some mischief in Mountain Dew’s new Gremlins commercial featuring the return of our favorite furry friend and star Zach Galligan in the fun new ad.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/26/21 Got My Mjolnir Working

(1) IF YOU LOVED THEM IN GOOD OMENS… A finalist for RadioTimes.com Awards 2021– TV Moment of the Year is Judi Dench slamming David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Staged, a British comedy series set during the COVID-19 pandemic and primarily made using video-conferencing technology.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing exaggerated versions of themselves (actors) in 2020 trying to get work is already hilarious, but add in Dame Judi Dench and you’ve got a work of art. Tennant and Sheen aren’t exactly enthusiastic about their new role in a play, and Dench is on hand to remind them they have said yes to a job so they should “stop f**king about” and “do the bloody job”. That’s them (and us) told.

The series premiered on BBC One last summer, and another eight-episode series was released January 4. The first series synopsis is —

David Tennant and Michael Sheen (playing themselves) were due to star in a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author in the West End. The pandemic has put paid to that, but their director (Simon Evans – also playing himself) is determined not to let the opportunity pass him by. He knows how big a chance this is for him and turns his attention to cajoling his stars into rehearsing over the internet. All they need to do is read the first scene, but throughout the series they come up against a multitude of oppositional forces: distraction, boredom, home-schooling and their own egos.

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLES. Don Blyly is interviewed by Carz Nelson in “Down But Not Out: The Future of Uncle Hugo’s” at The Alley Newspaper.

…Deciding whether to reopen the stores won’t be easy. At 70 years young, many assumed owner Don Blyly would retire from retail business after the fire. Such assumptions are premature, however. It takes a lot of drive to start over from nothing, but Blyly seems to be equal to whatever tasks he sets himself.

…He admits that he has a knack for bouncing back from adversity, “I’ve noticed that I seem to have more resilience than most other people and I’ve wondered why. Partly it is stubbornness. Partly it is because the more of a track record you have at overcoming previous difficulties, the more confidence you have of overcoming the latest difficulty.”

Blyly says the city has a lot to answer for when it comes to the uprising, “Back in 2015 the Department of Justice made recommendations for reforming the Minneapolis Police, but the City Council has done nothing to implement those recommendations. The judge in the trial of Mohamed Noor for the murder of Justine Damond raised issues about problems with the Minneapolis Police that have never been addressed.” 

Since the uprising and subsequent looting, he’s concerned that many people think the area is too dangerous to visit, “About half of my sales were to people outside the I-495/ I-694 loop, and they are now scared to come to Minneapolis to spend their money. Customers in South Minneapolis told me that they would be scared to return to the Uncles if I rebuilt in the old location. The city is going to have to actually work on fixing the problems with the Minneapolis Police instead making ‘defunding’ speeches before people will feel comfortable about spending their money in Minneapolis again.”

(3) IT PAYS TO BE POSTHUMOUS. Julie Phillips, in “Born to Be Posthumous” at 4Columns, reviews Mark Dery’s Born To Be Posthumous:  The Eccentric Life And Mysterious Genius Of Edward Gorey.

By his mid-twenties, the artist and illustrator Edward Gorey had already settled on his signature look: long fur coat, jeans, canvas high-tops, rings on all his fingers, and the full beard of a Victorian intellectual. His enigmatic illustrations of equally fur-coated and Firbankian men in parlors, long-skirted women, and hollow-eyed, doomed children (in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, among other works) share his own gothic camp aesthetic. Among the obvious questions for a reader of Gorey’s biography are: Where in his psyche, or in the culture, did all those fey fainting ladies and ironic dead tots come from? And, not unrelatedly: Was Gorey gay?

…Gorey described himself as “undersexed” in a 1980 interview, and equivocated: “I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t. A lot of people would say that I wasn’t because I never do anything about it.” Did he reject a gay sexuality, or was his particular sexuality, perhaps asexuality, not yet on the menu? Dery isn’t out to judge, and encourages us instead to look at how Gorey’s arch imagery, flamboyant self-presentation, and “pantheon of canonically gay tastes” (ballet, Marlene Dietrich records, silent film) allow him to be read in the context of gay culture and history, whatever his praxis in bed…. 

(4) TOO MANY NOTES. Vox’s Aja Romano investigates a kerfuffle at Archive Of Our Own (AO3) about the issues of a million-word fanfic with 1,700 tags. “Sexy Times with Wangxian: The internet’s most beloved fanfiction site is undergoing a reckoning”.

… Since it first appeared in October 2019, “Sexy Times With Wangxian,” or STWW, has become notorious across AO3. That in itself is unusual, because most AO3 users stick to their own fandoms and don’t pay much attention to what’s happening in others. STWW belongs to the fandom for the wildly popular Chinese TV series The Untamed, and the “Wangxian” in the title refers to the ship name for the show’s beloved main romantic pairing. It’s a very long fanfic, over a million words, and contains more than 200 chapters of porn featuring The Untamed’s large cast in endless permutations and sexual scenarios.

All that, by itself, isn’t enough to make STWW remarkable — not on a website as wild and unpredictable as AO3. Yet the fic has become impossible for many AO3 users to ignore thanks to a unique quirk: Its author has linked it to more than 1,700 site tags (and counting).

A quick note about AO3’s tagging system: It is designed to let users tag creatively and freely. So you can add useful tags, like pairing labels and character names, but you can also toss in personalized tags for fun and creative expression, from “no beta readers we die like men” to “I wrote this at 4am on three bottles of Monster Energy and zero sleep don’t judge.”

The tagging system is in service of the site’s total permissiveness — you can write anything you want in tags. But for the site to function, tags still need to be useful for navigation. So AO3 has hordes of volunteers known as “tag wranglers” whose sole job is to sort through the massive number of fic tags on the site and decide which ones will actually help users find what they’re looking for.

Those tags are then made “canonical,” which means they’ll become universal tags that every user can sort through. They’ll also appear within a list of suggested tags as you type. If I start to type “hospital” while tagging a fic, AO3 will return canonical tag suggestions like “Alternate Universe — Hospital,” “Hospital Sex,” and “Hogwarts Hospital Wing.” That makes it easy to determine whether your fic fits tags the community is already using.

AO3’s tagging system is so organized and thorough that it has won widespread acclaim from fields like library science and internet infrastructure. But it still has its limits — and with more than 1,700 tags, “Sexy Times With Wangxian” has revealed what some of those limits look like — in some cases quite literally….

The tags are so numerous, they can’t fit into a single screenshot on a large monitor. Here’s a quick scroll through the entire thing…

(5) THEY’RE FEELING BETTER. Jen Chaney, in “No, They Weren’t Dead the Whole Time” at Vulture, has an oral history of the last episode of Lost, which reveals that showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof had the ambiguous ending in mind the whole time and that the show was so important that the State of the Union in 2010 was moved because it conflicted with the final season opening episode.

…When the finale aired, it sparked divided responses (understatement) from fans. Some loved the emotional way in which Jack’s journey and that of his fellow survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 came to a close. Others were extremely vocally angry about not getting more direct answers to the show’s many questions. Still others came away from it all convinced that the castaways had been dead the whole time. (They were not dead. They really weren’t.)

What was semi-clear at the time and is even clearer now is that the broadcast of the Lost finale would mark the end of something else: the truly communal broadcast television experience. Subsequent finales would be major events (see HBO’s Game of Thrones) and even draw larger audiences (2019’s final Big Bang Theory attracted 18 million viewers, compared to the 13.5 million who tuned in for the Lost farewell). But nothing else since has felt so massively anticipated and so widely consumed in real time the way that the end of Lost, the Smoke Monster Super Bowl, did in 2010.

Vulture did extensive interviews with writers, cast, and crew members, who reflected on the development of “The End,” the making of the still hotly debated episode, and the cultural conversation it continues to generate. Because, yes, of course, we had to go back.

(6) AT HOME WITH SFF. Aidan Moher conducts a lively and revealing Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee, Brian Staveley, Kate Elliott, Aliette de Bodard in “Blood Matters: Growing Up in an SF/F House” at Uncanny Magazine.

…An appreciation for speculative fiction isn’t always handed down from within a family. Sometimes it grows on its own, or is introduced by a friend or a teacher. Or a child is uninterested, despite their parents’ best efforts to sway them to the side of elves and proton cannons. I recently reached out to several writers to ask them about their experience growing up, their parents’ relationship to speculative fiction, and the impact that parenthood has had on them as writers….

…There are also emotional sacrifices that come along with parenthood. After the birth of her first child, de Bodard’s tolerance for stories featuring child abuse or endangerment “went from weak to zero” immediately. “I had to put off reading a book I was much looking forward to because I couldn’t get past the violence against a child.” As the father of a daughter, I’ve had a similar experience to de Bodard, and have also become even more aware of and angered by the pervasive sexism that continues to plague speculative fiction and fandom.

Personal writing of any sort reveals layers to a person that even their close friends and loved ones might not recognize. My wife often finds it odd to read my writing—not because of the subject matter, but because it’s told in a voice that doesn’t sound familiar to her ear.

“My children have all read at least some of my writing,” said Elliott. “I often consult them about plot, character, and world–building because I like to hear their feedback, because they know me so well, and because they have fascinating and deep imaginations. They are probably my most valuable writing resource, with my cherished writer and reader friends a close second.”…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the opportunity to “Savor Stan Lee’s favorite sandwich with comics writer Jo Duffy” in episode 139 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jo Duffy

My old Marvel Bullpen pal Jo Duffy had a lengthy, celebrated run back then on Power Man and Iron Fist, where she also wrote Conan the BarbarianFallen AngelsStar Wars, and Wolverine. She also wrote Catwoman for DC and Glory for Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios imprint of Image Comics. Additionally, she worked on the screenplays for the horror films Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5.

We discussed why she knows what Superman will look like when he’s 100, the many reasons our kid selves both thought Marvel had D.C. beat, the genius of Marie Severin, how I may have inadvertently been responsible for her getting a job as an Assistant Editor in the Marvel Bullpen, what it was like to work with Steve Ditko, the firing she still feels guilty about 40 years later, how she approached the challenge of writing Power Man and Iron Fist, the letter she wrote to Stan Lee after the death of Jack Kirby, the two-year-long Star Wars story arc she was forced to squeeze into a few issues, the best writing advice she ever got, and much more.

(8) FIRST THERE IS NO MOUNTAIN, THEN THERE IS. Sarah Gailey, in “Building Beyond: Move Mountains” at Stone Soup, gets an assist from Alex Acks and nonwriter Kacie Winterberg to illustrate how easy a particular facet of sff creation can be:

Building Beyond is an ongoing series about accessible worldbuilding. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary — or even purposeful. Anyone can do it. To prove that, let’s talk to both a writer and a non-writer about a worldbuilding prompt.

How do you go about communicating with a mountain to prevent it from pursuing its ambition of becoming a volcano?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 26, 1977 — On this day in 1977, Doctor Who’s “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, Part 1” first aired. It featured Tom Baker, considered the most popular of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The villain was most likely a not-so-accidental take off of Fu Manchu. Cat Eldridge reviewed the episode at A Green Man Review. You can watch the first part online here with links to the rest of the story there as well. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 26, 1874 – Katherine Cameron.  Member, Glasgow Society of Lady Artists (Women Artists after 1975).  A dozen illustrated books for us.  This is in Stories from the Ballads (M. Macgregor, 1906).  Here are Snowdrop and the Seven Dwarfs.  Here is Celtic Tales.  Here is Undine.  This is in The Enchanted Land.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1916 – Clifford Geary.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us; many others.  Noteworthy in particular for illustrating Heinlein’s “juveniles”.  Here is a frontispiece for Starman Jones.  Here is an interior for Between Planets.  This is in Space Cadet.  Here is one from outside our field.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 76. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in  the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and  Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 – Alex Eisenstein, age 76; 1946 – Phyllis Eisenstein (Died 2020).  Active fannish couple; P also an active pro, a dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories with A collaborating on half a dozen; so far as I know The City in Stone, completed, remains unpublished.  AE co-edited Trumpet.  Here is his cover for More Issues at Hand.  PE was Guest of Honor at Windycon XXX, Capricon 26, ConQuesT 38; a soft-sculpture of her was part of the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  AE, a noted SF art collector, has organized many displays including that Chicon.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 73. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1952 – Bob Devney, F.N., age 69.  Eight-time finalist for Best Fanwriter.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lover of SF movies – some of them, anyway.  When I remarked to him I hadn’t seen The Devniad in a while, he muttered something about Twitter; but quite possibly he still hasn’t recovered from Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, where he worked very hard, as I saw and maybe you did too.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1957 – John Jude Palencar, age 64.  A hundred ninety covers, five dozen  interiors.  Artbook Origins.  Here is Rhinegold.  Here is Kushiel’s Avatar.  Here is The Dark Line.  Here is Mind of My Mind.  This picture led to The Palencar Project – David Hartwell did such things.  Five Chesleys.  American Water Color Society Gold Medal.  Hamilton King Award.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Also National GeographicSmithsonianTime.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 57. Fans are fond of saying that she spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on  Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot though she hardly had any lines. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current carnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. The series there features here as Vienna Salvatori, an “impossibly glamorous bounty hunter” as the publicity material including photos of her puts it. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 56. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1968 – Lynne Hansen, age 53.  Half a dozen novels, ten dozen covers.  Here is Strangewood.  Here is Things That Never Happened (hello, Scott Edelman).  Here is A Complex Accident of Life.  Here is The High Strangeness of Lorelei Jones.  [JH]

(11) COATES TO SCRIPT SUPERMAN MOVIE. Trey Mangum, in “Ta-Nehisi Coates To Write Upcoming Superman Film From DC And Warner Bros.” on Shadow and Act, says Coates will write a script for a Superman movie to be produced by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot, but with no director or stars attached at this time.

…We’re hearing that no director is attached as of yet and plot details remain under wraps. Additionally, the search for an actor to play Kal-El / Superman hasn’t started yet.

“To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor,” said Coates in a statement received only by Shadow and Act. “I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”

“There is a new, powerful and moving Superman story yet to be told. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with the brilliant Mr. Coates to help bring that story to the big screen, and we’re beyond thankful to the team at Warner Bros. for the opportunity,” said J.J. Abrams in the statement to S&A.

“Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me opened a window and changed the way many of us see the world,” added Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We’re confident that his take on Superman will give fans a new and exciting way to see the Man of Steel.”

(12) SANS RIDES ET SANS REPROCHE. Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara finds this is a rhetorical question: “Is Disney California Adventure, with no rides, worth $75?”

…If you think Disney’s recent announcement that it will soon be charging $75 a head for the thrill of wandering around California Adventure to buy and eat things while admiring the entrances to still-closed rides is nuts, I am here to tell you that it is not.

At least not if my recent visit to Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street is any indication.

…It was absolutely clear right away. Desperate for even the faintest tang of the Disney experience, thousands of us apparently are quite willing to settle for the elements of the Disney experience we normally complain about the most: waiting in line, overpriced food and the siren call of way too much Disney merch.

Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, it was a 45-minute wait simply to enter the Downtown Disney area, 50 if you count the five-minute walk from the car, which cost 10 bucks to park.

To be fair, the line that snaked through an entire parking lot could be construed, at least in these coronavirus-plagued times, as a Disney experience in and of itself. The now-ubiquitous six-feet-apart marks created a socially distant conga line that involved far more walking than standing: “Well, we’re getting our steps in,” one of my daughters remarked.

…As the sun set over the Simba parking lot and our group advanced through the temperature-taking station and the bag-check station, then past a police presence prominent enough to make any mask-shirker think twice, one could at least imagine a world returning to something approaching normal.

Listen to the piped-in music! Yes, once upon a time it did indeed drive some of us insane. But now, after a yearlong lifetime of home-office work — concentration broken on an hourly basis by the maddening syncopated roar of leaf blowers and brain-drilling hum of the neighbors’ home improvement project — all those Disney tunes fell around us like the singing of a heavenly host….

(13) MARTINE’S SEQUEL. In a review at Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere makes the book sound irresistible: “A Desolation Called Peace: Wonderfully rich and nuanced”,

…Beyond the plot reasons, I loved that it was more a cultural conflict because that concept is at the heart of this duology: the way the Empire doesn’t simply conquer via its military but swamps others with its pervasive, relentless, invasive cultural tentacles (hmm, sound familiar?), the way the question of “who counts as human” (or more broadly, who can be considered a person) runs throughout the Empire on a macro level, and throughout the relationship between Mahit and Three Seagrass on a micro level.

… It’s impossible to read these moments and not relate them to everyday existence for those forced to swim in the sea of a majority culture. This fraught tension is made all the richer for how Martine portrays (realistically) how seductive such cultural power is even for those it threatens to swamp, like falling in love with the waves that are trying to drown you. And then it gets under the skin and into the brain so it becomes almost second nature: “Mahit laughed, a raw sound … She couldn’t do it all. She thought in Teixcalaanli, in imperial-style metaphor and overdetermination. She’d had this whole conversation in their language.”

(14) HARD TIME. Will it be at least seven more years before Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has something good to say about the monthly issue of Analog? “[February 26, 1966] Such promise (March 1966 Analog)”.

… It all came down to this month’s Analog.  If it were superb, as it was last month, then we’d have a clean sweep across eight periodicals.  If it flopped, as it often does, the streak would be broken.

As it turns out, neither eventuality quite came to pass.  Indeed, the March 1966 Analog is sort of a microcosm of the month itself — starting out with a bang and faltering before the finish….

(15) FROM BROADWAY TO BROADBAND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 19 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews “online interactive theatre shows” which try to capture some of the spontaneity of live theatre.

Collaboration is key to success with all these show: the quicker an audience learns to share tasks, the better.  In Sherlock In Homes:  Murder At The Circus (from the Wardrobe Theatre and Sharp Teeth Theatre), this turns out to be a group of small girls from Wales with a formidable line in questioning,  (The same companies have also created Sherlock In Homes 2:  Murder On Ice.)

Another Sherlock-inspired show, Murder At The Circus is a droll, family-friendly affair, low on tech high in audience-actor interaction. Sherlock is missing (again), leaving behind a rum case involving a dead circus clown and a plate of potted meat.  We, the impromptu detectives, must quiz a line-up of dubious suspects with names like Glenda Flex (acrobat) and Rory McPride (lion tamer), all of whom are adept at juggling the truth.

After several rounds of unfocused interrogation from our team, the Welsh 10-year-olds spring into action. “Where were you location-wise when you were kissing?’ demands one, sternly, of a particularly evasive character,  It would take a hardened criminal not to crack.”

The websites for this are sharpteeththeatre.orgthewardrobetheatre.com, and sherlockimmersive.com.

(16) MALZBERG ON PKD. A year ago on the DickHeads Podcast: “Interview #12 – Barry Malzberg – Malzberg Spectacular Part 1”.

David must have done something right because author Barry Malzberg was willing to sit down for a lengthy phone conversation with him. In this interview, Barry leads David through his experiences with multiple authors including PKD, the in’s and out’s of the publishing industry of the 60s and 70s, and more. Also, don’t forget to check out part 2 of our Barry Malzberg Spectacular where author James Reich joins David in an in-depth look at the award-winning novel Beyond Apollo, which garnered the first ever John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

(17) POTATO HEAD, THE MORNING AFTER. The London Economic has an entertaining collection of tweets about yesterday’s kerfuffle: “Best reactions as usual mouthpieces are foaming over a genderless Potato Head”. Here are a few —

When it was all over but the shouting, Reason’s Robby Soave announced:  “Mr. Potato Head will remain the strong, masculine figure he always was.”

(18) IN MELODY YET GREEN. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman reviews Lady Gaga Oreos. They’re pink! (With green filling!) “Lady Gaga Oreos are an extra-sweet mystery wrapped in an enigmatic pink wafer”.

…One of the promotions tied to Gaga’s cookies is a Sing It with Oreo feature. You can make personal recordings, transform them into “musical messages of kindness” and send them to folks you love and support. The pink foil packaging for Gaga Oreos features a QR code, which provides instant access to the recording function. You probably have to give up countless pieces of personal information in the process, but go ahead, “Just sing from the heart, and make someone’s day a little brighter.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/28/21 And I Looked And Behold A Pale Pixel, And Their Name Who Sat On Them Was ´Scroll Title´

(1) ALL THAT JAZZ. Elle M. has a fascinating commentary on the difference between worldbuilding and lore. Thread starts here. A few quotes follow —

They also use the author of Harry Potter as a compelling example of where lore gets injected at the expense of worldbuilding.

(2) TRENDY PLACES. Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup blog is hosting “Building Beyond,” an “ongoing series about accessible worldbuilding. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary — or even purposeful. Anyone can do it. To prove that, let’s talk to both a writer and a non-writer about a worldbuilding prompt.” For “Building Beyond: Robot Dating”, editor Brian J. White and writer Suzanne Walker imagine where they’ve gone on a date with a giant robot.

Gailey’s dry synopsis should make you very curious to read the post:  

…Brian’s date is the foundation of a story about a robot who is learning to live in the world, and who just so happens to be inhabiting a city of decadences. Suzanne’s date is the beginning of a world in which robots and humans regularly go out together, and frogs have learned to cater to the complicated ecosystem of needs that arise in such relationships. 

(3) UNDER THE HARROW. Constance Grady and Vox’s critic at large Emily VanDerWerff undertake a “Harrow the Ninth discussion: profound grief and terrible puns” at Vox.

Constance Grady: I have a hard time working out exactly how I feel about volume two of this trilogy. Harrow the Ninth is a trickier book than Gideon the Ninth, in the same way that bitchy, conniving Harrow is a trickier protagonist than sweet basic jock Gideon.

First of all, there’s the problem of tone. Gideon mined enormous amounts of tension and humor out of the contrast between its lurid goth world and Gideon’s straightforward “it looks like a sword, I want to fight it” worldview and her dirty jokes. That’s part of what helps puncture the grandiosity of Muir’s worldbuilding and keep everything feeling accessible and human-scale, no matter how complicated the mythology might be.

But Harrowhark worships all the lurid skeletal nonsense around her with a religious intensity, and she considers boning jokes prurient. So the easy laughter of the first volume fades away: The jokes are meaner in Harrow than they were in Gideon, and darker….

(4) MRS. PEEL, WE’RE NEEDED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 23 Financial Times, Peter Aspden writes about the 60th anniversary of British TV series The Avengers, which was first broadcast in January 1960.

The plots (of The Avengers), in the meantime, got crazier.  In 1967’s ‘Epic,’ from the fifth season, Peel is kidnapped by a Teutonic film director named ZZ von Schnerk, who is filming a movie called The Destruction Of Emma Peel, for which he needs to kill her in real, or reel, life.  The self-referntiality was off the scale, now.  ‘Gloat all you like, but I am the star of his picture, says captive Peel to the villiainous director, and anyone interested in meta-texts.

Like so many of the fashions of the 1960s, Rigg only lasted a couple of seasons. She left to star in her own Bond Film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in which she showed that her range extended further than understated self-mockery (in fairness, she had also already played Cordelia opposite Paul Scofield’s Lear) by providing one of the franchise’s few genuinely heartbreaking endings.  Peel’s farewell to Steed was itself a rare poignant moment, a peck on the cheek with a final piece of womanly advice:  ‘Always keep your bowler on it times of stress.  And watch out for diabolical masterminds.’

(5) SPLATTERPUNK AWARDS. [Item by Dann.] Nominations are open for the 2021 Splatterpunk Awards through February 14.  Brian Keene and Wrath James White have been experiencing….ummm…difficulties in getting valid nominations.  Someone nominated HP Lovecraft who, being dead, is ineligible.  Also, he hasn’t published anything new in the last year.  Also, also, he hasn’t published anything that is close to being Splatterpunk.

Midnight Pals over on Twitter has the theoretic exchange where Brian and Wrath try to explain how this is supposed to work.  (I’m pretty sure that Dean Koontz didn’t nominate HP Lovecraft.)

The awards will be presented during a ceremony at the 2021 Killercon Convention, taking place in Austin, Texas.

In addition to the Splatterpunk Awards, author John Skipp will receive this year’s J.F. Gonzalez Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the field.

(6) FLOWER POWER. Galactic Journey’s Vicki Lucas encounters a classic of the Sixties: “[January 28, 1966] The Book as Rorschach Test (Flowers for Algernon)”.

…Try as I might, I have great difficulty thinking of this novel as a science-fiction story. It could be conceived of as a psychological thriller, but no one dies except a mouse. It is deeply psychological and delves as far into the brain as anyone can get right now, accepting Freudian analysis as routine, while it is Jung’s “individuation” that the main character, Charlie Gordon, seeks without a guide except for his reading.

…I recommend this book, no matter its genre, and hope that anyone who reads it finds him- or herself touched by the plight of both those who are “exceptional” on the low end and those “exceptional” on the high end.

What will you see in it?

I see five stars.

(7) TAPPING INTO TED WHITE. Fanac.org posted a second installment of Ted White’s livestreamed interview, conducted by John D. Berry.

Ted White has been a science fiction fan for over 70 years, as well as an artist, fanzine editor and publisher, professional writer, editor and jazz critic. Interviewer John D. Berry has known Ted for more than 50 years. 

In part 2 of the January 23, 2021 interview, Ted talks about how he began writing professional science fiction, and the influence of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Terry Carr, Bob Tucker and others. There are anecdotes of the New York Fanoclasts and of how the bid for the 1967 NyCon3 came about. 

Ted discusses “The Club House” column in Amazing Stories, responsible for bringing many into fandom in the early 1970s, and speaks of his many fanzine collaborations, along with challenges along the way. This Zoom interview was very well received by all the attendees, who clamored for more. Look for the next part of the interview.

(8) WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE. Camestros Felapton risked his eyeballs – will you? “I watched Star Trek – Lower Decks”.

…Pitched as humorous, adult-orientated animated series in the Star Trek universe, the series creator is Mike McMahan, a lead writer from Rick and Morty. However, the show’s humour is both less crude and less imaginative than that show, indeed overall it pitches itself at ‘amusing’ rather than ‘funny’. The obvious comparison is with The Orville, rather than Galaxy Quest or John Scalzi’s Redshirts….

(9) IMAGINARY PAPERS. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the fifth issue of Imaginary Papers, a quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. (Use this link to subscribe for future issues.)

Issue #5 features writing from games critic Emma Kostopolus, on the space opera game Mass Effect 3 (2012), and writer and educator Malik Toms, on John Sayles’ The Brother from Another Planet (1984), as well as a piece from me about the collection Scotland in Space (2019).

 (10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2000 — Twenty one years ago at Chicon 2000, Galaxy Quest, a DreamWorks film, would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It would edge out The Matrix (which lost by just three votes), The Sixth SenseBeing John Malkovich and The Iron Giant. It was directed by Dean Parisot. Screenwriters David Howard and Robert Gordon worked off the story by David Howard. It’s considered by many Trekkies to the best Trek film ever made. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 28, 1820 – Vilhelm Pedersen.  First illustrator of Hans Christian Andersen; a hundred twenty-five in the five-volume 1849 edition.  Indispensable like Tenniel’s for Lewis Carroll.  Here is “The Top and Ball”.  Here is “The Flying Trunk”.  Here is “Hyldemor”.  Here is “Thumbelina”.  (Died 1859) [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1834 – Sabine Baring-Gould.  Anglican priest, author of fiction, folklorist.  Grandfather of the Holmes scholar.  Wrote “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (music by Sir Arthur Sullivan).  This edition including Curious Myths of the Middle Ages and Were-wolves appeared recently.  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born January 28, 1931 – Komatsu Sakyô.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Leading Japanese SF author.  Most famous for Japan Sinks.  Two shorter stories in this collection.  Author Guest of Honor at Nippon2007 the 65th Worldcon – of which, incidentally, you can see my report here (PDF).  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1957 – Joanne Findon, Ph.D., age 64.  Assistant Professor of English at Trent Univ. (Peterborough, Ontario).  Two novels for us.  “I blame my two lifelong passions – writing fiction and studying the past – on … Lloyd Alexander.”  More here.  [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1959 Frank Darabont, 62. Early on, he was mostly a screenwriter for horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream WarriorsThe Blob and The Fly II, allminor horror filmsAs a director, he’s much better known as he’s done, The Green MileThe Shawshank Redemption and The Mist.  He also developed and executive-produced the first season of The Walking Dead. He also wrote Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that I like a lot. (CE) 
  • Born January 28, 1961 – Michael Paraskevas, age 60.  Illustrator and animation producer.  With his mother Betty, books and television Maggie and the Ferocious BeastMarvin the Tap-Dancing Horse.  MP encouraged BP, which I think is cool.  A score of books, some with her, some not.  Spaceships and many other things at MP’s Website.  [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 40. His first genre role is as Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed.  He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb’s superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. (CE) 
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 36. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s also Luther Hargreeves in The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. (CE) 
  • Born January 28, 1986 – Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, age 35.  This historic champion track & field athlete has recently written half a dozen children’s fantasies with Elen Caldecott, may the name be for a good omen.  Here’s the latest I know of.  [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1998 Ariel Winter, 23. Voice actress whose shown up in such productions as Mr. Peabody & Sherman as Penny Peterson, Horton Hears a Who!DC Showcase: Green Arrow as Princess Perdita and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as Carrie Kelly (Robin). She’s got several one-off live performances on genre series, The Haunting Hour: The Series and Ghost Whisperer. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

At xkcd Randall Munroe has a couple more installments on his living in a scaled world series:

(13) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 8 to make your voice heard: “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2020!”

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2020. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 11 to February 8, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

(14) CON CALLS ON FANS FOR HELP. “Otakon Discusses Future, Asks for Donations” reports the Anime News Network. Their 2021 event is scheduled to be held at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. from August 6 to 8. Last year’s Otakon was cancelled.

Otakorp president Brooke Zerrlaut announced in a newsletter on Thursday that the organization is requesting donations for the first time. The Otakon convention’s staff are continuing to evaluate plans for 2021 and noted that the event may “potentially close” permanently.

The newsletter explained that Otakorp, a volunteer-run non-profit organization, runs the annual Otakon convention dedicated to Asian culture. Because of the cancelation of Otakon 2020 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization is in a “precarious position.”

(15) A WRITER’S BEGINNING AND END. Book and Film Globe in“The Tragedy of Karl Edward Wagner” reviews a documentary about the acclaimed fantasy writer and editor.

The makers of the new Vimeo documentary, The Last Wolf: Karl Edward Wagner, have trained their lens on an elusive horror and fantasy writer with a cult following. Besides the stories of supernatural and psychological terror collected in In a Lonely Place (1983) and Why Not You and I? (1987), Wagner spun tales about Kane, a hero sometimes compared to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, who wanders and fights his way through a fantasy realm peopled with brigands, thieves, sorcerers, monks, and shapeshifters. This body of work exceeds the better-known Conan mythos in its sexuality and violence, tropes that Wagner used with uneven results.

Wagner was also a longtime editor of the Year’s Best Horror Stories series, showcasing the work of Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch, Brian Lumley, Elizabeth Hand, David J. Schow, T.E.D. Klein, Charles L. Grant, Dennis Etchison, and dozens of others in the field. A few of these scribes appear in The Last Wolf, with especially vivid remembrances coming from Campbell and Etchison. Peter Straub, who wrote a foreword to In a Lonely Place, also has a lot to say.

…The sources interviewed in The Last Wolf render a portrait of an ambitious youth who collected paperbacks, became well known to the staff of a used bookshop in Knoxville through constant visits, and liked to freak out his nephews with spooky tales as they lay in their beds by an open window. While still in high school, Wagner meets a charming young woman, Barbara Mott, on a double date. He later marries her. His career enters high gear in the 1970s as he churns out stories, but not novels, and he stays busy writing and editing through the 1980s and 1990s, almost right up to his death.

“The Fourth Seal” is about a scientist looking to cure cancer. Wagner became the victim of something comparable its destructiveness. The Last Wolf doesn’t skirt around the plunge into alcoholism that drew growing concern on the part of Wagner’s peers in the weird field and led to the end of his marriage. Some of the recollections are hard to take. 

(16) BUY BUTLER. The London Review Bookshop’s Author of the Month is Octavia E. Butler.

Our Author of the Month for February is the American Science Fiction writer Octavia E. Butler.

In her many sometimes interlocking works Butler asks questions about race, gender and, pre-eminently, hierarchy in startling ways, and to offer equally startling versions of possible futures, often dystopian, that are uncannily like the present. This is extraordinary writing, written against the grain of gender and race prejudice and against the grain of Butler’s own persistent writer’s block.

Start with her masterpiece Kindred. We’re next to certain you won’t stop there.

(17) A GLIMPSE OF SF HISTORY. Samuel R. Delany reminisced about Judith Merril in a Facebook post.

Judith Merrill [sic] (Boston, 21 Jan 1923—Toronto, 12 Sept 1997), was—for the last years of her life, one of my best friends in the science fiction world, and thus, like all of her friends, to me she was “Judy” and I—to her—was “Chip.” We could never quite agree about where we met. During the time I was sharing a room with my friend, Bob Aarenberg, at the St. Marks Arms, on West 113th St., in NYC, and in our upstairs neighbor Randy Garrett took me to a party in Greenwich Village, where I met her and talked with her quite a while. But a few years later, she had no memory of that meeting. But as a kid I’d read her collaborations with C. M. [K]ornbluth (the Gunner Cade books), and thoroughly enjoyed them; I’d read a handful full of her stories—”Only a Mother,” which I felt was okay, but also “Dead Center” which I felt was much stronger (and still do after several rereadings of both and others)—but the writings of hers that meant most to me was her critical work….

(18) BUT THEY DID. James Davis Nicoll remembers “Five SF Empires That Seemed Too Big to Fail”, by authors Andre Norton, Phyillis Eisenstein, John Scalzi, Walter Jon Williams, and H. Beam Piper.

(19) FOR THE EAR AND THE EYE. Cora Buhlert’s spotlight series detours to visit with the creator of a semiprozine: “Not-a-Fanzine Spotlight: Simultaneous Times”.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

…The Simultaneous Times Newsletter started when the pandemic lockdowns started. Usually I’m at my bookstore six days a week, and since we specialize in science fiction, most of my conversations center around the genre. Immediately I began to miss the conversations and my customers, so I started the newsletter as a way to stay connected with science fiction fans. Since then it has just grown. But we still give free subscriptions. I thought people would prefer to get a letter in the mail over receiving an email.

What format do you use for your site or zine (blog, e-mail newsletter, PDF zine, paper zine) and why did you choose this format?

Several members of my team, including myself, have a background in radio. When we all started talking about starting a podcast we decided that we wanted to produce the program the way that radio shows were produced in the past. Really take the radio arts approach instead of going with modern trends in podcasting. Since then we’ve even teamed up with the radio station KZZH 96.7 in Northern California, so our program did end up on the air.

The Newsletter is print because I wanted to put something physical in people’s hands, especially during this time of not being able to see each other. That being said, I have started to put the back issues on our website, so the archive is available to everyone

(20) IT’S PEOPLE! Shiv Ramdas comments on a trending topic. Thread starts here.

(21) THE SINS OF STARSHIP TROOPERS. [Item by Dann.] The guys at Cinema Sins have  “Everything Wrong With Starship Troopers in 19 Minutes or Less”. (Parenthetically, I’m not looking for the 5,681st iteration of “The book is better than the movie” or the 12,259th iteration of “Verhoeven never read the book!”.  I like ’em both for different reasons.  And the Cinema Sins guys are great.)

(22) TINGLE REVIEWED IN THE GUARDIAN. [Item by PhilRM.] Here are words I never expected to read in the Guardian: “’My Antifa Lover’: I read the weirdest Trump-era erotica so you don’t have to” by J. Oliver Cromwell.

…In recent years, Amazon’s e-books market has nurtured a flourishing cottage industry of self-published romance and erotic literature – and the Trump years have inspired many to put pen to paper. The most successful authors (most write under pseudonyms) are known for their prolific publication, thesaurus-aided descriptions of the human anatomy, and responsiveness to current events.

The surreality of the past four years was particularly generative of their creative juices. With the Trump era now drawn to a chaotic close, we decided to review four of the most memorable entries in this niche literary genre.

I’m strangely drawn to the title “My Antifa Lover”, although slightly disappointed that Conroy opted to review Chuck Tingle’s Pounded In The Butt By The Handsome Physical Manifestation Of Tromp’s [sic] Twitter Ban That Should’ve Come Years Sooner But Fine Now That It’s Here High Five rather than the frankly superior Domald Tromp [sic] Pounded In The Butt By The Handsome Russian T-Rex Who Also Peed On His Butt And Then Blackmailed Him With The Videos Of His Butt Getting Peed On. No, I have no idea how the internet got us here either, really.

I feel compelled to note that the reviewer gave Tingle’s work 5/5.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the 1780s, a charismatic healer caused a stir in Paris. An amusing video about the history of Mesmer’s methods and how he influenced medicine in the late 18th Century. Vox recalls The phony health craze that inspired hypnotism”.

Scientific progress in the 18th century in Europe, a period known as the “Age of Enlightenment,” was demystifying the universe with breakthroughs in chemistry, physics, and philosophy. But medical practices were still relying on centuries-old treatments, like leeching and bloodletting, which were painful and often ineffective. So when Franz Anton Mesmer, a charismatic physician from Vienna, began “healing” people in Paris using an alternative therapeutic practice he called “animal magnetism,” it got a lot of attention. Mesmer claimed that an invisible magnetic fluid was the life force that connected all things and that he had the power to regulate it to restore health in his patients. He was a celebrity figure until the King of France, Louis XVI, commissioned a group of leading scientists to investigate his methods in 1784. Benjamin Franklin headed the commission, and they debunked the existence of the magnetic fluid in the first-known blind experiment. Mesmer was ruined, but “mesmerism” didn’t end there. The report also acknowledged that Mesmer’s methods were making his patients feel better, which they attributed to the power of the human imagination. This experiment ultimately laid the groundwork for our understanding of the placebo effect and inspired an evolution of Mesmer’s practice into something more recognizable today: hypnotism.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Mlex, Joey Eschrich, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, PhilRM, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer, who has ridden the fourth horse once before.]

Pixel Scroll 1/12/21 Our Operators Are Standing By. On Three Legs

(1) 55 ISN’T JUST A GOOD IDEA. Cora Buhlert, in her new series “Fanzine Spotlight,” interviews Hugo eligible fanzines and fansites and the people behind them. The first post features Gideon Marcus discussing one of my favorites: “Fanzine Spotlight: Galactic Journey”.

Tell us about your site or zine.

Galactic Journey is more than a site or a zine. It’s a time machine.

The 20+ writers for the Journey produce an article every other day from the context of SF fans (and professionals) living exactly 55 years ago.  Thus, when it turned January 1, 2021 in your world, we rang in the new year of 1966.

When we started eight years ago, in “1958”, we were just covering the three big American SF mags: Fantasy and Science FictionGalaxy, and Analog, as well as the space shots — Pioneer 1 had just gone halfway to the moon.  Very quickly, as more people became associated with the Journey, we expanded our coverage to all the SF mags, current SF movies and TV shows (we’ve reviewed every episode of Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, and Doctor Who), comicsfashionartmusic, politics, counter-culture…you name it!

(2) SWORD AND ADVOCACY. In “Bran Mak Morn: Social Justice Warrior” at Black Gate, Jason Ray Carney contends Robert E. Howard’s character was an SJW long before the phrase was invented.

…Weird Tales, November 1933, containing “Worms of the Earth”
by Robert E. Howard. Cover by J. Allen St. John

Despite Howard’s pulpster credentials, the young writer demonstrates intellectual ambition in this story. Readers are introduced to a historical framework philosophically anchored in the ideas of “Rome” and “Pictdom,” i.e. “civilization” and “barbarism.” Make no mistake: philosophy aside, this is a fantasy story, a sword and sorcery tale delicately painted with a gossamer-thin layer of history. Howard’s Picts are not the historical Picts, and Howard’s Romans are not the historical Romans. Without question, both tribes are unreal, fictionalized in this story, and fictionalized tendentiously: the Romans are rendered as irredeemable oppressors and the Picts are rendered as the brutally oppressed victims. Artful and strategic distortions allow Howard to bring into focus his troubling theme: the hatred of an oppressed race for their brutal oppressors and the evil consequences of that hatred.

Despite the story’s fantastic nature, it nevertheless engages with the actual, with real oppression, oppressors, and oppressed. Real racism was prevalent in the early 1930s in Howard’s rural Texas, a racially-mixed frontier where the elderly and the descendants of settlers and displaced first tribes remembered (and witnessed) the bloody battle, civil war, banditry, and rapine that characterized what has been mythologized as “the wild west.” Indeed, this earnest engagement with actual racism can be gleaned by contextualizing the “Worms of the Earth” with Howard’s correspondence…

(3) A WRITER’S RELICS. You might also be interested in a guided “Tour of the Robert E. Howard Home” in Cross Plains, Texas conducted by Howard scholar Rusty Burke. Includes a chart based on a map by Catherine Crook de Camp!

(4) HUGOS THERE. John Picacio is among those who posted a very favorable response to DisCon III’s U-turn (see “DisCon III Abandons Previously Announced Hugo Policy”) —

(5) WAREHOUSE £2. Is there anything not wrong with this coin? The Guardian reports “War of the words: HG Wells coin also features false quote”.

…Intended to mark 75 years since the death of the author, the coin has already been criticised for depicting the “monstrous tripod” featured in The War of the Worlds with a fourth leg, and for giving his Invisible Man a top hat, which the character never wore. Then the Wells expert Prof Simon James spotted the quote chosen for the edge of the coin: “Good books are warehouses of ideas.” James and his fellow academic Adam Roberts, a vice-president of the Wells Society, could source no such quote in Wells’s writing – although it is credited to him on various inspirational quote websites.

…Author Eleanor Fitzsimons solved the mystery. She tried searching Wells’s writing for a quote with “warehouses” in it, and found an approximation in his obscure work Select Conversations With an Uncle (Now Extinct) and Two Other Reminiscences. That quote, however, is not what appears on the coin: it reads, “Good books are the warehouses of ideals.”

(6) INFINITE WORLDS. [Item by rcade.] There’s a full-page ad in the new issue of the Previews catalog for Infinite Worlds magazine, a science fiction magazine that has its seventh issue coming out in March.

The magazine is published by Winston Ward and was launched by a Kickstarter campaign that raised around $3,500. Infinite Worlds is described as an “independent magazine” and does not take any advertising.

Issue 7 has stories by Adele Gardner, Daniel Kozuh and Emily Martha Sorensen and an interview with Stu Mackenzie of the Australian rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

Infinite Worlds has an Instagram audience of 105,000 followers featuring illustration-heavy posts such as this collection of the first six covers.

(7) IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO LAUGH. In ‘”Funny, How?’ Why Comedy is Crucial in Crime Writing” on CrimeReads, Christopher Fowler (who also writes fantasy and sf) discusses why comedy is important in his Bryant and May mysteries.

…Creating a funny character is one thing, but consciously setting out to write a witty crime novel is another matter altogether. Humour must emerge organically; you can’t simply parachute characters into a funny situation. It also requires a moral viewpoint, if only so that morality can then be flung aside. The tragedy of sudden death and its investigation needs to be treated with gravity, the humour confined to those who have no idea that they’re amusing. People are at their most ridiculous when they’re desperately serious.

(8) SUPER LIST. If superhero movies are your cup of tea, this list will tell you when all the tealeaves are scheduled for harvest: “Here’s the New Schedule For Every Superhero Movie Coming Out For the Foreseeable Future” at Yahoo!

…The rigmarole of last year really changed the shape of what Black Panther will look like moving forward. There’s also still quite a lag when it comes to seeing any iteration of Black Adam or a second Shazam film, but there is a lot of hope when it comes to films that were shelved last year. Black Widow? Still slated to come your way in May. The Eternals and Shang-Chi? Also making a 2021 debut. All of this is to say, while there’s still some bad news, there’s also a lot to look forward to in the coming year so get that bag of popcorn ready. We got some blockbusters on the horizon.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 12, 1966 — The Batman series premiered on ABC. It ran for three seasons and one hundred twenty twenty-five minute episodes.  Starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin, Alan Napier was Alfred, Neil Hamilton was Commissioner James Gordon and Yvonne Craig was Barbara Gordon / Batgirl. Its villains were many and featured many a famous performer. It enjoys a 62 rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes.
A poster for the British release of Leslie H. Martinson’s 1966 superhero comedy, ‘Batman The Movie’, starring (left to right) Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether and Burgess Meredith. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)
  • January 12, 1967 – Star Trek’s  “The Squire of Gothos” first aired on CBS. Starring William Campbell as Trelane, it was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall. Trelane Is considered by many Trekkies to be a possible Q. Critics loved it giving such comments as “one of TOS’s most deservedly iconic hours” and voting the William Campbell performance as Trelane, as the fifth best guest star of the Trek series. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 12, 1937 Shirley Eaton, 84. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She was not nude as is thought but was wearing monokini. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we just discussed. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in 1969. (CE)
  • Born January 12, 1937 – Joyce Jumper.  Just as David McDaniel and Ted Johnstone lived in the same body, likewise David’s wife Joyce McDaniel and Ted’s wife Lin Johnstone.  David, a pro author, published eight novels, three shorter stories; Ted was a leading Los Angeles fan.  I knew Ted but hardly saw David; I knew Joyce but hardly saw Lin.  When David and Ted died, Lin gafiated; after a while Joyce married L.A. fan George Jumper; following his death (2001) she grew less active.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1940 – Tomas Endrey.  Escaped from Hungary 1956.  Often attended Boskone, Lunacon.  Active in APA:NESFA.  Assistant editor of SF Chronicle.  See Andrew Porter’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH] 
  • Born January 12, 1952 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 69. He’s the genius behind the rejuvenated Twilight ZoneAmazing StoriesFarscapeSeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance. Only the latter I couldn’t get interested in though I did try. (CE)
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 69. An odd one as I  have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t  been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue LightFutureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent FutureThe Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Seth Breidbart, Ph.D., age 67.  Chaired Lunacon 1988, 1999 (alas for pattern-lovers, not in 2000 or 2011).  Served a term as President of the Lunarians.  Guest of Honor at Albacon IV.  Often found in responsible positions at SF cons, e.g. he was House Manager in the Events Division of MidAmeriCon II the 74th Worldcon.  Annoyingly successful in fannish auctions and lotteries.  Two Harvard and two Yale degrees, which is like him.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Bill Higgins, age 67.  Radiation-safety physicist, thus seen here and elsewhere as Bill Higgins, Beam Jockey.  Plays baritone ukulele.  Guest of Honor at ConClave 15, Windycon XX, DucKon 2 & 22, Congenial 9, Capricon 10; Hal Clement Science Speaker at Boskone 51.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Paula Lieberman, age 67.  Thoughtful and vigorous in Boston fandom, e.g. at Noreascon 3 the 47th Worldcon she was Creative Consultant in the Program Division, in the Extravaganzas Division was part of the Brains Trust and ran the Anniversary Party.  Does some filking.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1964 Jeff Bezos, 57. He actually does have a genre credit for having played a Starfleet official on Star Trek Beyond. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1980 Kameron Hurley, 41. Winner of a Best Related Work Hugo at London 3 for We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. Fiction wise, her most excellent God’s War won a BFA and a Kitschie, whereas her The Geek Feminist Revolution won her a BFA fir non-fiction. Very impressive indeed. Oh, and she won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer as well. Nice. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1980 – Ameriie, age 41.  Recording artist; three golds, one silver; two Soul Train Awards; Club Banger of the Year; one Rolling Stone Best Album of the Year.  Edited one anthology for us, a short story of her own in it.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SPOTLIGHT ON BLACK CREATORS. The Detroit Free Press features the story behind “Invisible Men, the Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books” by Michigan resident Ken Quattro in “Chronicling the forgotten Black artists of early comic book industry”.

…The idea for “Invisible Men” started 20 years ago, when Quattro was writing an article about Matt Baker, the Black artist who in 1945 created Voodah, a character that is considered the first Black hero in a comic book aimed at white audiences.

Quattro was having a hard time tracking down information about Baker until someone suggested he reach out to Samuel Joyner, an influential cartoonist, teacher and illustrator from Philadelphia who died last year at age 96. 

He wrote me a beautiful four-page letter about not only Matt Baker, but about all these other Black cartoonists, and it stunned me at the time,” recalls Quattro, who wasn’t familiar with the other names that were included.

Quattro began reading what he describes as thousands of past issues of publications written by and for African Americans. “There was nothing in the white media, in newspapers or magazines at all, about Black comic book artists. I started going to Black newspapers of the 1930s and ’40s and ’50s, and there was a lot of information on these guys.”

(13) GAME TIME. [Item by Cath.] I spent a couple of enjoyable hours recently playing the text game ”Stay?” It incorporates Groundhog Day-style loops. WARNING: The link as I entered shows spoilers for how to “get the good ending.”

Welcome to Elaia, a magical city nestled in a high valley. It’s the end of your first year at university & time to choose your major. 

Find yourself among potential friends or lovers– young people with secrets, dreams, fears, and tragedies. Learn about the history & breadth of Elaia’s world, and decide what kind of mark you want to leave on it. 

WHAT IS “STAY? ” ?

  • An interactive fiction story. 
  • A dating sim wrapped up in a fantasy adventure puzzle.
  • A quest to find your own happy ending in a world where you always get a second chance.

(14) DOING SCIENCE. Vox tells how “Citizen science is booming during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

… Early in the pandemic, a fire hose of data started gushing forth on citizen science platforms like Zooniverse and SciStarter, where scientists ask the public to analyze their data online. It’s a form of crowdsourcing that has the added bonus of giving volunteers a real sense of community; each project has a discussion forum where participants can pose questions to each other (and often to the scientists behind the projects) and forge friendly connections.

“There’s a wonderful project called Rainfall Rescue that’s transcribing historical weather records. It’s a climate change project to understand how weather has changed over the past few centuries,” Laura Trouille, vice president of citizen science at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and co-lead of Zooniverse, told me. “They uploaded a dataset of 10,000 weather logs that needed transcribing — and that was completed in one day!”

Some Zooniverse projects, like Snapshot Safari, ask participants to classify animals in images from wildlife cameras. That project saw daily classifications go from 25,000 to 200,000 per day in the initial days of lockdown. And across all its projects, Zooniverse reported that 200,000 participants contributed more than 5 million classifications of images in one week alone — the equivalent of 48 years of research. Although participation has slowed a bit since the spring, it’s still four times what it was pre-pandemic….

(15) THE SUN IS ALWAYS RISING. Not well done, not medium, but a “Rare Planet With Three Suns Has a Super Weird Orbit” is chronicled at Gizmodo.

… KOI-5Ab is likely a gas giant, similar to Neptune in terms of its size. It resides within a triple-star system, and while its orbit is a bit strange, it’s overall environment is less chaotic than it may sound.

Despite having three stellar companions, KOI-5Ab orbits a single star, KOI-5A, once every five days. This host star is caught in a mutual orbit with a nearby star called KOI-5B, and the two twirl around each other once every 30 years. A more distant star, KOI-5C orbits this pair once every 400 years.

(16) THE HYDROPONICS THAT FALL ON YOU FROM NOWHERE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post today had a piece about CES.  The gadget that seemed pretty futuristic to me is “Gardyn,” a portable hydroponic garden that’s about five feet tall.  Seeds are inserted via pods like coffee pods.  All you do is add water occasionally and the device says it grows enough veggies to feed a family of four. Video at the link: “Gardyn, the AI-driven indoor, leafy green growing machine”.

(17) NEANDERTHALS. BBC Future takes a long look at “How did the last Neanderthals live?”

…There is even evidence they caught birds of prey, including golden eagles and vultures. We don’t know if they laid out meat and then waited for the right opportunity to go in for the kill, or whether they actively hunted birds, a much more difficult task.  What we do know is that they didn’t necessarily eat all the birds they were hunting, especially not the birds of prey like vultures – which are full of acid.

“Most of the cut marks are on the wing bones with little flesh. It seems they were catching these to wear the feathers,” says Clive Finlayson. They seem to have preferred birds with black feathers. This indicates they may have used them for decorative purposes such as jewellery.

To show me exactly what he meant, Clive and his team reconstructed some intriguing Neanderthal habits. A dead vulture, carefully kept frozen, was brought out and dissected in front of me, to show how Neanderthals might have done so thousands of years earlier.

They carefully removed the bird’s body tissue. What was left appeared to be a stunning and elaborate black-feathered decorative cape, extending, of course, the length of the vulture’s wing span. They may have wrapped this around their shoulders, Clive says.

This all points to one thing: that Neanderthals had a sophisticated understanding and appreciation of cultural symbols.The fact that Neanderthals could, and would, take these steps – including the creativity and abstract reasoning required to turn a flying animal into a decorative cape – shows that their cognitive skills could have been on par with ours. And regardless of exactly how intelligent they were, their creation of these kinds of cultural artefacts is one of the defining traits of humanity.

(18) THE MOUSE NEVER PREDICTED THIS. “Disneyland to Become Covid-19 Mass-Vaccination Site”Deadline has the story.

Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the bulk of which has been closed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, will serve as the first super Point-of-Dispensing (POD) site for Covid-19 vaccines in Orange County.

The site is expected to become operational later this week, county officials announced Monday. Also on Monday, Los Angeles County announced that its mass Covid-19 testing operation at Dodger Stadium will be phased out this week so the sports arena can be turned into a large-scale vaccination location….

(19) BEHIND THE LITTLE GREEN DOOR. “U.S. Intelligence Agencies to Share Everything They Know About UFOs” notes Mental Floss.

…According to Snopes, the Office for the Director of National Intelligence has confirmed that the omnibus bill includes a 180-day window for the U.S. director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to prepare a report for senators and armed services committees on the potential existence of UFOs and any potential they may have to pose a threat.

The data would be sourced from FBI reports as well as the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The language comes from the bill’s Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that the story arc of Steve Trevor in this movie make WONDER WOMAN 1984 “more problematic than a Rob Schneider movie” and the film explains you “shouldn’t cat-call women because they’ll turn into a cat and fight you!”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/22/20 Hey Rocky, Watch Me Pull A Pixel Out Of My Scroll

(1) THE STARS MY DESTINATION. Galactic Journey gave out the Galactic Stars for 1965 today and Thomas Burnett Swann is a double winner: “[Dec. 22, 1965] Swann Lake (the 1965 Galactic Stars)”.

…Swann is definitely a winner with his myth-inspired tales, Zelazny is hit or miss, but he hit it with Conrad, and Moorcock is a rising star to watch!

(2) ADDRESSEE UNKNOWN. At The Cut, Molly Fischer tries to figure out “Who Did J.K. Rowling Become?”

…“Perplexed” was a common reaction. Rowling had never been a particularly controversial figure. Her books sold hundreds of millions of copies, they inspired films that brought in billions of dollars, and she used the money she made to save children from orphanages. In 2012, she gave enough to charity and paid enough in taxes to knock herself off the Forbes billionaires list. In 2020, she was tweeting links to a store that sold pins that said F*CK YOUR PRONOUNS.

Read another way, though, the latest turn in Rowling’s story looks perhaps less perplexing than inevitable. It is the culmination of a two-decade power struggle for ownership of her fictional world — the right to say what Harry Potter means. The Harry Potter books describe a stark moral universe: Their heroes fight on behalf of all that is good to defeat the forces of absolute evil. Though the struggle may be lonely and hard, right ultimately beats wrong. For fans, when it came to the matter of trans rights, the message of Harry Potter was clear. For Rowling, this was no less the case.

“She absolutely believes that she is right, that she’s on a mission, and that history will eventually bear her out,” Anelli told me. “She thinks she’s doing good work right now.”…

(3) SUM OF THE YEAR’S DIGITS. Sarah Gailey knows that life is more than numbers, though they like to track them, too: “2020 in Review: Writing” at Here’s The Thing.

…This year tried so hard, from so many angles, to take away the things we rely on. At many turns, it succeeded. But here we are: whether we are whole or in pieces, you and I made it to the final days of 2020. We found ways to get each other this far, and that process meant so much more to me than a column of numbers in a notebook. I used to rely on that column of numbers more than I care to admit — but now I have other things to rely on. And it’s so much better this way.

(4) SHE’S BACK. If she’s a bluebird on a telegraph wire I hope she’s happy now. It took long enough! The Guardian celebrates that “Pioneering fairytale author Madame d’Aulnoy back in print after centuries”.

A story by Madame d’Aulnoy, the 17th-century French writer who coined the term “fairytales”, is to be published in English for the first time in more than 300 years, telling of a woman whose beauty is so great it slays her lovers by the hundreds.

Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, known as Madame or Countess d’Aulnoy, invented the term “conte de fée” or fairytale, when she published her major collection of them in 1697-98. Unlike her contemporary Charles Perrault, or later authors such as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, today her work rarely appears outside anthologies.

Now Princeton University Press will release a new collection of her work in March, The Island of Happiness, featuring illustrations and an essay by the artist Natalie Frank.

(5) LEGISLATION. Publishers Weekly reports a new option for contesting copyright claims will soon be on the books: “CASE Act Set to Pass as Part of Omnibus Bill”.

A four year-old bill that would establish an extra-judicial “small claims court” for copyright disputes is now set to become law after Congressional leaders slipped the measure into the Covid-19 relief and omnibus spending bill now headed to President Trump’s desk. In addition, the bill includes a provision that would make illegal streaming a felony.

First introduced in 2016, the CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement) was re-introduced again in 2019. It passed easily in the House, but failed to get to a vote on the Senate floor and was set to die before being dropped into the omnibus spending bill this week (the CASE Act provisions begin on page 77). Among the bill’s provisions is the establishment of a copyright tribunal within the Copyright Office that would hear infringement claims, with awards for claims less than $30,000. Participation would be voluntary—a party served with a claim could opt not to go before the tribunal.

The legislation has been strongly supported by both the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. In a statement, AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante called the bill’s passage a “big achievement,” and said the CASE Act “represents years of reasoned analysis, public feedback, and bipartisan leadership on Capitol Hill.”…

(6) AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Nerdist is ready: “It’s Time for DOCTOR WHO’s First All-Female TARDIS Team”.

…While Ryan and Graham’s relationship was a cornerstone of season 11’s plot, both characters have languished in season 12. Yaz has been a companion for two full seasons, and yet it often seems as though we barely know her. The show has given each big, emotional moments, but fails to do the everyday work that strings them together into real arcs. And that’s a shame.

 The departure of Ryan and Graham will not only allow Yaz, a criminally underused character, to finally step forward into the spotlight, but it will also change the composition of the show in an unprecedented way. In season 13, the TARDIS will be populated solely by women for the first time in Doctor Who’s 54-year history—a change that feels both extremely necessary and long overdue.

(7) BOBA TIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jill Serjeant, in the Reuters story “Boba Fett to get own Star Wars spin-off TV series” says that Jon Favreau announced on Good Morning America that “The Book of Boba Fett” will be in production, which is a project separate from the third season of The Mandalorian and is different than other previously announced Star Wars projects.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • December 22, 1958 — On this day in 1958, the BBC aired the first installment of the Quatermass and the Pit television series.  The first  episode of the six in total was called the “The Halfmen”. Each episode was thirty one to thirty six minutes in length. It was created by Nigel Kneale, and stared André Morell. Cec Linder. Anthony Bushell, John Stratton and Christine Finn. Special effects were handled by the BBC Visual Effects Department. For the box set release, Quatermass and the Pit was extensively restored.
  • December 22, 1967 — On this date in 1967 on NBC, Star Trek’s “Wolf in The Fold” premiered. It was written by Robert Bloch, one of three that he wrote, the others being “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”.  Bloch played off the Jack the Ripper theme in this second season episode.  Charlie Jane Anders at io9, ranked the episode as the seventy-sixth best episode of all the Star Trek series in a list of the top hundred Star Trek episodes. We should note that Baycon the next year would have five Trek episodes on the final Best Dramatic Presentation ballot though not this episode with the Harlan Ellison scripted “The City on the Edge of Forever” winning. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 22, 1802 – Sara Coleridge.  Daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Knew Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Spanish.  Her Phantasmion (1837) may have been the first fantasy novel written in English; you can even read an 1874 edition here.  (Died 1852) [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1869 – E.A. Robinson.  Three Pulitzer Prizes.  Famous for “Richard Cory”, he gave us a “Merlin”, a “Lancelot”, two more.  (He hated “Edwin” and used this form of his name.  Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. Other roles: showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other  genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.) (CE)
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 69. I’ve personally known him for twenty five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The HeartSomeplace To Be FlyingSeven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here. (CE)
  • Born December 22, 1939 – Norma Auer Adams, age 81.  New York fan who developed a career in visual art.  Here is “Goldfish Abstraction”.  Here is her book Artfully Told.  Here is Inside My Sketchbook.  Here is Early Artwork.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1942 – Bea Barrio, age 78.  Los Angeles fan who I wish would let her artwork be wider known.  Here is her cover for the Bouchercon III Program Book.  She did the Two of Swords in Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (PDF of the whole deck; scroll down, BP’s introduction comes first, then Cups, Pentacles, Swords; credits at the end).  There’s a range of style for you.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 58. Perhaps best known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films which is quite frankly merde.  If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!  ( CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1965 Victoria Alonso, 55. Argentine-born producer, co-producer or executive producer of such films as Iron Man (nominated for a Hugo), Avengers: Endgame (also Hugo nominated), the Guardians of The Galaxy franchise… Well you get the idea. (CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1966 – Kim Wilkins, Ph.D., age 54.  Associate Professor at Univ. Queensland.  A dozen novels for us, thirty all told; a score of shorter stories.  Two Aurealis Awards for The Infernal.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1967 – Erik L’Homme, age 53.  A dozen novels for us.  Two and a half million copies sold.  All three Book of the Stars volumes available in English (and two dozen other languages).  Boxer and medieval historian.  Re-read Chrétien de Troyes for research.  Has climbed the spire of Notre Dame.  “Although there has never been a female knight, I reflected on the women of character I knew and thought to myself that they were part of this new knighthood.”  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1968 Dina Meyer, 52. Of course she’s in Starship Troopers, a film that, oh well, where she’s best known for a scene we have discussed here. She actually gets to act in Dragonheart, bless the producer!  And there might have been something good come out up of her role as Barbara Gordon/Oracle/Batgirl on Birds of Prey but we’ll never know. (CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann , 42. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favourite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home makes the cure sound mundane, if not worse than the malady.

(11) BUYER’S REMORSE. For this critic it’s thumbs down: “Most Disappointing Car Reveal Of 2020: The New Batmobile”.

…As one of the most popular superheroes of all time and an iconic symbol, people understandably are pretty critical of how Batman is portrayed. If you’re also a gearhead like us, you’re especially focused on what the Dark Knight drivesEveryone has their favorite Batmobile, but there’s a strong possibility that not many people will put this latest big screen version of Batman’s ride on their top ten list, even though it’s more muscle car than before.

… This thing looks jankier than a high school auto shop class project. It’s a cobbled-together mess with no clearly-defined design theme.

(12) WW84 Q&A. The New York Times inteviews “Patty Jenkins on ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ and the Future of Theaters”.

It’s been reported that you made around $8 million or $9 million for this movie, which would be a record for a female filmmaker.

It feels great. It really does. The weirdest part about it is that you can’t even quite wrap your head around the money, as somebody who’s never made huge amounts of money before. Really, I was so distracted with why it had to be that way that I wasn’t even able to absorb it.

What made you decide to set this film in the 1980s?

I wanted to do a full-blown “Wonder Woman” movie, but what I really wanted to talk about was what I was feeling is happening in the world. Not to get too heavy about it — I don’t want people to even know it’s about climate change — but we’re about to lose this world. What are we, when we’re at our most excessive, when we can’t stop wanting more? We all have a hard time changing our lives, but if we don’t, we’re going to lose everything. So what better time than the ’80s, before we knew any of the costs of these things?

(13) WONDER OVERDOSE. People who have seen the movie too many times this season will be fascinated by these “Dark and Twisted Interpretations of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’” at Mental Floss. The third scenario agrees —

3. BEDFORD FALLS WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF WITHOUT GEORGE BAILEY.

George’s plea to his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) is to have never been born, and the Scrooge-esque vision Clarence grants him shows the tragedy of his family and the town. But Pottersville—the town that would have been Bedford Falls had George not stood in the way of greedy Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore)—is actually pretty great. It’s got bars and theaters and all the big-city excitement George had been dreaming of his entire life.

That’s why, in 2008, The New York Times writer Wendell Jamieson suggested that maybe things would have been better had George Bailey never been born. Or at the very least, he should have left the town to Mr. Potter’s devices.

(14) TENTACLE TAPS. I thought this kind of thing only happened in cartoons: “Octopuses Have Been Observed ‘Punching’ Fish Silly”.

The octopus is one of the world’s most intelligent creatures. It can open jars, camouflage itself, and demonstrate many other signs of thinking.

Other times, octopuses will get what they want using cruder methods. Like punching a fish right in the face.

In a new study published in the journal Ecology, researcher Eduardo Sampaio at the University of Lisbon in Portugal detailed a collaborative arrangement between octopuses and different species of fish, in which the fish and cephalopods hunt for food in pairs and therefore cover a wider search area.

Observing this dynamic in the Red Sea, researchers noted that octopuses establish control of the pairing by striking at their fish partners using an arm to get them to move to a preferred position, to avoid eating the prey, or to deter them from the search entirely. They referred to this as a “swift, explosive motion with one arm,” otherwise known as “punching.”

You can watch an octopus smack the gills right off a fish in the video below….

(15) TOTAL WARRIORS. The Fabulous Fifties scanned an old Argosy article from December 1948: “How To Survive An Atomic War”. Here are a couple of frames.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: TENET” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the new Christopher Nolan film is so complicated that stars John David Washington, Kenneth Branagh, and Robert Pattinson can’t explain what’s going on and the villain’s name, Sator, is evidence that TENET is “the movie equivalent of a crossword puzzle” (look up “Sator square” on Wikipedia).

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/20 Continued
On Next Orc

(1) DIGITAL DIAGNOSIS. N. K. Jemisin tries to work out what the symptoms of social media indicate. Thread starts here.

(2) OF THE GALAXY? “U.S. Space Force unveils name of space professionals” – and that name is: Guardians.

Today, after a yearlong process that produced hundreds of submissions and research involving space professionals and members of the general public, we can finally share with you the name by which we will be known: Guardians.

The opportunity to name a force is a momentous responsibility. Guardians is a name with a long history in space operations, tracing back to the original command motto of Air Force Space Command in 1983, “Guardians of the High Frontier.”

The name Guardians connects our proud heritage and culture to the important mission we execute 24/7, protecting the people and interest of the U.S. and its allies.

Guardians. Semper Supra!

(3) OBAMA’S READS. Former President Barack Obama tweeted a list of his favorite books from this year. Kim Stanley Robinson’s book seems to be the only genre work. Emily St. John Mandel is also here, a name well-known to fans, but not here for a sff novel.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners tobinge brownies with William F. Wu in Episode 134 of Eating the Fantastic podcast.

William F. Wu

William F. Wu attended the Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University in the summer of 1974 — the same year I would have gone had I not been turned down. (But don’t worry — I was accepted in 1979). I first became aware of Bill not from his fiction, but from the letters he wrote to Marvel commenting on the depiction of Asians in the company’s Master of Kung Fu comic book. He made his first professional sale in 1975, and since then has published more than 70 short stories and more than a dozen novels. He’s been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards twice each, as well as a World Fantasy Award. He wrote all six novels in Isaac Asimov’s Robots in Time series, two entries in the Isaac Asimov’s Robot City series, and is one of the writers in George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards anthology series.

We discussed how the two of us almost ended up at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop together (and why we didn’t), the reason he wasn’t terrified when he got the chance to play in Issac Asimov’s robot universe, how an assignment from Harlan Ellison gave birth to one of his more famous short stories (which was later adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone, what he found easy about writing in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe, how you might never have read his science fiction if crime editors had been kinder to him, what Kate Wilhelm told him which helped fix a story problem, why Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu comic books attracted him (and how he’d have written the book if given the chance), how he manages to collaborate with other writers without killing them, and much more.

(5) WHY IT BULGES. Galactic Journey brings you a Battle of the Bulge game review, movie call-out, and F&SF issue review all in one fully-packed post! “[December 18, 1965] (January 1966 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

Sitzkrieg

If The Battle of the Bulge represents the essence of the blitzkrieg, this month’s Fantasy and Science Fiction is a recreation of World War 1 — overlong, with little movement, ultimately pointless.  Such a sad contrast to last month’s issue, which was the best in years.  Ah, such are the vicissitudes of war.  Come slog along with me, would you? …

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty five years ago, Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt was published by Harcourt Brace in a wonderful edition profusely illustrated by the late Francisco Xavier Mora. This tale of two boys and a most unusual cat battling the Horned God at the Winter Solstice is most excellent reading. Harper Jo Morrison who reviewed at Green Man says “Buy the book, bring it home, and luxuriate in something fresh and different. Read it aloud to your child, your cousin, your special someone; anyone who can appreciate a sense of magic in a real world.” 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 —  Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps  for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It?  He’s decently stocked at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1916 – Walt Daugherty.  Co-founded the National Fantasy Fan Federation.  Published a Directory of Fandom in 1942.  Invented Westercon, chaired Westercon 2, Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 50.  Recorded (by phonograph!) Denvention I the 2nd Worldcon, so we have all of Heinlein’s GoH speech; chaired Pacificon I the 4th; Fan GoH at Baycon the 26th; Special Committee Award from L.A.con III the 54th (chaired by Our Gracious Host).  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Also Gene Lucas Award from the Int’l Betta Congress (betta are the “Siamese fighting fish”), world champion in NY “Harvest Moon” contest (ballroom dancing), prize-winner with parakeet “King Tut” (archaeology another hobby), quick-draw demonstration in the X Olympiad (1932; 22/100 second).  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1936 – Dave Hulan, age 84.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 1, Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 50.  Active in various apas e.g. APANAGEFAPAGestaltSAPSSFPA.  Served a term as editor of Tightbeam.  Rebel Award.  Mythopoeic Society.  Lived in Los Angeles awhile and made friends there too.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1937 – Fran Skene, age 83.  Chaired Westercon 30; VCON VI, 9, 14; co-chaired Rain Cinq, chaired Rain Finale.  Served a term as editor of BCSFAzine (British Columbia SF Ass’n).  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 35, MileHiCon 10, Ad Astra 8, Keycon 5.  Fanzines Love Makes the World Go AwryWhat Do You Know of Love?  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1939 – Michael Moorcock, age 81.  Six dozen novels, fifteen dozen shorter stories, a dozen poems, a score of anthologies.  Editor of New Worlds and Vector.  Guest of Honor at LoneStarCon II the 55th Worldcon.  One Nebula.  World Fantasy Award and another for life achievement.  Campbell Memorial Award.  Five British Fantasy Awards.  Prix Utopia and Bram Stoker Awards for life achievement.  SFWA Grand Master (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  SF Hall of Fame.  Musician with the Deep Fix, Hawkwind, Blue Öyster Cult, Spirits Burning.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Hartison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. His only award is a Phoenix Award which is a lifetime achievement award for a SF professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, quite a honor indeed. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 74. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such genre work followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,  Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok so the quality of the last film was terrible…  He’d repeated that amazing feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t.  The BFG is simply wonderful. (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 66. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think of it as being an exemplary genre cred? Well I do. On a much sillier note, he’s in two Muppet films, Muppets from Space and Muppets Most Wanted. (CE)
  • Born December 18, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 66. Yes, I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on TrekStar Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work for hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here. (CE)
  • Born December 18, 1958 – Steve Davidson, age 62.  Fan, editor, publisher, often seen here.  Four reviews in Ray Gun Revival.  Interviewed in StarShipSofa.  Among his Amazing adventures, he’s currently the publisher; with Jean Marie Stine, half a dozen Best of “Amazing” anthologies 1926-1943.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1962 – Maiya Williams, age 58.  First black editor of the Harvard Lampoon.  Three novels for us.  Television writer and producer, e.g. FuturamaThe Haunted Hathaways.  Loves forests, especially old-growth redwoods.  Website quotes “A book is a device to ignite the imagination” (A. Bennett, The Uncommon Reader p. 34, 2007; fictionally attr. to Queen Elizabeth II).  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 52. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film  Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films!   He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt in Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really Casper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin In Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has a horrible math pun. So I naturally recommend it.

(9) LIGHTS IN THE SKY. NASA advises everyone how to watch “The ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn” on December 21.

Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Dec. 21.

In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. In that same year, Galileo also discovered a strange oval surrounding Saturn, which later observations determined to be its rings. These discoveries changed how people understood the far reaches of our solar system.

Thirteen years later, in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”  

“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium,” said Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

The planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system, with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years.

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”..

(10) MALFUNCTION JUNCTION.  [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Allegra Frank, in the Vox story “Cyberpunk 2077, the year’s most controversial video game featuring Keanu Reeves, explained”, says that Cyberpunk 2077, years in development, has been roundly attacked for numerous glitches, including male and female wardrobe malfunctions and strobe effects that caused seizures in epileptics.

…When the game’s first reviews came out just before its December 10 release, they were mostly positive. It turned out, however, that this was because reviewers were only given early access to the Windows PC version, the one best optimized and representative of the expansive, graphically intensive game’s potential. Once the game was released on consoles as well (for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, versions that also work — much better — on the companies’ newer consoles), players discovered a litany of technical issues.

Characters’ faces were obscured, some environments were unsightly. The game would make consoles crash repeatedly, sometimes sacrificing players’ progress. One glitch even exposed characters’ detailed penises and breasts, which would poke out of their clothes. The memes and mockery were relentless and swift….

(11) BIG DEALS. If you wondered “Why Is the Star Wars Universe Full of Megafauna?” then James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post is what you’ve been waiting for.

Whilst watching an episode of The Mandalorian, I noticed something in the  background that was odd enough that I should have taken note of it ages ago: the Star Wars universe sure has a lot of large apex predators for a setting that has been civilized for tens of thousands of years.

This is not the case on present-day Earth. Biodiversity has taken a sharp nosedive in the last 20,000 years. Pretty much any large species that looks tasty, which might have a taste for humans, or lives on land for which we have other purposes in mind has vanished or been greatly reduced in numbers. Because human lifespans are so short, we take the Earth’s depleted state as normal, so are spared angst over all the cool beasts no longer extant.

In the Star Wars universe, the story is very different. When visiting a world in that setting, one should always have a contingency plan for attacks from the local whale-sized predators. What the heck is going on?

(12) YOU’VE GOT YOUR CHOCOLATE IN MY PEPSI. Mashed assures us “Pepsi is planning to release a strange new soda flavor”. Another source headlines it as a “Chocolate Marshmallow ‘Cocoa’ Cola.” (Will it go well with your McRib sandwich?)

…While seasonal sodas don’t get the love that holiday-themed coffee drinks and even cocktails do, they’re still a kind-of-sort-of thing, at least for two soda brands: Mountain Dew and Pepsi. Mountain Dew’s got their Merry Mash-Up, a surprisingly divisive cranberry/pomegranate flavor, and next year they plan to drop a gingerbread-flavored Dew. Pepsi’s gotten in the game in past years with the not-so-successful Holiday Spice flavor, while this year saw Pepsi Apple Pie just in time for Thanksgiving. Sadly this newest flavor was only available if you won a social media contest related to baking fails — it seems their version of apple pie in a bottle was maybe meant as a substitute for those unable to master the art of baking their own pies.

…The newest Pepsi flavor is meant to evoke everybody’s (well, over 40 percent of people’s) favorite wintertime beverage, hot chocolate. Sounds a bit weird? Not really — if you’ve ever had a soda fountain black cow, you already know that cola and chocolate play nicely together, and marshmallow flavor only adds more sugar.

(13) A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING. Shelf Awareness points viewers to a video of the “’First Annual Lighting of the Leg Lamp’ at Page 158 Books.”

Fans of the holiday classic movie A Christmas Story will find seasonal joy and laughs in the “first annual lighting of the leg lamp” Facebook video from Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, N.C.

(14) KNOCK-OFFS. Ranker had readers decide which are the worst among “47 Hilarious Bootleg Toys That Are Obvious Knock Offs”. Second on the list is this improbable superteam:

2. Worst. Avengers. Ever.

(15) VIDEO OF THE SEASON. “We’re Despicable–Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” on YouTube is a song written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill for a Mr. Magoo special broadcast by NBC in 1962.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/8/20 Who’s Going To Sing If You Don’t Have Emperors?

(1) PRESCIENT PANDEMIC PROSE PRAISED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In a thoughtful and in-depth piece about plague-related fiction, Joelle Renstrom (@couldthishappen) of Slate Magazine explores how Connie Willis’ 1992 Hugo Winner Doomsday Book seems particularly relevant in 2020. “Doomsday Book, the 1992 time-travel novel that sheds light on today’s pandemic”.

Doomsday Book—whose name is a nod to the Domesday Book, a 1086 survey commissioned by William the Conqueror—features two protagonists who try to stop the spread of deadly contagions 700 years apart. In the 2054 timeline of Doomsday Book, there are no cellphones, but thanks to a complex machine called the “net,” time travel exists. The net prevents time travelers from altering history, so its main use is for historians conducting research. In Oxford, England, history professor Dunworthy sends an undergraduate researcher back in time to what he thinks is 1320. Afterward, the time travel device technician who helped send the student back in time falls seriously ill with an unknown virus. The very night he is hospitalized, public health workers begin tracking down his primary and secondary contacts and researchers begin sequencing the virus. In this future, there are governmental and scientific systems in place to respond rapidly to a new contagion. Indeed, that’s the easier part. Willis underscores a poignant truth, particularly for contemporary readers:  A pandemic’s true toll is determined not by doctors and politicians, but by everyone else.

(2) IMAGINING LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS. Alien Worlds Season 1 is streaming on Netflix.

Applying the laws of life on Earth to the rest of the galaxy, this series blends science fact and fiction to imagine alien life on other planets.

(3) VOTER FAVORITE. Congratulations to Mikki Kendall whose Hood Feminism placed second in the Best Nonfiction category of the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards.

(4) FANS SKEPTICAL ABOUT FUNDRAISING FOR TOLKIEN HOUSE. The UK’s Tolkien Society says they don’t support the Project Northmoor charity which is raising money to buy J.R.R. Tolkien’s Oxford house. The Society’s “Statement on Project Northmoor” lists concerns —

…As a leading Tolkien organisation, the Trustees considered whether Project Northmoor would help achieve the Society’s objective to educate the public in, and promote research into, the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Trustees unanimously concluded that it did not.

The Trustees’ specific concerns include that:

  • Project Northmoor’s two-page plan lacked sufficient detail;
  • No prominent members of the Tolkien community – be they writers, academics, artists etc – are directors of the company, or are named as running the project;
  • This would not be a museum and would not be open to the public;
  • Project Northmoor’s primary intention appears to be to run creative workshops, rather than educational programmes about Tolkien;
  • Project Northmoor’s plan includes spiritual retreats, which falls outside the scope of the Society’s objective;
  • Their business model includes running a bed and breakfast, with a full-time resident warden;
  • The property itself is a listed building in a conservation area – with a blue plaque proudly showing its connection to Tolkien – meaning the property is well protected under the law and not in need of rescue;
  • The relationship between the US and UK organisations appeared unclear; and
  • As a new organisation – Project Northmoor having only existed for a month – it is difficult to assess their ability, capability, and capacity to deliver the project successfully.

The Trustees wanted to provide this transparency of their conversation for the benefit of the Tolkien community. The Trustees – as is their legal duty under the law in England and Wales – were considering the best interests of the charity and whether it achieved the charity’s objective. For the above reasons they felt it did not.

(5) 55 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK. Mx. Kris Vyas-Myall helps Galactic Journey readers navigate the New Wave: [DECEMBER 4, 1965] A SIGN OF THE TIMES (MICHAEL MOORCOCK’S BOOKS OF 1965).

Across Britain, there has been a recent explosion of road signage. These are designed to establish safer traffic rules and to give people direction on how to use the area who would otherwise be unfamiliar. The one flaw with this is most people are confused as to what they mean….

Pedestrians do not fare much better. Only a small fraction knew that a white bar on a red circle means no entry, with many believing it meant something different, such as a pedestrian crossing.

This responses to the signage is similar to the relationship between science fiction readers and the new wave. For some they are stories full of meaningless symbols that go nowhere, for others it is an essential step in moving science fiction forward. And right at the centre of the new wave is Michael Moorcock.

In spite of being only 25 years old, Moorcock is one of the core figures in British science fiction. He previously edited both Tarzan Adventures and The Sexton Blake Library before taking over New Worlds magazine last year. For the last 5 years he has been a regular contributor to Carnell’s trio of magazines and has published books before such as The Stealer of Souls.

(6) ESSENCE OF WONDER. “For the Love of litRPG” is the theme of this week’s Essence of Wonder With Gadi Evron. Scheduled for Saturday, December 12 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

For an episode celebrating litRPG, a hugely successful genre ruled by indie authors, joining Gadi and Karen will be Shemer Kuznits, Avi Freedman, John Dodd, Avril Sabine, and Storm Petersen.

From what makes litRPG tick and our favorite authors, to the weird tropes hidden within, we fully intend to geek out.

(7) #DISNEYMUSTPAY. YouTuber Daniel Greene interviewed Alan Dean Foster and Mary Robinette Kowal about the #DisneyMustPay issue. Some interesting updates, including SFWA President Kowal confirming that Alan Dean Foster is not the only author affected. 

(8) YEAGER OBIT. Aviator Chuck Yeager (1923-2020) died December 7. The LA Times profiled the first man to break the sound barrier.

Chuck Yeager

After test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier, he confessed to the highly un-Yeager-like emotion of fear.

“I was scared,” he wrote in a memoir, “knowing that many of my colleagues thought I was doomed to be blasted to pieces by an invisible brick wall in the sky. But I noticed that the faster I got, the smoother the ride. Suddenly, the Mach needle began to fluctuate, then tipped right off the scale.”

For 18 seconds on Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager was supersonic — a feeling he later likened to “a poke through Jell-O.” The achievement made Yeager an aeronautic legend — “the foremost in the Olympus,” according to author Tom Wolfe, “the most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff.”…

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement that concludes: “His path blazed a trail for anyone who wanted to push the limits of human potential, and his achievements will guide us for generations to come.”

(9) WALTER HOOPER OBIT. Walter Hooper (1931-2020). a literary advisor of the estate of C.S. Lewis, died December 7 of COVID-19. He served briefly in 1963 as C.S. Lewis’s private secretary prior to Lewis’s death, and became a custodian of Lewis papers and editor of his works. Joseph Loconte profiled him for National Review: “Remembering Walter Hooper: C.S. Lewis Expert Brought Author’s Work to World”.

…Hooper never tired of drawing attention to Lewis’s talent for making Christian thought persuasive to the layman. In his encyclopedic book C.S. Lewis: Companion and Guide, Hooper relates how Lewis gained national attention for his BBC broadcasts defending Christianity during World War II, receiving many speaking invitations. He engaged with fellow dons, members of the Royal Air Force, factory workers, and university students. “It was partly due to this varied experience,” Hooper writes, “that he came to see why the professional theologians could not make Christianity understandable to most people.” In the Protestant tradition to which he belonged (the Anglican Church), Lewis combined reason and imagination to translate the gospel into terms everyone could grasp.

“At times it embarrassed me, when Lewis was talking about God, that I hardly believed in the same way that he did,” Hooper told me. In this case, admiration generated a lifelong calling: What Christopher Tolkien achieved in excavating the work of his famous father, Walter Hooper accomplished for C.S. Lewis. At a recent conference in Slovakia, Hooper was asked to explain why he invested so much of his life quietly serving someone else’s legacy. He did not hesitate in answering: “I said, ‘It’s been wonderful. I wish to God I could do it all again.’”

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • In 1982, Shadows of Sanctuary, the third Thieves’ World as edited by Robert Lynn Asprin, and published by Ace Books, wins the Balrog Award. It was not the first nominated as both Thieves’ World, the first anthology, and Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, the second anthology, were also nominated. The Balrogs which were given out from 1979 to 1985  were created by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and first presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Best known as a film director for A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) which he said was influenced by sources including Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. (Died 1938.) (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1894 – James Thurber.  The 13 ClocksThe Wonderful OThe White Deer are fantasy, supposedly but not necessarily for children.  The Last Flower seems to be science fiction.  What are we to make of his seventy-five “Fables for Our Time” – are they fantasy?  “The Rabbits Who Caused All the Trouble”?  “The Owl Who Was God”?  In “The Unicorn in the Garden” there really is a unicorn but denying it is wiser.  “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” is a spoof of alternative history.  What of his cartoons?   In any event, his particular subtle, almost sour humor excels. (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1894 E. C Segar. Best known as the creator of Popeye who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Popeye’s first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was “Ja think I’m a cowboy?” J. Wellington Wimpy was another character in this strip that I’m fond of. (Died 1938.)  (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1917 – James Taurasi.  A founder of fandom.  Attended the 1938 Philadelphia Conference.  One of the “triumvirate” (with Moskowitz and Sykora) who produced Nycon I the first Worldcon.  Ran “Fandom’s Corner” in Super Science Stories.  His Fantasy Times, later Science Fiction Times, won the 1955 & 1957 Best-Fanzine Hugo.  Big Heart (our highest service award). (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1930 – John Morressy.  A score of novels, eighty shorter stories, some dark, some light-hearted.  In fantasy, Kedrigern is a reluctant wizard first shown as an adult, then prequels of his youth.  In science fiction, Nail Down the Stars and two more paint the same interstellar intrigue from three viewpoints while none sees the whole.  Professor of English at Franklin Pierce College.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1939 Jennie Linden, 81. She’s here for being Barbara in Dr. Who and the Daleks, the 1965 non-canon film. Her next genre forays were both horror comedies, she was in A Severed Head as Georgie Hands, and she’d later be in Vampira as Angela. She’d show up in Sherlock Holmes and The Saint as well. (CE)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker, 70. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London.  So what else is he known for? Oh, I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The ExorcistStar WarsThe Howling which I quite love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and the first Hellboy film version. (CE)
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 69. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1954 Rebecca Neason. She wrote a Next Generation novel, Guises of The Mind,  plus several Highlander novels, and two fantasy novels; her widower says one novel went unpublished. She was a regular panelist at conventions in the Pacific Northwest. Jim Fiscus has a remembrance here. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1964 – Genevieve Graham, age 56.  First studied to be an oboe player; began writing after age 40.  Now devoted to Canadian historical fiction.  Two novels for us, four others.  Has read Charlotte’s WebHuckleberry FinnNineteen Eighty-Four.  [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1966 – Anthony Lewis, age 54.  Illustrator.  Three hundred children’s books; also advertising, design & editorial.  Here are the cover and two interiors for The Owl Tree.  Here are the cover and two interiors for Why Do Stars Come Out at Night?  Here is an interior for Why I Can’t See the Wind.  Here is his image for Follow the Reader posters, bags, bookmarks.  [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1982 – Elizabeth Miles, age 38.  Three novels, six covers.  Here is one, Moon Window.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MONOLITHS PROLIFERATING. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even men with stainless steel do it: “California Men Declare Themselves Makers of Pine Mountain Monolith” says the New York Times. And there are two other new ones.

For the first time, someone has taken credit for erecting one of the monoliths that have popped up in the last few weeks, riveting the world.

A group of four artists and fabricators unveiled themselves on Saturday as the creators of the stainless-steel curiosity that was placed atop Pine Mountain in Atascadero, Calif., on Tuesday — and shared a YouTube video of a newly made replacement going up after some young men unceremoniously toppled the original and put a cross in its spot, livestreaming themselves in the process.

“We intended for it to be a piece of guerrilla art. But when it was taken down in such a malicious manner, we decided we needed to replace it,” Wade McKenzie, one of the California monolith’s creators, said in an interview Sunday evening.

The news of the origins of the monolith was first reported by the website YourTango.

McKenzie said he built the three-sided steel structure with the help of his friend Travis Kenney, Kenney’s father, Randall, and Jared Riddle, a cousin of Travis Kenney.

Early Friday morning, another shiny steel tower was discovered in downtown Las Vegas under the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block entertainment district in the city’s casino corridor.

And yet another was found Saturday morning in Los Padres National Forest by campers at a site about 100 miles southeast of the one in Atascadero, The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported. According to the Tribune, the Los Padres monolith has “Caution” written in red letters at the top and features an image of a U.F.O. The creators of the Atascadero monolith told the news outlet on Sunday that they had not placed the monolith there.

(14) THE ROCKETS OF ‘65. In Episode 42 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss the fine art of tsundoku and then fire up the Hugo Time Machine yet again to return to the year of 1965, when Fritz Leiber’s “The Wanderer” won Best Novel Hugo. “Life, the Universe, and Everything”.

(15) FROM THE ARCHIVES. See a unique 1997 television production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella on YouTube.

Cinderella (Brandy) chafes under the cruelty of her wicked stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and her evil stepsisters, Calliope (Veanne Cox) and Minerva (Natalie Desselle), until her Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston) steps in to change her life for one unforgettable night. At the ball, she falls for handsome Prince Christopher (Paolo Montalban), whose parents, King Maximillian (Victor Garber) and Queen Constantina (Whoopi Goldberg), are anxious for him to find a suitable paramour.

(16) WRITING WITH AI. “What’s it like to write a book with an A.I.?” at Slate is an interview with K Allado McDowell.

What is it like to write with GPT-3, the latest language model neural network artificial intelligence system created by Open AI? Clarke Center Assistant Director Patrick Coleman interviewed K Allado McDowell, writer, researcher, and co-author of Pharmako-AI, the first book co-written with GPT-3, for Slate’s Future Tense series. For anyone interested in the nature of artificial intelligence as a model for human intelligence (and imagination) or the use of AI to create art and provoke new lines of thinking, Allado-McDowell’s provocative insights point to new approaches.

(17) SPEAKING OF ROBOTS. Calling Ursula K. Le Guin!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Epic Rap Battles of History has updated. This time, it’s “Harry Potter vs Luke Skywalker”, done entirely in Lego.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/18/20 Am I Overlooking An Elephant?

(1) 55 YEARS AGO TODAY. Cora Buhlert has written an article about Franco-Belgian-Dutch comics for Galactic Journey“[NOVEMBER 18, 1965] HUMOUR, HEROES AND HISTORY: THE COMICS OF FRANCE, BELGIUM AND THE NETHERLANDS”. Cora did a lot of research: “While I read all of those comics as a kid (my Dad worked in the Netherlands and Belgium and while my Dutch was never good enough for novels, comics were no problem), I rarely paid attention to artists and writers nor did I have any idea what was published when and where.” She knows now!

…The comics heart of Europe undoubtedly beats in France and Belgium. For here, comics are considered not disposable entertainment for kids, but a genuine art form. Belgian comics artist Maurice De Bevere, better known as Morris, referred to comics as “the ninth art”.

US comic books only focus on a single character or group. The French-Belgian industry is different, since it focusses on anthology magazines, which contain several different serialised comic strips. The most popular comics are later collected in books known as albums.

Three comic magazines dominate the French-Belgian-Dutch market. The Belgian magazines Spirou (Robbedoes in Flemish) and Tintin (Kuifje in Flemish) and the French magazine Pilote. All three have their own distinct style and voice….

(2) WINDOW ON CHENGDU. At Black Gate Francesco Verso pulls out all the stops for the Chengdu in 2023 Worldcon bid: “Guest Editorial: Let’s Welcome the Future… in China”. A successful Italian sff author, Verso also is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Future Fiction, “a multicultural project, publishing the best SF in translation from 8 languages and more than 20 countries.” He has edited an international SF anthology for the Chinese publisher Guangzhou Blue Ocean Press that was to be distributed to Chinese high schools and universities in 2019.

…Reading Chinese SF gave me a feeling of freshness and cautious optimism; a unique “sense of wonder” permeated many of the stories I read. From climate change to inter-generational scenarios, from android caregivers to futuristic market forces, Big Data and of course the traditional Chinese culture updated to contemporary flavors, the ideas came from a rapidly changing society living them today. To quote Han Song, “You simply need to open a window in China to see a preview of the future.”

The same applies for Science Fiction Conventions. I’ve had the honor and privilege to attend many meetings organized by fandom in collaboration with various institutions (both public and private ones) from Beijing to Chongqing, from Shenzhen to Chengdu.

These conventions are nothing like we’ve seen and experienced in the West.

Thousands of passionate fans, hundreds staff, tens of Special Guests from China and the rest of the world displayed an expertise and enthusiasm which struck me from the very first time, at the 4th International SF Convention of Chengdu in 2017 (see Black Gate‘s report here). During many panels, there were real-time interpreters from Chinese to English and from English to Chinese to help with communication. No guest was left alone and a true sense of community (already strong in all SF conventions) was circulating from morning to night events.

Three years have since passed and I’ve visited China six times to participate in events like the first Asia Pacific SF Convention and the National Chinese SF Convention in Beijing (see Locus Magazine’s report here), the 5th International SF Convention of Chengdu (see Black Gate‘s report here), the opening ceremony of the Fishing Fortress Center of Science Fiction of Chongqing. I can fairly say the following without fear of being proved wrong: No other country can benefit from such a rich past and an innovative present as China.

No other country – from fandom to scholars, from magazine to publishing houses, from conventions to academic meetings – is investing so much energy and passion in Science Fiction as China.

No other country has the level of support – including public sector grants, private institutions funding and fan staff – as China.

That’s an incredible leverage to use for boosting Science Fiction in a highly-populated country that has come to realize that it will shape a relevant part of the future awaiting the whole world.

The committee of the Chengdu bid for the 2023 WorldCon is doing an excellent job to prepare for the event. They are showing the beauty of the city, its many historical traces, such as the Three-Star Piles, the Water Conservancy project of the Qin Dynasty, the poets of the Tang Dynasty and of course the pandas!

(3) SECOND, ER, SIXTH CHANCE. “Academy Museum Gives Debbie Reynolds Her Due as a Costume Conservator” – finally. The New York Times has the story. Tagline: “When the ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ actress was alive, the film academy turned up its nose at her fabled costume collection. Now it has gone to her son with hat in hand.”

… The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences turned her down — five times. Reynolds quoted an uninterested David Geffen in her 2013 memoir as once saying, “Why don’t you just sell that stuff?”

In debt, she finally had no other choice, auctioning Marilyn Monroe’s ivory-pleated halter dress that blew upward in “The Seven Year Itch” for $4.6 million and Audrey Hepburn’s lace Royal Ascot number from “My Fair Lady” for $3.7 million — prices that shocked moviedom’s aristocracy and proved Reynolds had been right. Also sold, in some cases to anonymous overseas collectors, were Charlton Heston’s “Ben-Hur” tunic and cape, the acoustic guitar Julie Andrews strummed in “The Sound of Music” and every hat that Vivien Leigh flaunted in “Gone With the Wind.”

Now, four years after she died at 84, there has been a plot twist in the Debbie Reynolds costume collection saga, one that she would undoubtedly find both maddening and satisfying: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, set to open on April 30 and costing $482 million, finds itself caring about her collection — at least the part that is left, which includes iconic costumes she wore in movies like “Singin’ in the Rain.” Also remaining are screen garments created for Mary Pickford, Deborah Kerr and Cyd Charisse, as well as rare memorabilia from classics like “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Maltese Falcon.”

… So far, Fisher has agreed to lend the Academy Museum one item from his own collection: a set of seven Bausch and Lomb Baltar lenses used by Gregg Toland, the fabled “Citizen Kane” cinematographer. But Fisher, 62, said more items would come, as long as the Debbie Reynolds Conservation Studio exists on the museum’s lower level next to the Shirley Temple Education Studio.

“My mother was one of the most forgiving people ever,” Fisher said. “She would never want me to hold a grudge just because I have knowledge of all the missed opportunities — how the people running the academy in the past were never willing to step up and support her. She would have wanted me to share these important artifacts with future generations. So, as long as they are properly recognizing my mother for her contribution to this discipline, I agreed to provide access to whatever I have access to.”…

(4) HELPING YOURSELF. Advice from the Milford SF Writers blog: “Launching a book during a pandemic: tips & tricks for doing your own PR/marketing by Tiffani Angus”.

Think beyond the obvious. Sure, you want reviews and other events, but there might be angles that you’re not considering. My book is historical fantasy set in a garden over 400 years. Our list included the usual outlets such as the British Fantasy Society, but we knew we could expand from there. Because the book is historical, we put organisations such as the Historical Novel Society on the list. I also remembered that I used to go to the Garden History Museum in London when I was a student and had a slight correspondence with the director, so I put him and the museum on the list along with National Trust houses near me with inspirational gardens and giftshops in hopes of maybe getting the book on those shelves.

Go local. Smaller towns (and some larger ones) love stories about locals. If your town has a paper, send a press release. If you work in a different town, send one there, too. Writing a release takes some practice, but there is plenty of advice on the ‘net. Small stories about me showed up in the paper where I live and the paper in my work-town, along with a magazine in my work-town. From those, I’ve sold several copies out of the local book shop….

(5) WW84. Lyles Movie Files says mark your calendar: “Wonder Woman 1984 arriving in theaters and HBO Max on December 25”.

Considering the sequel already cost $200 million, Warner Bros. likely expected a massive payday and was hoping to wait out the pandemic so audiences worldwide (specifically domestically) could pay for it.

But with another wave of COVID-19 predicted, the domestic theatrical window seems even more in jeopardy. This will be an interesting development and could signal further changes for delayed 2020 blockbusters like No Time to Die, Black Widow and Fast and Furious 9.

(6) AMY CARPENTER OBIT. Well-liked Pacific Northwest book dealer Amy Carpenter has died Filk Radio reported on Facebook:

Very Sad news. A friend Amy Carpenter, aka Amycat, has passed away. She was a fixture at convention dealer’s rooms selling books as Book Universes. She will be missed.

Many people are leaving warm personal tributes on her FB page.  

The cause of death was not posted. However, just two weeks ago Carpenter wrote on Facebook about a trip to the ER for “what seems to have been a small heart attack.”

(7) COCKROFT OBIT. “The Dice Man author George Cockcroft (aka Luke Rhinehart) dies aged 87”The Guardian pays tribute.

The author of the cult classic novel The Dice Man, in which a bored psychiatrist travels to some very dark places when he lets “the dice decide” his options, has died at the age of 87.

George Powers Cockcroft, who published The Dice Man in 1971 under the pseudonym Luke Rhinehart, died on 6 November, his publishers confirmed to the Guardian.

…The author of 11 books, most recently Invasion, a novel in which furry aliens come to Earth to have fun, Rhinehart remains best known for The Dice Man. Published in 1971, it was seemingly an autobiography, telling of a psychiatrist named Luke Rhinehart who decides to roll a dice each time he has to make a decision.

I knew a guy at LASFS who said he did this for awhile, too.

(8) LONG OBIT. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Artist and author Duncan Long (b.1949) died on December 31, 2016. His death was unreported here at the time.  Long wrote the Spider Worlds trilogy and three other novels. His art appeared on the covers of Asimov’sThe Leading Edge, and the Steven Barnes collection Assassins and Other Stories. He also served as the art director for the revamped Amazing Stories.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVESARY.

1980 — Forty years ago, Ray Bradbury was given the Gandalf Grand Master Award for life achievement in fantasy writing. The Gandalf Award was created and sponsored by Lin Carter and the Swordsmen and Sorcerers’ Guild of America, an association of fantasy writers including John Jakes, Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, C. J. Cherryh, Tanith Lee and Roger Zelazny to name but a few of the members. (Much of their work is collected in the Flashing Swords! anthology series.)  J. R. R. Tolkien, recently deceased, was given the first such Award, and the other recipients were Fritz Leiber, L. Sprague de Camp, Andre Norton,  Poul Anderson, Ursula K. Le Guin and C. L. Moore. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 18, 1922 – Edward C. Connor.  Known as “Ecco”.  Took over the Fanewscard from Tucker in the mid-1940s, ran it for a year with Frank Robinson.  Famous for a Post Office (as it then was) adventure with Ecco’s zine S.F. Echo; that and more here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1923 – Alan Shepard.  First American in Space.  Piloted the Apollo lunar module Antares to the most accurate landing of the Apollo missions.  Hit two golf balls on the Moon.  Moon Shot with Deke Slayton and two journalists.  Two (nonconsecutive) terms as Chief of the Astronaut Office.  Not fiction, but the right stuff.  More here.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1936 – Suzette Elgin.  Founded the SF Poetry Ass’n; its Elgin Awards (one for chapbook, one for full-length, annually) named for her.  Edited Star*Line three years.  SF Poetry Handbook by her, with Mike Allen & Bud Webster helping; an SF Site review here.  A dozen novels, another of shorter stories (“Lo, How an Oak E’er Blooming” was translated into German as Siehe, die Eiche blüht ewig, another time as Und ewig blühet die Eiche, both titles missing the allusion to Es ist ein Ros entsprungen), three dozen poems; many essays in Star*Line and elsewhere.  If SF prose is hard, SF poetry is harder.  Or easier.  Or – let’s go to the next birthday notice.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 74. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so were superb. Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his Stars Wars work as I never got into it. (CE)
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 70. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction is quite excellent, and I see both Apple Books and Kindle have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collectionwith this lovely cover. (CE)
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 70. I’d say that he’s best known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all tell me about. (CE)
  • Born November 18, 1952 – Doug Fratz.  Aerosol scientist and fan.  Known for his zine Thrust, later renamed Quantum, then merged with SF Eye. Many reviews there, on SF Site, and in NY Rev SF.  More about him here.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 67. His best book is Voice of the Fire. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is very close. Pity about the film. His worst work? The Lost Girls which is genre in an odd manner. Shudder. I’m also fond of The Ballad of Halo Jones and Swamp Thing as well. (CE) 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 59. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards. (CE) 
  • Born November 18, 1966 – Madelyn Rosenberg, 54.  A dozen books, plus articles, poetry (this one has butter-shined stars).  Outside our field, here frinstance is an interview with Doc Watson.  “I write because I love telling other people’s stories as well as my own.”  [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1972 – Lisa Olstein, 48.  Four books of poetry and a chapbook The Resemblance of the Enzymes of Grasses to Those of Whales Is a Family Resemblance.  Hayden Carruth Award.  Guggenheim Fellowship.  Pushcart Prize.  Here is “Radio Crackling, Radio Gone”.  [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1981 Maggie Stiefvater, 39. Writer of YA fiction, she currently has three series, The Dreamer trilogy, The Wolves of Mercy Falls, and the quite superb Raven Cycle. With her sister, Kate Hummel, she writes and records a piece of music for each novel she releases. These are released in the form of animated book trailers. (CE) 

(11) HOLIDAY SPECIAL. “C-3PO actor: Original ‘Star Wars’ special was ‘gentle nightmare'” — Anthony Daniels remembers. (There’s video of the interview at the link.)

ANTHONY DANIELS: Here’s the thing, go to YouTube and watch a bit of it, because it’s there. You will be amazed and not in a good way. And go to the back end of it, the end. That’s when myself and Carrie and Mark and Harrison came on. That’s the Star– that’s the real Star Wars. But go through some of the other bits, and you will be astounded that the producers were brave enough to use the title “Holiday Special” because it’s normally– it sets off sirens and heart attacks.

Such a weird experience that you had to laugh at it. And it’s in my book “I am C-3PO– The Inside Story,” where I talk about, in fact, I detail what it was like on the set with these Wookiees, basically treading on things because they couldn’t see in the dark and the dry ice, and how I was only there for three or four days. And I just laughed and laughed as we drove away from the studio because it had been a kind of very gentle nightmare.

(12) THE KERFUFFLE YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT. A little like Macy’s Santa in that movie, KTLA tells people to watch their PBS stations for these: “Charlie Brown holiday specials return to free TV after uproar; here’s how to watch”.

…Last month, Apple TV+ became the new home to the beloved Peanuts holiday specials. That sparked an outcry from viewers who were accustomed to annually tuning in on network TV. Apple offered each special to stream for free for a handful of days, but that didn’t stop online petitions from gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures.

On Wednesday, Apple bowed to the backlash, announcing it had teamed up with PBS for ad-free broadcasts of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (on Nov. 22) and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (on Dec. 13).

Both specials will also be available for free during three-day windows on Apple TV+ (Nov. 25-27 for “Thanksgiving” and Dec. 11-13 for “Christmas.”) For subscribers, the specials will be available beginning Nov. 18 and Dec. 4, respectively.

(13) INCIPIENT MOTHERHOOD. We first met her singing about Ray Bradbury. Now — “Rachel Bloom Shares Footage of Herself Singing ‘Space Jam’ — While Giving Birth to Her Daughter” reports People.

During an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers this week, the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star, 33, shared footage from her delivery room when she gave birth to her daughter in late March with husband Dan Gregor. In the video, Bloom sings the lyrics to “Space Jam” (by the Quad City DJ’s for the 1996 movie of the same name) while laying on her hospital bed.

“You know, I was making a labor playlist, and I was like, ‘What’s going to make me happy? And what’s going to make my vagina muscles wanna push a baby out?’ There was only one answer,” she joked to Meyers.

(14) TIL DEATH. Yahoo! Entertainment shares details about how “Jamie Lee Curtis officiated wedding of ‘Halloween’ superfan moments before his death”. (Curtis also discussed it on The Talk.)

Jamie Lee Curtis made a terminally ill fan’s dream come true.

The actress virtually officiated the wedding of 29-year-old Anthony Woodle and his girlfriend, Emilee, one hour before he passed away. Woodle, a horror movie fanatic who loved the Halloween franchise and holiday, was diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer last year. Emilie opened up about her late husband’s final moments to Charleston’s The Post and Courier.

Woodle, an aspiring director, was diagnosed with cancer on Halloween 2019, three years after proposing to Emilee on his favorite holiday. As his condition worsened over the last year, Woodle got connected to Curtis through Rough House Productions, the local South Carolina based production company reviving the Halloween franchise. They talked about the new movie, his health and how he planned to get married soon. Curtis said that she’s ordained and offered to officiate their wedding, per the paper. Arrangements were made for Sept. 13.

On the day of the ceremony, Woodle turned for the worse. Curtis got on the phone and Woodle’s family gathered around. He was unconscious in bed with Emilee by his side. The actress expressed joy, sadness and said she felt honored as she began the ceremony at 10:30 p.m.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “Honest Game Trailers: Plasmophobia” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Plasmophbia lets you pretend to be a ghost hunter from a cheap cable series of 20 years ago and thrill to having a ghost take you over and make your body act “like a baby who’s failed depth perception.”

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