Pixel Scroll 9/7/21 I’ve Scrolled Through The Desert In A File With No Name

(1) TROPE THE LIGHT FANTASTIC. The Nerds of Color had the opportunity to interview Denis Villeneuve. Their headline asks “Is ‘Dune’ Truly a White-Savior Story?”, however, there is much more to the interview than the part relating to the title, excerpted here:

There is a storytelling trope called the White Savior where a Caucasian will go into a foreign land and act as a rescuer or messianic figure to the indigenous people there. And Herbert’s work has been criticized for falling into that trope. So how do you contemporize the story to avoid falling into the problematic areas that trope may potentially present?

That’s a very important question. And it’s why I thought Dune was, the way I was reading it, a critique of that [trope]. It’s not a celebration of a savior. It’s a condemnation and criticism of that idea of a savior. Of someone that will come and tell another operation how to be and what to believe… it’s a criticism. That’s the way I feel it’s relevant and can be seen contemporary. And that’s what I’ll say about that. Frankly it’s the opposite [of that trope].

(2) DISCON III RATE HIKE SEPT. 15. DisCon III membership prices go up on September 15. Purchase your Attending, Virtual, or Supporting Worldcon membership now.

(3) NYRSF READINGS. Michael Bishop will feature in the New York Review of Science Fiction readings series on September 9. The program will livestream from the NYRSF Readings Facebook page at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

(4) CAR TUNES. Bob Gale finally got his wish. “In ‘Back to The Future: The Musical,’ the Car Is the Star of the Show” – and the New York Times has the story.

During a recent performance of “Back to the Future: The Musical,” at the Adelphi Theater here, the audience couldn’t stop cheering.

They cheered a preshow announcement asking everyone to turn off their cellphones, “since they weren’t invented in 1985,” the year the original movie was released. They cheered when Marty McFly, the show’s main character (played by Olly Dobson), skateboarded onstage in an orange body warmer. And they cheered, again, when he started singing, surrounded by break dancers and women in aerobics getup to complete the 1980s vibe.

But the loudest applause came about 20 minutes in. After three loud bangs and a flash of light, a DeLorean car seemed to magically appear in the middle of the stage, lights bouncing off its steel bodywork and gull-wing doors.

The audience went wild.

Bob Gale, who co-wrote the original movie with Robert Zemeckis and wrote the musical’s book, said in a telephone interview that he always knew the car would be vital to the show’s success. “We knew if we pulled it off, it was going to make the audience go nuts,” he said.

He added he had been working on making that happen for over 15 years. 

(5) GAME ON. The “Montegrappa Winter Is Here Limited Edition Fountain Pen” is marked down to $4,400! Hmm, shall I buy it, or do my laundry for the next 220 months?

Made under license to HBO, Montegrappa’s new Game of Thrones pen, Winter is Here, pays homage to the mysterious forces from north of The Wall.

Using the ancient jeweller’s art of lost wax casting, Montegrappa has created half pen, half objet d’art.

Three-dimensional effigies of the Night King and White Walker form a sterling silver superstructure that encases a body of shiny lines celluloid. The figure of Viserion wraps around the cap, and the dragon’s head with a tongue of ice coming out of its mouth acts as an innovative pocket clip. Enamelled, crystal blue flames encircle the base of the cap, while semi-precious apatite stones emulate the cold, mysterious eyes unique to beings of the North.

(6) MOUNTAIN CLIMBER. James Davis Nicoll devises “Five Extremely Unscientific Methods for Picking Your Next Book” at Tor.com.

Anyone can apply logic, taste, and methodical research to the problem of selecting which limited subset of the vast number of books available one is to read. Conversely, one can half-ass one’s way through Mt. Tsundoku using methods of dubious reliability. Don’t believe me? Here are five methods I have used, each more ludicrous than the one before….

(7) FREE MARS EVENT. Explore Mars, Inc., is holding a free S2021 Humans to Mars Summit (H2M 2021) on September 13–15. It will be a virtual event, however, Explore Mars plans to also conduct some in-person elements in Washington, D.C. Register here.

The topics include:

  • Planet of Robots: Recent Milestones and Discoveries on Mars
  • Artemis to Mars: Utilizing the Moon to sending Humanity to Mars
  • How Space Exploration Improves Life on Earth
  • Making it on Mars: 3-D Printing and Other Critical Technologies
  • Building a Space Workforce: Inspiring and Motivating Preprofessional     and Early Professionals
  • EVA Suits and Surface Operations
  • Nuclear Propulsion and Surface Power
  • Robotic Support: Prior, During, and After Crewed Missions to Mars
  • How Can Space Exploration Expand Inclusiveness and Diversity?

(8) BEAR MEDICAL UPDATE. A Livejournal post from Elizabeth Bear for public sharing: “if memories were all i sang i’d rather drive a truck”.

Just wanted to let everybody know that my surgical consult is on Thursday afternoon, and I expect to be scheduled rapidly for surgery after that. If that goes well then I can look forward to a month off to heal and then radiation. If it goes poorly, alas, it’s probably straight into chemo but right now that is considered unlikely.

Scott can’t come in to the consult with me because plague. I’m going to ask if I can record it.

Got my You Are A Cancer Patient Now covid booster which was surprisingly emotional. Cue crying in a CVS. Could be worse… so glad I’m not doing this last year….

(9) WALL OF FAME. “Muppets creator Jim Henson’s London home gets blue plaque” reports The Guardian.  

Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, has been honoured with a blue plaque at his former London home.

The US puppeteer, acclaimed for his work on Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock and as director of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, lived at 50 Downshire Hill in Hampstead from 1979….

…His son Brian, who is chairman of the board at The Jim Henson Company, said: “My father moved to London to make The Muppet Show, and then chose to stay because he was so impressed by the UK’s many gifted artists and performers….

(10) TONY SELBY (1938-2021). Actor Tony Selby died September 5 after contracting Covid-19. His genre work included Doctor Who and Ace of Wands.

…In a different vein – and sporting a beard – Selby was one of Doctor Who fans’ favourite guest stars. He played Sabalom Glitz, the selfish mercenary from the planet Salostopus who forms uneasy alliances with Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy’s incarnations of the Time Lord in two adventures, the series-long story The Trial of a Time Lord (1986) and Dragonfire (1987). The unbroadcast back story for the second revealed that Glitz had taken the virginity of the doctor’s young companion Ace (Sophie Aldred).

Alongside guest roles as crooks in various television series, the actor played Sam Maxstead, reformed convict and assistant to the magician who uses his real supernatural powers to fight evildoers, in the first two runs (1970-71) of the children’s fantasy series Ace of Wands….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1974 – Forty-seven years ago this night, the Land of the Lost series premiered on NBC. (It went into syndication for the last two seasons.) It was created by Sid and Marty Krofft and (though uncredited during the series) also by David Gerrold, and produced by the Kroffts who were previously known for H.R. Pufnstuf and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. (I actually remember the former. Particularly the theme song which is earworming its way into my brain now.) Starring Spencer Milligan, Wesley Eure, Kathy Coleman, Phillip Paley, and Ron Harper, it ran for three seasons and forty-three half hour episodes. A number of SF writers wrote scripts including  Ben Bova, Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon and Norman Spinrad.  The Kroffts continue to claim that they are working on an updated remake to the series and that this time it will be an hour-long series.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7, 1921 — Donald William Heiney. Under the pseudonym of MacDonald Harris, which he used for all of his fiction, wrote one of the better modern set novels using the Minotaur myth, Bull Fever. His time travel novel, Screenplay, where the protagonist ends up in a film noir 1920s Hollywood is also well crafted. Most of his work is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1993.)
  • Born September 7, 1924 — Gerry de la Ree. He published fanzines such as Sun Spots ran for 29 issues from the that Thirties through the Forties, and as editor, he published such work as The Book of Virgil FinlayA Hannes Bok Sketchbook, and Clark Ashton Smith – Artist. He was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1993.)
  • Born September 7, 1955 — Mira Furlan. Damn, another early death among that cast. She’s best known for her role as the Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the entire run of Babylon 5, and also as Danielle Rousseau on Lost, a series I did not watch. (and have absolutely no interest in doing so.) She’s reunited with Bill Mumy and Bruce Boxleitner at least briefly in a Canadian SF series called Space Command. (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 7, 1956 — Mark Dawidziak, 65. A Kolchak: Night Stalker fan of the first degree. He has written The Night Stalker Companion: A 30th Anniversary Tribute, Kolchak: The Night Stalker ChroniclesKolchak: The Night Stalker Casebook and The Kolchak Papers: Grave Secret. To my knowledge, he’s not written a word about the rebooted Night Stalker series. Proving he’s a man of discriminating taste. 
  • Born September 7, 1960 — Susan Palwick, 61. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Neighbor’s Wife,” the Crawford Award for best first novel with Her Flying in Place, and the Alex Award for her second novel, The Necessary Beggar. Impressive as she’s not at all prolific. All Worlds are Real, her latest collection, was nominated for the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award. She was one of the editors of New York Review of Science Fiction which was nominated for the Best Semiprozine Hugo at Noreascon 3. 
  • Born September 7, 1966 — Toby Jones, 55. He appeared in “Amy’s Choice,” an Eleventh  Doctor story, as the Dream Lord. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he voiced Dobby the house elf. And in Finding Neverland, Mr. Smee, Captain Hook’s bo’sun. Guess what work that film was based on. Finally I’ll note that he was using motion capture as Aristides Silk in The Adventures of Tintin. 
  • Born September 7, 1973 — Alex Kurtzman, 48. Ok, a number of sites claim he single-handedly destroyed Trek as the fanboys knew it. So why their hatred for him? Mind you I’m more interested that he and Roberto Orci created the superb Fringe series, and that alone redeems him for me. And I’m fascinated that he was Executive Producer on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess!
  • Born September 7, 1974 — Noah Huntley, 47. He has appeared in films such as 28 Days LaterThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (excellent film), Snow White and the Huntsman (great film), Event Horizon (surely you’ve something else to do) and Dracula Untold (well, not so great). He’s Gawain in The Mists of Avalon series which I refuse to watch, and shows up as Donovan Osborn in the CW series Pandora which, I’m not kidding, which gets a Rotten Tomatoes zero percent audience rating. Ouch. Anyone here seen it? 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) IF ONLY IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE. It’s a good thing the writers didn’t wait – reality has already overtaken the future predicted in this 2006 movie: “The oral history of ‘Idiocracy,’ Mike Judge’s time travel triumph” at Inverse.

Mike Judge’s science fiction satire imagined what the United States might look like in the year 2505. From his perspective, that meant:

A population made stupid by advertising

A brash president who used to be a wrestler

Crocs dominating the footwear landscape

Society seems doomed until a 21st-century everyman (Luke Wilson) gets frozen by the military and wakes up 500 years later, making him the smartest person in America and the only man who can save it.

Beset by a low budget and little-to-no-advertising support from 20th Century Fox, Idiocracy almost didn’t happen at all. The fact that it exists is a miracle. The fact that it managed to accurately predict the future is just a bonus, though Judge loves to downplay his prescience….

JUDGE: I started talking to other writers; Etan Cohen was over at my house and I told him about the idea and the next day he said, “I really like that idea. I was thinking there could be a fart museum.” I thought, “Maybe his head’s in the right place for this.”

ETAN COHEN (CO-WRITER): It was great because there wasn’t a rush. It was a luxury to have that much time to generate the idea….

COHEN: One of the great things about the movie was it was very cathartic because you could just drive around and if anything got you angry it could go right in the movie….

(15) ANOTHER BITE OF THE POISONED APPLE. Two more authors think it’s not too late to mock the spirit of the times. Canadian authors Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock have produced a new installment in their cult-classic graphic novel series, The Silent Invasion, coming out from NBM Publishing on October 19.

Dark Matter is the latest installment in the graphic novel series which began 35 years ago. The series originally focused on the paranoia and conspiracy theories in the 1950s including UFOs, alien abductions and invasions — both alien and communist. The current book continues with an emphasis on brainwashing by religious cults that may be in league with a secretive cabal of industrialists, military authorities and scientists, who may have the assistance of alien overseers . 

The Silent Invasion is a visually striking series drawn in a bold and expressionistic European-influenced black and white style . However, Dark Matter is a complex, compelling and sometimes humorous tale filled with numerous twists and turns. 

Referring to the current political atmosphere filled with rampant conspiracy theories, writer Larry Hancock, said, “If there is any time for a good dose of paranoia that doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s now.” 

Co-author and illustrator Michael Cherkas added, “I’ve always been fascinated by the phenomenon of UFO sightings, aliens abductions and conspiracies. It’s interesting that this sort of “magical thinking” is no longer confined to the fringe element. It’s now part of the mainstream.” 

(16) STOLEN AND FOUND. Suggest brings us “The Wild Story Of Nicolas Cage’s Issue Of The First Superman Comic”.

Nicolas Cage’s love of comic books is fairly well known. The star of Ghost Rider and Kick-Ass once owned the legendary Action Comics No. 1, featuring the first appearance of Superman. What happened to this specific issue is quite wild, and the story even features a connection to the hit A&E series Storage Wars. Here’s what happened….

I can’t resist an item that mentions Storage Wars — my friend Elst Weinstein appeared as an expert in the show’s first season.

(17) SCARY LEGO SPECIAL. There can be more terrifying things than stepping on them barefoot — “LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales debuts Disney+ trailer” at SYFY Wire.

Marvel isn’t the only one capable of exploring alternate realities within established canon. The official trailer for the LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales special (coming to Disney+ early next month) teases a trio of stories that put a fresh — and borderline What If…? — twist on beloved characters and storylines.

Set on the volcanic planet of Mustafar, Terrifying Tales follows Poe Dameron (Jake Green), BB-8, and plucky mechanic Dean (Raphael Alejandro) as they’re treated to a hair-raising tour of Vader’s old castle. One of the most foreboding locations in the Star Wars mythos, the castle is being turned into a galactic tourist attraction by Graballa the Hutt (Dana Snyder)….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Shang-chi Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the producer take out the “Marvel Movies checklist” to find that Shang-Chi does have “a big messy CGI Battle,” ‘color-coded energy blasts,” and a hero who takes off his shirt to reveal sic-pack abs.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Alan Baumler, Jeffrey Smith, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Anniversary: A Game of Thrones (Novel)

By Cat Eldridge: ?Twenty five years ago this week, George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones was published. It’s the first novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. It was published simultaneously by Bantam Spectra (US) and Voyager Books (UK). 

The novel won the Locus Award and was nominated for both the Nebula and the World Fantasy Awards, but was only on the long list for the Hugos. It was a preliminary nominee for the BFA August Derleth Fantasy Award. A Game of Thrones has received critical acclaim with several reviewers comparing it to A Wheel of Time for its epic sweep. 

The “Blood of the Dragon” novella taken from the Daenerys Targaryen chapters from A Game of Thrones would win a Hugo Award for Best Novella at LoneStarCon 2. 

Martin, of course, would go onto to write A Clash of Kings in 1998 and A Storm of Swords in 2000. Then, in November 2005, A Feast for Crows, and in 2011, A Dance with Dragons. A Storm of Swords would finish second to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at Millennium Philcon. A Feast for Crows was a Hugo finalist at L.A.con IV, the year Robert Wilson’s Spin won. A Dance with Dragons was nominated at Chicon 7, which was the year that Jo Walton’s Among Others won. Finally Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) was on the long list for Best Novel at Dublin 2019.

As you know, it became a HBO series which deviated from the storyline of the series. At Chicon 7, the first season won the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. At LoneStarCon 3 the next year, the “Blackwater” episode from season two would win a Hugo as well.

Two prequel series, Bloodmoon and House of Dragons are currently approved at HBO. 

Pixel Scroll 4/6/21 A Pixel’s A Pixel, No Matter How Small

(1) CAN HORROR EXIST IN SPACE? [Item by Soon Lee.] It started with Freelance writer Elle Hunt’s Twitter poll on whether Alien is a horror film, and unsatisfied when most of the respondents ticked yes, said, “My argument: horror cannot be set in space.”

Unsurprisingly, it provoked a Tweetstorm of comments from people who disagreed. Amongst the responses was a wonderfully insightful thread by literary agent DongWon Song dissecting what we might mean by “genre”.

Thread starts here.

(2) FIVE THINGS. Alison Scott made one of the great aspirational speeches about what a convention chair should do, using disappointments about this year’s Eastercon as the text. Read the transcript at Ansible Links: “Eastercon 2023: What Really Matters to Us?”

Scott was compelled to deliver it as a bid presentation to gain the floor at the convention’s version of the annual open meeting.

…I was told that the only way I could speak here at this meeting was to bid. And so I’m bidding. Okay. I’ve had to tell the convention team very late that I was bidding; great apologies for that. But we have a 70 year tradition of this meeting, being an open meeting where any member of the convention can come and speak.

I felt that it was really important. We lost that last year because they had to do things very quickly. And I understand that. But I think that the fact that they haven’t given you a chance to speak in an open meeting this year, is actually disgraceful. It’s really undermining our community.

Then come the five things:

…I don’t think it’s possible to do a perfect job. I think it’s possible to do a good job in a lot of good ways and I see five things, which an Eastercon chair needs to do. And these are the five things that I think are really important.

(3) FIVE MORE THINGS. James Davis Nicoll has no trouble finding “Five Stories in Which Great Power Is Not Always Used Responsibly” for Tor.com readers. From the middle of the list —

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (2013)

Utterly convinced (despite the absence of concrete evidence) that ExtraOrdinary (EO) people—superhumans, to you and me—exist, ambitious college students Eli and Victor set out to determine how to artificially induce EO abilities. While trigging superpowers turns out to come with a good chance of simply killing the test subjects, neither Eli nor Victor are much inconvenienced by professional ethics or even ordinary caution. Victory is therefore assured!

Eventual success imbues both young men with abilities far beyond human ken. While Eli’s power of regeneration is self-focused and not immediately dangerous to others, Victor’s powers lend themselves to inadvertent misuse. Indeed, almost the first thing Victor does with his new power is accidentally kill Eli’s girlfriend Angie. The consequence? A vendetta of epic proportions.

(4) THE COLOR OF UBIK. LitHub encourages everyone to “Check out the Folio Society’s new (and very neon) Philip K. Dick box set”. My gosh!

The Folio Society‘s latest publication is a massive edition of all 118 of Philip K. Dick’s short stories, presented in this shockingly bright four-volume set. Their edition of The Complete Short Stories was designed by independent studio La Boca and includes original artworks commissioned from twenty-four different illustrators. 

(5) WINCING AT INVINCIBLE. “What Makes ‘Invincible’ a Superhero Show for Adults?” at The Ringer.

…The sequence is an awesome, grotesque (expensive-looking) demonstration of what a hacked-off Superman might actually do to the Flash once he caught up to him, among other things. It is a surprising explosion of violence, even in a violent show, made even more horrifying for the specificity of the sound design. Invincible emphatically earns its 18-plus rating in just under three minutes, and yet, outbursts like these are not what make Invincible feel “adult.”

…So far, Invincible also seems to be interested in whether the emissary of a hyper-advanced alien civilization, meant to be Earth’s “sole protector,” might have a bit of a god complex. JK Simmons is part of an incredible voice acting cast that includes the likes of Sandra Oh, Walton Goggins, and Mahershala Ali, and there are shades of Terence Fletcher in Simmons’s performance as Omni-Man. Consider how Fletcher first enters the dimly lit practice hall in Whiplash—he hangs his suit jacket on the door, revealing a tight black tee and an imposing physical stature. You immediately understand that his suggestions are demands, and that he enjoys being a big fish in a small pond. It’s the smirking gaze and the visible vein on his temple. Simmons brings the same kind of lurking monomania to Invincible, and it causes me to consider the paroxysm of force not just when Omni-Man is on the job, but when he’s at home, and when he’s speaking to service workers too. He yells at a hospital clerk and you wonder if he thinks she’s disposable. He makes demands on his wife’s time and you wonder whether he thinks of her as an accessory. He hits his newly superpowered son a little too hard while sparring and you wonder whether he feels somewhat threatened—perhaps afraid of obsolescence…. 

(6) TIME FOR WONDER. “Mexicanx on the Rise” is the theme of this week’s Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron. Register at the link.

Catch a rising star as five of the Mexicanx Initiative’s leaders spotlight some of the brightest new literary and art phenoms. They’ll share their latest endeavors furthering Mexicanx representation in SFF and the world at large. Joining Gadi and Karen will be John Picacio, Libia Brenda, Julia Rios, Andrea Chapela, and Héctor González. This Saturday, April 10th, at 3 PM Eastern Time.

(7) BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, AND BAUMANN. The Pink Smoke podcast’s sixty-sixth episode is a “Fritz Leiber Double Feature” with guest Rebecca Baumann, head of public services at Lilly Library, curator of the 2018 exhibition “Frankenstein 200: The Birth, Life and Resurrection of Mary Shelley’s Monster.”

“She is all merciless night animal…yet with a wisdom that goes back to Egypt and beyond – and which is invaluable to me. For she is my spy on buildings, you see, my intelligencer on metropolitan megastructures. She knows their secrets and their secret weaknesses, their ponderous rhythms and dark songs. And she herself is secret as their shadows. She is my Queen of Night, Our Lady of Darkness.”

In two books written nearly 25 years apart, “weird fiction” guru Fritz Leiber examined how ancient witchcraft and black magic continue to prey malignantly on unsuspecting contemporary characters deeply entrenched in the rational. Whether it’s faculty wives hexing a sociology professor in CONJURE WIFE or the paramental entities tormenting a writer in San Francisco in OUR LADY OF DARKNESS, Leiber sees modern life as a conduit for a “new science” of the supernatural, which we dig into with this horror-themed October episode!

Our guest is Rebecca Baumann, head of public services at Lilly Library, curator of the 2018 exhibition Frankenstein 200: The Birth, Life and Resurrection of Mary Shelley’s Monster and avid collector of genre fiction. Baumann shares her take on these essential “weird” tales as well as details of Leiber’s life that offer rare insight into his perspective on femininity. (Also on how to pronounce his name, which John gets wrong through most of the episode.)

(8) SPECTRAL DELIVERY. In “Ghosts and Narrators” on CrimeReads, Jessica Hamilton explains why she used a ghost as the first-person narrator of her novel What You Never Knew and the problems writers have writing fiction from the ghost’s viewpoint.

…For me, creating a dead protagonist was not what fueled me to write my novel What You Never Knew. It was necessary for me to kill off a character within the first few pages of the book, as it’s this event that sets everything else in motion. My only problem was that I still needed the perspective of the deceased character throughout the rest of the novel, which meant I had a dead narrator on my hands.

Using a dead narrator comes with its own special challenges. A hurdle that I found to be quite difficult was dealing with the spirituality that is connected to death and the afterlife. The religion behind dying is a big topic to tackle. Beliefs around it are varied, often tied to religious convictions and highly debatable, which makes it fragile ground to tread upon. I think the question authors must ask themselves before writing a deceased character, is whether they want to avoid using specific spiritual elements in their versions of death or reference them directly…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 6, 1967 — On this day in 1967, Star Trek’s “City of the Edge of Forever” first aired on NBC. Though Harlan Ellison wrote the original script, the episode had several writers contribute to it including Steven W. Carabatsos, D. C. Fontana and Gene L. Coon with Gene Roddenberry making the final script re-write. Roddenberry and Fontana both consider it one of their favorite episodes, the latter ranking it up with “The Trouble with Tribbles”. Critics in general consider it one of the best Trek episodes done and many consider it one of the best SF series episodes ever.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 6, 1849 – John Waterhouse.  Known for painting women of Greek legend and the Matter of Arthur.  Here is The Magic Circle.  Here is Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus.  Here is Pandora.  Here is The Lady of Shalott.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1924 – Sonya Dorman.  One novel, a score of shorter stories (one in Dangerous Visions), a score of poems.  Four contributions to Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World.  Three reviews in Analog.  Outside our field in RedbookThe Saturday Evening Post; four collections of poetry that I know of.  Rhysling Award.  Tiptree Award (as it then was).  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1926 Gil Kane. Artist who created the modern look and feel of Green Lantern and the Atom for DC, and co-created Iron Fist with Roy Thomas for Marvel. I’m going to single him out for his work on the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets in the Sixties and Seventies which you can find on the revamped DC Universe app. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 84. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie. He also co-wrote with Rob MacGregor two SF novels, PSI/ Net and Just/In Time. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1938 Roy Thinnes, 83. Best remembered for his role of David Vincent in The Invaders. He was also in The Horror at 37,000 FeetThe Norliss TapesSatan’s School for GirlsBattlestar GalacticaDark Shadows (recurring role as Roger Collins) and Poltergeist: The Legacy. (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 73. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult  Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination were three of his venues. He also did some writing for If. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1948 – Sherry Gottlieb, age 73.  Two decades proprietor of “A Change of Hobbit” bookstore.  Three novels, one collection of shorter stories.  Special Guest at Westercon 32.  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1953 – Jerdine Nolan, age 68.  Half a dozen novels; several others outside our field, like this.  I. & J. Black Award, Christopher Award, Kirkus Best Book of the Year.  “It takes patience to get the right story…. to revisit and revise the work to make it the best that it could be…. so the words on the page have enough life … could stand up and walk around all on their own.”  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1959 Mark Strickson, 62. Turlough, companion to the Fifth Doctor. He didn’t do much genre but he was a young Scrooge in an Eighties film version of A Christmas Carol. And like many Who performers, he’d reprise his character on Big Finish audio dramas. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1976 – Tara McPherson, age 45.  Two covers, four interiors.  Four artbooks.  Posters, murals, Designer Toys.  In ElleEsquire (Esky Award for Beck in the Netherlands concert poster), Hi-FructoseJuxtapozLos Angeles TimesMarie ClaireNew York Times, Vanity Fair.  Designer Toy Award for a 10-inch (25 cm) Wonder Woman (“I even have her golden lasso of truth tattooed around my wrists”).  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 44. Their first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Their short story “Augusta Prima” was originally written in Swedish, then translated into English by them, winning a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category. (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1983 – Michael Boccacino, age 38.  Début novel got starred review in Publishers Weekly.  Avid baker.  Blames love of books on his father.  Has read Pride and PrejudiceFrankensteinJane EyreWe Have Always Lived in the Castle. [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) INSPIRED BY WHO. Animator/illustrator Elizabeth Fijalkowski did this piece on the 2003 animated “Scream of the Shalka” written by Paul Cornell and starring Richard E. Grant as Doctor Who.

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter eyeballed this result on tonight’s installment of Jeopardy!

Category: Literary settings.

Answer: This Edgar Rice Burroughs hero first visited Barsoom, also known as Mars, in a 1912 tale.

Wrong question: “Who is Tarzan?”

No one else got, “Who is John Carter?”

(14) LUIGI MUST BE PROUD. “Sealed copy of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ sells for record price of $660,000” reports UPI.

… The classic Nintendo video game was purchased in late 1986 as a Christmas gift, but ended up being placed inside a desk drawer, where it remained untouched for 35 years, before being discovered earlier this year.

“It stayed in the bottom of my office desk this whole time since the day I bought it,” said the seller, who asked not to be identified. “I never thought anything about it.”

… Heritage Auctions, based in Dallas, said the copy of Super Mario Bros. that was sold as part of the Comics & Comic Art Auction during the weekend was part of a short run that was produced in 1986, before Nintendo switched from shrink-wrapped packaging to a sticker seal.

“Since the production window for this copy and others like it was so short, finding another copy from this same production run in similar condition would be akin to looking for single drop of water in an ocean. Never say never, but there’s a good chance it can’t be done,” Valarie McLeckie, video games director for Heritage Auctions, said in a statement.

(15) GAME OF THRONES 10TH ANNIVERSARY. Shelf Awareness says the celebration begins April 10 on HBO Max’s Game of Thrones Spotlight Page, “an in-app experience with curations for every level of fandom.”

Beginning April 10, HBO will launch the Game of Thrones MaraThrone, with all episodes of season one airing on HBO2, “challenging fans to continue to binge watch all 73 episodes of the series on HBO Max while raising money for select global charities,” HBO noted. For two weeks, GOT cast members will rally the fandom to contribute to one of 10 causes: Women for Women International, World Central Kitchen, Conservation International, International Rescue Committee, UNICEF, FilmAid International, SameYou, Royal Mencap Society, National Urban League and the Trevor Project.

Later in the month, HBO will surprise three couples who were married in Westeros-themed ceremonies with special anniversary gifts: GOT-branded barrels of wine, custom chalices and elaborate cakes designed in partnership with local bakeries to represent the GOT houses of Targaryen, Stark and Lannister. In addition, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and its licensing partners have teamed up to create a variety of special-edition products kicking off the Iron Anniversary. 

(16) HONEST GAME TRAILER. In “Ghosts n’ Goblins:  Resurrection” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this game is “one of the most unnecessary sequels of all time” to the classic arcade game of the ;80s and it’s so tough that playing it is like “running a triathlon after drinking three bottles of Nyquil.”

(17) HOW THEY DO THINGS DOWNTOWN. What will your stomach think? In the past week Downtown Disney has got patrons’ stomachs rumbling with the fried pickle corn dog! “Disneyland’s corn dog stuffed with a pickle is its new hot dog” at Today.

The parks of Disneyland Resort may be waiting to reopen, but at the Downtown Disney District, plenty of magic is being made.

Most notable is the commotion over the fried pickle corn dog, a hot dog stuffed into a dill pickle, then battered, panko-crusted, fried and served with a side of … wait for it … peanut butter.

While Disneyland closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Downtown Disney area, a space with retail and dining locations that does not require a park ticket, was able to reopen some locations in July 2020.

In April 2021, the Disney Parks Blog announced the fried pickle corn dog would make its grand entrance at Downtown Disney’s Blue Ribbon Corn Dogs cart. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Golem and the Jewish Superhero” on YouTube, Jacob Geller looks at the myth of the Golem throughout history, including adaptations o the legend by Ted Chiang, Jorge Luis Borges, Marvel Comics (particularly The Thing) and The Iron Giant.

[Thanks to Will R., Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Ben Bird Person, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, rcade, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/21 Give Me A Long Enough Pixel And A Place To Scroll

(1) CHEN QUIFAN. Yi-Ling Liu has a profile of Chen Qiufan in the April WIRED.  The article has a wealth of detail about what it is like being a sf writer in China, including the news that if The Three-Body Problem had been published in China today instead of in 2008 it would be heavily censored. “Sci-Fi Writer or Prophet? The Hyperreal Life of Chen Qiufan”. Registration required.

… But in the past few years—a period that has seen China’s sci-fi authors elevated to the status of New Age prophets—Chen’s own career has become an object in the fun-house mirror. After The Waste Tide garnered widespread attention at home and abroad, reviewers began praising Chen as the “William Gibson of China,” and the tech industry has embraced him as a kind of oracle. An institute run by AI expert and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee’s company has even developed an algorithm capable of writing fiction in the author’s voice. (Chen’s recent short story “The State of Trance,” which includes passages generated by the AI, nabbed first prize in a Shanghai literary competition moderated by an artificially intelligent judge, beating an entry written by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mo Yan.) In China, it is the place of science fiction itself—and the status of writers like Chen—that have taken a turn toward the hyperreal….

(2) NOT TODAY’S TITLE: “A Mushroom You Can’t Smoke? That’s A Non-Tokeable Fungi!” The genius that is Daniel Dern strikes again.

(3) FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. James Davis Nicoll is impressed with these “Five Thrilling SFF Works About Meticulously Planned Infrastructure” at Tor.com.

Sure, there’s a lot of entertainment value in grand set piece battles, personal duels, or even two wizards engaging in a magical combat to the death. But there are those of us who enjoy a more arcane pleasure: edge of the seat thrills as protagonists struggle to build vast infrastructure projects. I would argue that providing London with a functional sewer system was more exciting than defeating the French at Trafalgar….

His first specimen is A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison (1972).

(4) A HAMMERLOCK ON FAME. “William Shatner to Be Inducted Into the WWE Hall of Fame” reports Comicbook.com.

WWE announced on Tuesday that the latest inductee into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame will be none other than Star Trek star William Shatner. The original Captain Kirk popped up on WWE programming a few times, including his famous 1995 appearance where he flipped Jerry “The King” Lawler and his turn as the celebrity guest general manager for Monday Night Raw in 2010.

This year’s induction ceremony will take place inside the WWE ThunderDome on April 6 and will induct both the Class of 2020 and 2021 after last year’s ceremony was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(5) MY BIG FAT RED WEDDING. Io9 says Game of Thrones will also inspire a Broadway spinoff: “Game of Thrones Broadway: Key Westeros History Coming to Stage”.

Though the show is long gone, fans of Game of Thrones have plenty to look forward to. There will be more George R.R. Martin books (hopefully), multiple new HBO shows, and now there will be a stage production that’ll go back in time to fill in a key part of Westeros history.

Sixteen years before the events in Martin’s first novel, as well as the TV show, was the Great Tourney at Harrenhal—an event often referred to because many of the major players from across Westeros were there, either competing in, or enjoying, various competitions. Think of it almost like the Westeros Olympics. At the end of the event, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen declared his love for Lyanna Stark, a young woman who was already promised to Robert Baratheon. The event led to Robert overthrowing the Targaryens and basically starting the events that took place in the novels and series….

(6) CONTROVERSIAL MANIFESTO. “Writers in culture war over rules of the imagination”The Guardian visits the front lines.

It’s a venerable global cultural institution, dedicated to freedom of expression and set to celebrate its centenary this year. Yet the writers’ association PEN is being drawn into dispute over a declaration claiming the right of authors to imagination, allowing them to describe the world from the point of view of characters from other cultural backgrounds.

At issue is a charter manifesto, The Democracy of the Imagination, passed unanimously by delegates of PEN International at the 85th world congress in Manila in 2019. A year on , through the social upheavals of 2020, PEN’s US arm, PEN America, has not endorsed the manifesto, which includes the principle: “PEN believes the imagination allows writers and readers to transcend their own place in the world to include the ideas of others.”

While welcoming the commitment to freedom of expression, officials at PEN America indicate that aspects of the declaration might be perceived as straying into the contentious territory of cultural appropriation.

A spokesperson for PEN America told the Observer that the manifesto had not been explicitly rejected – two members of PEN America helped draft it – but “that does not necessarily indicate that we as PEN America formally endorse that action on behalf of our staff or board”.

PEN International’s “The Democracy of the Imagination Manifesto” says —

Pen International Upholds The Following Principles:

  • We defend the imagination and believe it to be as free as dreams.
  • We recognize and seek to counter the limits faced by so many in telling their own stories.
  • We believe the imagination accesses all human experience, and reject restrictions of time, place, or origin.
  • We know attempts to control the imagination may lead to xenophobia, hatred and division.
  • Literature crosses all real and imagined frontiers and is always in the realm of the universal.

(7) VERKLEMPT READERS. The New York Times absolutely knows “How Crying on TikTok Sells Books”.

…An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.

These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.

“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”

…“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”…

(8) OVERWROUGHT SKEPTIC. Everything Wrong With did Galaxy Quest recently:

Galaxy Quest is so good it hurts. It’s one of the best Star Trek movies ever made. It’s hilarious. We love it. Still has sins.

(9) EVERYBODY DROPS. NOBODY SPLATS. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] There’s this long but pretty interesting video at Brows Held High that says it’s about Starship Troopers, but is, at least in part 1, much more about Heinlein in general — it references many of his works, including, believe it or not, Farnham’s Freehold. (Any further parts aren’t released yet but probably will be soon; Kyle is reasonably reliable about his YouTube drops.) It also has an interesting dual generation take, where Kyle interviews his folks about their take on Heinlein’s work, as his father is an engineer who’s a huge Heinlein fan, and his family has a long history of military service.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1996 – Twenty-five  years ago, Paul J. McAuley wins the Clarke Award for Fairyland which had been published by Victor Gollancz Ltd the previous year. The other nominated novels were Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, Patricia Anthony’s The Happy Policeman, Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships, Christopher Priest’s The Prestige and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 30, 1746 – Francisco Goya.  Some of what this painter achieved is very strange.  Here is The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters on the cover of Haunted.  Here is The Spell on the cover of The October Country.  Here is Fantastic Vision on the cover of Positions and Presuppositions in SF.  (Died 1828) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1853 – Vincent Van Gogh.  Another painter whose work can be very strange.  Here is Starry Night on the cover of Orphans of the Sky.  Here is Wheatfield with Crows.  Here is The Night Café on the cover of Campbell & Baker’s anthology of stories and poems it inspired.  Here is a self-portrait.  (Died 1890) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1906 – Dirce Archer.  Served a term as President of PSFA (Pittsburgh SF Ass’n).  Half a dozen reviews in Astounding that I know of.  By 1961 she said of herself, “Primarily a book collector now.  Used to do batik, clay modelling, water colors, but am now too nervous to do art” – after chairing Pittcon the 19th Worldcon.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty-four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1914 – Francis T. Laney.  Active in his local club, and The Acolyte (Lovecraft fanzine), but what made him famous, or notorious, was his 130-page Ah! Sweet Idiocy! blistering us with how bad we were.  Read it for its writing, not its accuracy; there is, of course, all too much truth in it.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at the time he was active. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel  which I’d recommend as it reads a lot to similar what Heinlein would write. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. Ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey it is genre of a sorts, isn’t it? It’s a really fun film which is in the public domain so enjoy watching it here. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. Stardance won the Hugo Award for Best Novella at IguanaCon II. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program Book. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 71. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 63. Voice actor primarily for such roles as The Brain on the Pinky and The Brain series (which Stross makes use of in The Laundry series) with Pinky modeled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1975 – Wendy Isdell, Ph.D., D.D., age 46.  Two novels.  Likes Barbara Hambly for characterization and style.  Plays classical guitar.  “Can also tie things into knots with my feet….  Anyone who claims to be sane is simply clinging to the illusion that they agree with what everyone else says reality should be.  Sorry.  I don’t subscribe to that publication.  (I used to, but the cover price became too high so I bought Reader’s Digest instead.)”  [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1991 – Michelle IzmaylovM.D., age 30.  Five novels.  Aristine Mann Award.  Also loves drawing and painting.  First published at age 14.  Resident physician at Vanderbilt Univ. Medical Center.   “After a tough day … I sit down and write.”  [JH]

(12) KEEP YOUR DOCTORS STRAIGHT. “Pierce Brosnan joins Black Adam as Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange” explains Yahoo!

Big news in the world of superhero casting, aTHR reports that Pierce Brosnan has joined Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam movie, where he’ll play DC superhero sorcerer Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange. This will be Brosnan’s first indulgence in the world of super-powered cinematic throwdowns, taking on the role of Kent Nelson, an American archeologist (played, obviously, by a British man), who stumbles onto vast magical powers while exploring a foreign country, and yet is not, against all odds, Doctor Strange…

(13) DON’T PLAY WITH THAT! IGN tells where “LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Helmet and More Sets Are Up for Preorder”. Kylo Ren would buy one of these.

…There’s a Darth Vader helmet, a Scout Trooper helmet, and an Imperial Probe Droid. All three sets will be available April 26, but you can preorder them now on Amazon.

LEGO says these sets are geared toward adults and experienced LEGO makers. They’re not designed to be played with; they’re designed to be displayed. They come with stands and placards so you can put them on your desk or bookshelf….

(14) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Charles Seife’s biography Hawking Hawking regards Stephen Hawking as a “scientific celebrity”:

Stephen Hawking was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist and even the most brilliant man alive–but what if his true talent was self-promotion? When Stephen Hawking died, he was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist, and even its smartest person. He was neither. A brilliant exposé and powerful biography, Hawking Hawking uncovers the authentic Hawking buried underneath the fake. It is the story of a man whose brilliance in physics was matched by his genius for building his own myth.

(15) TICKED OFF. [Item by David Doering.] Another funny story. Swatch and Apple are in court over using the phrase “One more thing…” (Yeah, go figure.) The British judge concluded, however, that while:

Steve Jobs had used the phrase, it had probably been borrowed from television detective Columbo.

Not often does a fictional hero hold sway over a legal decision in a court of law. “Apple loses latest round of legal fight with Swatch over ‘one more thing’ phrase”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Bravely Default II,” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game features “bland do-gooders shaped like bobbleheads” and “will make you regress into your childhood like an adult eating a Lunchable,”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/7/20 Those Who Do Not Learn Pixel Scroll Title History Are Doomed To Repeat It

(1) SF ENCYCLOPEDIA MILESTONES. John Clute regaled Facebook followers with the latest box score:

SFE hubris moment again; we’re free online so hope we can intrude this way . We’ve just hit 75,000 titles listed with full context in Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Checklists. Also, we now provide Picture Gallery scans for more than 5,000 individual authors given entries (some have only one, Robert Silverberg has 166 and counting). Personally, have just finished writing solo entry number 7,000.

(2) MEACHAM TO RETIRE. Tor editor Beth Meacham, a 7-time Hugo nominee and winner of the Skylark Award (2007), is retiring in December.Publishers Lunch has the story.

Beth Meacham, executive editor at Tor/Tom Doherty Associates will retire at the end of the year. She joined Tor as editor-in-chief in 1984. President and publisher Fritz Foy writes, “We’re delighted that Beth will continue to edit a small number of projects for us on a consulting basis. But most of her list will be moving to other editors as she prepares for her retirement.”

(3) NERDS EVERY MONDAY. Adri Joy and the Nerds of a Feather Team are starting a new series of weekly theme posts that focus on work from countries and regions that are underrepresented in English speaking science fiction and fantasy markets: “Introducing: Nerds on Tour!”

…Speculative fiction is, by definition, a global phenomenon, but the Anglophone science fiction and fantasy community has often sought to define its boundaries in ways that exclude much of the work being created in the rest of the world, even as it adds the “World” label into its own events and awards. At a time when it can feel like our own worlds are narrowing, we think its more important than ever to push back, to remind ourselves why we love genre in all its forms and to go beyond the narrow window of culture, language and geography that shapes most of the media we get to watch. Nerds on Tour will be running on Mondays from now until December, and we hope you enjoy everything we have in store.

(4) FRANCHISE PLAYER. Cat Rambo’s new “Cat Chat” is a really fascinating “Interview with Jennifer Brozek about Writing For Franchises.” Brozek: “The final surprise that I had for franchises is sometimes the publisher doesn’t actually know what they want. They want a story and they have sort of an idea in their head but they don’t know how to communicate it to an author. They don’t have universe bibles. They don’t have… They just want fiction in that universe. ‘No, not like that!’ You know, it’s kind of like ‘I don’t know art but I know it when I see it.’”

Jennifer Brozek is a multi-talented, award-winning author, editor, and media tie-in writer. She is the author of the Never Let Me Sleep, and The Last Days of Salton Academy, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Her BattleTech tie-in novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, won a Scribe Award. …Jennifer talks about writing for franchises, including Shadowrun and Valdemar, what has surprised her about the process, what worlds she hasn’t written in but would like to, and which of her original worlds would make the best franchise, as well as what advice she’d give to people working in it. Jennifer teaches Working in Other Worlds: Writing for Franchises with Jennifer Brozek, for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. The next class will be Saturday, October 24, 2020, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.

(5) RACE IN D&D. “Dungeons & Dragons Officially Removes Negative Racial Ability Score Modifiers From Rules”Comicbook.com has the story.

Dungeons & Dragons players will no longer have a negative ability score modifier when building a character of a certain race. Last week, Dungeons & Dragons officially released updated errata for a number of their sourcebooks and adventures. The Volo’s Guide to Monsters errata was particularly important in that it removed the negative ability score modifiers for playable kobolds and orcs. While kobolds originally had a -2 modifier to their Strength score, and orcs had a -2 modifier to their Intelligence, the updated rules remove those modifiers entirely from the game. Additionally, the errata also removes the orc’s “Menacing” trait with the “Primal Intuition” trait, which grants players proficiency in two of the following options – Animal Handling, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, and Survival.

The updated rules reflect previous comments by the Dungeons & Dragons team that promised better representation and a movement towards giving the player characters individualism as opposed to forcing them to fit within cultural stereotypes within the game’s lore. While players can still choose to use the cultural generalities of D&D’s various campaign settings when creating a character, the updated rules allows for greater expression and also gives DMs more freedom to create their own worlds where the standard D&D cultural stereotypes aren’t present.

(6) OCTOBER THE SEVENTH IS TOO LATE. Sorry I didn’t know about this earlier — “Wednesday, Oct. 7: BBC America Assembles Long-Lost ‘Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones’”. Runs in part tonight, the rest tomorrow night.

Wednesday, Oct. 7

Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones
BBC America, 8pm
New Miniseries!

This is the mostly missing eighth serial of the fourth season of Doctor Who, which was broadcast in six weekly parts from April to May 1967, starring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. Only two of the six episodes are held in the BBC film archives with snippets of footage and still images existing from the other four. Fortunately, off-air recordings of the soundtrack also still exist, making the animation of a complete serial possible once again, and that is what has been done here. The Faceless Ones sees the TARDIS arrive on Earth at a runway at Gatwick Airport in England, where the Doctor and his companions encounter sinister identity-stealing aliens known as the Chameleons. The first three episodes of the serial air tonight, and the three concluding episodes air tomorrow night.

TV Insider interviewed the director of the production: “‘Doctor Who’s Animated ‘The Faceless Ones’ Is a ‘Spine-Chilling’ ’60s Story”.

What was the most difficult challenge you encountered in this project?

AnnMarie Walsh: There are a number of challenges in creating an animated series of classic Doctor Who. For one, animation is a very different medium compared with live-action, and we play to its strengths to achieve the best way of telling the stories. Working with a low budget and a tight schedule will always require inventiveness, but we are animating to the original soundtracks from the 1960s. The fact that they are mono tracks—with the music, sound effects, and dialogue all in one single track—makes it very difficult to edit. It forces us to reorder our approach: Instead of recording the dialogue [from] the script, creating the music to the storyboards and animatics, and adding the sound effects at the end, we change the order of production and visualize the storyboards with the audio of the original recordings in mind as well as the original script.

Being unable to separate the music and sound effects from the dialogue means we need to be very creative in our storytelling. We need to have something fitting happen for every sound effect, even if it would be easier to have that action timed differently, or to have a line said earlier. We also don’t get any alternative or retakes in the audio, which we normally have.

Jamie, Sam, The Doctor, Crossland and The Commandant all peer at new evidence – Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones _ Season 1, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Animated Series Team/BBC

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty-five years ago, Pat Cadigan’s Fools won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for the Best Science Fiction Novel. It was first published on HarperCollins UK, and it would be her second Clarke Award as she won for Synners three years previously. Fools is currently available as a Gollancz SF Masterworks trade paper edition and as an ebook from the usual digital suspects for just three dollars. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 7, 1893 – Alice Dalgliesh.  Taught 17 years at the Horace Mann School.  Wrote three dozen children’s books.  Editor of children’s books at Scribner’s 1934-1960; under her, books (including hers) won Newbery Honors, Caldecott Medals and Honors.  Edited Heinlein’s “juveniles” from Red Planet through Have Spacesuit, Will Travel; his disagreements with her appear in Grumbles From the Grave and were added to her Wikipedia page.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1942 – Lee Gold, 78.  Introduced to Van Vogt because she had golden pipecleaners in her hair and someone thought Van should meet her.  Published Along Fantasy Way, the Guest of Honor book for Tom Digby at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  Since 1975, Official Editor of Alarums & Excursions, an apa devoted to role-playing games; since 1988, also of Xenofilkia, a filk fanzine.  Filk Hall of Fame.  Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Hour-and-a-half 2019 interview here.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1947 – John Brosnan.  Sixteen novels, half a dozen shorter stories; four nonfiction books about the cinema, Eaton Award for Future Tense.  Wrote most of the cinema entries in the 1979 Encyclopedia of SF.  The current (2018) Nicholls-Clute-Langford entry ends, “he gave readers a considerable amount of unfocused pleasure.”  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1947 Lightning Bear. Native American stuntman and stunt coordinator. He did stunt work on the classic Trek series as well as Star Trek: The Motion PictureThe Wrath of Khan, and The Search for Spock.  He did not receive on-screen credit for any of these. Star Wars fans claim that he did stunt work on the three original Star Wars films but Lucas Films says that there is no records that he did. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1950 Howard Chaykin, 70. Comic book artist and writer. His first major work was for DC Comics drawing “The Price of Pain” which was an adaptation of author Fritz Leiber’s characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Sword of Sorcery #1. He would illustrate damn near everything else from Batman and The Legion of Super-Heroes for DC to Hulk and Iron-Man for Marvel (to name but four series) but I think his best genre work was his own American Flagg! series which I’ve enjoyed several times. It’s available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1952 – Peter Peebles, 68.  Fifty covers, a few interiors.  Here is the Aug 91 SF Chronicle.  Here is the Apr 95 Analog.  Here is A Wizard in Midgard.  Here is Taylor’s Ark.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1958 Rosalyn Landor, 62. She played Guinevere in Arthur the King, and Helen Stoner in “The Speckled Band” of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. She was the redheaded colleen Brenna Odell in the “Up the Long Ladder” episode of Next Generation which was banned in The United Kingdom for some years as it made a passing reference to Ireland being united in the early twenty first century. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1963 Tammy Klein, 57. She’s getting a birthday write-up because of the  most likely unauthorized Trek audioseries she’s involved in called Star Trek: Henglaar, M.D. in which she’sSubcommander Nonia but she also been in some definitely really pulpy works such as Lizard ManJurassic CityAwaken the Dead and Zoombies. (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1977 Meighan Desmond, 43. New Zealand resident who’s best remembered as Discord in Hercules: The Legendary JourneysXena: Warrior Princess and even Young Hercules, a vastly underrated series. Post-acting career, she was the special effects runner on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, special effects assist coordinator/runner on Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, assistant art director on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and construction office assistant on Mulan. (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1979 Aaron Ashmore, 41. He‘s known for being Jimmy Olsen on Smallville and Steve Jinks on Warehouse 13. He also is Johnny Jaqobis on Killjoys, a series I’ve yet to watch. He also had a recurring role as Dylan Masters in XIII: The Series which I think is SFF. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1979 – Shadreck Chikoti, 41.  Writes in English and Chichewa in and out of our field.  His SF novel Azotus the Kingdom won his second Peer Gynt Literary Prize.  Director of Pan African Publishers, founder of the Story Club.  See Geoff Ryman at Strange Horizons about and with him here.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1992 – Stephanie Diaz, 28.  Extraction and two sequels.  Also edits.  “Any combination of chocolate and peanut butter….  Basically, it’s all books all the time in my world….  wish I could go back to a year ago when we were in London on our way to Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye.”  I haven’t learned if she drinks my favorite whisky, Talisker. [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off The Mark shows why it might be hard for a zombie to wear a mask – or did that possibility ever cross your mind?

(10) DIAMOND JUBILEE. In “Pippi and the Moomins” on Aeon, Richard W. Orange uses the 75th anniversary of the first books by Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson to discuss their achievements in children’s literature.

In February 1944, Russian bombs smashed the windows of Tove Jansson’s art studio in Helsinki. ‘I knocked slivers of glass out of the windows,’ the author wrote in her diary. She was so depressed, she had been unable to paint for a year, and despaired that war was ‘making us smaller. People don’t have the strength to be grand if a war goes on for a long time.’

Some 250 miles away across the Baltic, another woman was documenting the same bombardment from the safety of her flat in Stockholm. ‘About 200 Russian planes had carried out a bombing raid on Helsinki,’ wrote Astrid Lindgren in her war scrapbook. ‘It’s awful to contemplate the fate of Finland.’

Aside from a seven-year age difference, the two had much in common: both had cut their hair short in their late teens and early 20s, and worn trousers and neck ties – the style of radical women in the age of jazz. Both had a youthful fascination with philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche. Both were committed anti-Fascists….

(11) WATCHING YOUR SIX. In “6 Books with Stina Leicht” at Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer poses the questions.

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about? 

Maria Dahvana-Headley’s Beowulf translation. No woman has ever had their translation of Beowulf published before. Translations are very much affected by the person that translates them. I understand this really affected the interpretation of the story. I’m so very looking forward to it.

(12) BEFORE THE GAME. More details about the Game of Thrones prequel in Deadline’s story about a new cast member: “‘House Of the Dragon’: Paddy Considine To Star As King Viserys Targaryen In HBO’s ‘Game Of Thrones’ Prequel”.

Based on Martin’s Fire & Blood, the series, which is set 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones, tells the story of House Targaryen.

In the 10-episode first season, Considine will play King Viserys Targaryen, chosen by the lords of Westeros to succeed the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen, at the Great Council at Harrenhal. A warm, kind and decent man, Viserys only wishes to carry forward his grandfather’s legacy. But good men do not necessarily make for great kings….

(13) ROLL THE BONES. Art & Object listens to the cash register ringing – and ringing! “T. Rex Skeleton Sells for Record-Breaking $31.8 Million at Christie’s”.

A 67-million-year-old dinosaur fossil known as “Stan” was the star of the show at Christie’s last night when it sold for $31,847,500 after a protracted bidding war between buyers on the phone in New York and London. Among the 46 lots in the 20th Century Evening Sale, including standout works by Cy Twombly, Picasso, and Mark Rothko, the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, the last lot of the evening, caused the most excitement when it sold for nearly four times its high estimate of $8 million to James Hyslop, head of Christie’s Science & Natural History Department. The sale beat the last record of $8.36 million set in 1997 for an equivalent T. Rex specimen.

(14) NOBEL FOR CRISPR. “2 scientists win Nobel chemistry prize for gene-editing tool” reports the AP.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry went to two researchers Wednesday for a gene-editing tool that has revolutionized science by providing a way to alter DNA, the code of life — technology already being used to try to cure a host of diseases and raise better crops and livestock.

Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer A. Doudna of the United States won for developing CRISPR-cas9, a very simple technique for cutting a gene at a specific spot, allowing scientists to operate on flaws that are the root cause of many diseases.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry….

(15) NOTHING. NEXT QUESTION? Co-hosting this week’s Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron on Saturday, October10 will be Alan Lightman, discussing with philosophers Rebecca Goldstein and Edward Hall what separates science from the humanities. For example, what would it take to convince a scientist that a phenomenon was actually a miracle? Register here.

In this discussion with philosopher and novelist Rebecca Goldstein, philosopher of science Edward Hall (Harvard), and physicist and novelist Alan Lightman (MIT), we will consider the question of the role of experiment in science and how that feature separates science from the humanities. We will also discuss the strong commitment of scientists to a completely lawful universe.

This latter issue could be framed as a question: What would it take to convince a scientist that some phenomenon was a miracle — that is, could not be explained, even in principle, to lie within the laws of nature?

For most scientists, the answer is NOTHING. Yet surveys repeatedly show that 75% of the American public believes in miracles. Why this marked discrepancy between the beliefs of scientists and nonscientists?

(16) TRUE GRIT. Andrew Porter took notes when a contestant stumbled over a Neil Gaiman item on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Category: The Librarian Invasions.

Answer: Lucien becomes chief librarian of the Dreaming in this Neil Gaiman comic Book series with a one-word title.

Wrong question: “What is Cryptonomicon?”

Correct question: “What is Sandman.”

(17) EXCHANGE RATE. A 1.5 oz Harry Potter Chocolate Wand – for $10.99!! The weight you gain by eating it will be magically offset by the lightening of your wallet.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/28/20 I Don’t Want To Scroll The World. I’m Not Looking For New Pixels

(1) GRIND IT OUT. Cat Rambo’s latest Cat Chat is an interview with David Steffen of the Submission Grinder.

If you’re not familiar with the Submission Grinder, it’s a web utility that many genre writers spend a lot of time staring at: https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/ I thought it would be interesting to talk to David about how the Grinder came about and what it does.

(2) THE NARRATIVE. Constance Grady, in “The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale, explained” on Vox, says the rumor that People of Praise, the charismatic Catholic group Amy Coney Barrett belongs to, was the basis for The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t true and Margaret Atwood has not only denied it, but says she can’t currently say which groups were the basis for the “handmaids” because her papers are at the University of Toronto library and she can’t access them because the library is closed because of Covid-19.

…The inaccurate link between the People of Praise and Atwood’s story, perpetuated by a series of confusing coincidences and uneven fact-checking, first emerged in a Newsweek article and was later picked up by Reuters. Both articles have since been corrected, but the right was furious at both. The Washington Examiner called it a “smear that just won’t die.” Fox News noted several other outlets have mentioned Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale in the same story.

To be absolutely clear: People of Praise is not an inspiration for The Handmaid’s Tale, and the group does not practice sexual slavery or any of the other dystopian practices Atwood wrote about in her novel. But the argument over whether or not the two are connected reflects the deeply contentious atmosphere in which Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court occurs — and the immense symbolic weight The Handmaid’s Tale carries in American popular culture…

…Her archive of work and research is at the University of Toronto, where she can’t currently access it due to Covid-19 restrictions. But she’s on the record as going through her Handmaid’s Tale archives for journalists plenty of times in the past, and during those interviews, she’s always cited People of Hope, a different Catholic charismatic spinoff that calls women handmaids.

(3) NEW SFWA BLOG EDITOR.  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have selected C.L. Clark as the new SFWA Blog Editor. The position of Blog Editor was previously held by Todd Vandermark, who stepped down earlier this past summer.

C. L. Clark

Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FIYAH, PodCastle, Uncanny, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Now she’s one of the co-editors at PodCastle. The first novel in her upcoming trilogy is The Unbroken (Orbit, 2021).

“Todd Vandermark has done years of wonderful work and is moving on to work on his own projects. SFWA is grateful that he’s been a rock of stability for so long. Going forward, I am very excited to have C.L. Clark coming aboard to edit and curate SFWA’s website content,” SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal said. “Her experience as an editor and writer make her the perfect choice to nurture fresh new voices in the nonfiction side of the genre. I look forward to seeing how she shapes the blog during her tenure.”

The Blog Editor provides oversight and direction regarding articles published on SFWA’s blog. This critical position is responsible for soliciting and publishing online content to support SFWA’s goals of informing, supporting, promoting, defending, and advocating for writers of SF/F.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the SFWA team and so excited to bring the SFFH community helpful articles that reflect the diversity of our community while also addressing the systemic issues within it,” said Clark. “I’m committed to making sure the blog is a great resource for writers at all stages of their career, and is especially welcoming to writers in the early stages. I’m looking forward to seeing new pitches!”

(4) WAIT, WHEN? I was sold at timey-wimey. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Five SF Books Featuring Relativistic Relics and Timey-Wimey Problems” at Tor.com.

Houston, Houston, Do You Read? by James Tiptree, Jr. (1976)

The Sunbird loses contact with Earth while circumnavigating the Sun. Initially, the three men on board assume that a solar flare knocked out their communications. Only after making contact with another space vessel do they learn the truth: whatever happened to them cast their ship across time and space.

The human society of the future arose, as so many societies of the future do, from the ashes of the past. Catastrophe swept away the old order, including all men. Human society is now exclusively female. The crew of the Sunbird are the first men seen since the rise of the current civilization. How can these curious relics be integrated into modern society?

(5) SUNBURST AWARD GOES ON HIATUS. The Sunburst Award Society, which recently announced their 2020 winners, today announced they have put the Sunburst Award on hiatus.

 Like many other organizations, the Sunburst Award has been affected by the Covid-19 shutdown. As a consequence, the Sunburst Award Society is announcing a hiatus in its awards program for the coming year. The Sunburst Awards Society members plan to use this time to re-imagine the most effective means available to them for continuing to highlight the stellar work done by Canadians in the field of speculative literature.

Since its inception, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic has raised the public’s awareness of works of speculative literature, and rightfully honoured deserving works, through its prestigious awards program. Over two hundred and twenty-five works have been acknowledged for their contribution to the arts in Canada, and thirty-eight truly outstanding authors have also benefited from monetary recognition.

Members of the Sunburst Board extend their thanks to their members, their jurors, the publishing community, authors and readers for their support over the last twenty years.

The Sunburst Award also administers the Copper Cylinder Award, which went on hiatus in 2019 and has yet to resume activity.

(6) IT’S A SECRET. 20020, the sequel to Jon Bois’s 17776, is here. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Secret Base, September 28 through October 23. Here’s the first installment:

(7) FAIRY TALES. Jennifer Orme discusses “Queer enchantments: Finding fairy tales to suit a rainbow of desires” at Xtra.

…Fairy tales, we are made to believe, are not for queers. Cishet culture’s magic trick of making itself seem natural, inevitable and universal depends in part on the ubiquity and repetition of fairy tales throughout our lives. We are told these stories of compulsory heterosexuality from cradle to grave—and even though everyone knows they are just fantasies, their enchantments are so seductive that it is difficult to resist their charms and not wish we could all live the fairy tale.

And yet.

The fairy tale realm is the perfect place for the shifting, resisting, transformative and hard-to-pin-down cultures of LGBTQ folks. Ignore the happily-ever-after endings that imply a kind of blissful stasis that goes on and on forever. The wonder-filled, strange and surprising worlds of fairy tales have the potential for a kind of queer enchantment. Don’t let all those ever-after weddings fool you: Fairy tales are the perfect environment for LGBTQ folks and queer desires…

(8) CANONS TO THE RIGHT, CANONS TO THE LEFT. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, a critic/voter in the recent Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Etceteras poll has things to say about the idea of canon which might interest Filers: “Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: Say Goodnight to the Rock & Roll Era”.

Rolling Stone asked me to participate in this year’s project, a request I accepted without hesitation. I was happy to be part of a project that stretched back to the original 1987 issue that was so important to me as a teenager. As I began to assemble my ballot of 50 albums, I came to the quick realization that my decades of listening, list-making, and reading have drastically changed how I view lists and canons. I no longer think of them as some definitive word being passed down from on high or some definitive historical document but rather a reflection of how the pop music community views the past. 

Looking at the new Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums, it’s striking to see how the times have changed. The most obvious seismic shock is how Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is no longer the Citizen Kane of pop. It’s been dethroned from the top spot, pushed all the way to number 24, with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On taking its slot. What’s Going On has been floating in Rolling Stone‘s Top 10 since 1987, the same year where it made it into the Top Five on The World Critics List masterminded by Paul Gambaccini. In other words, What’s Going On has been acknowledged as a consensus classic for decades, so it’s not shocking to see it at the top of the list. The shocks arrive within the guts of the poll, where it becomes clear that the rock & roll era has come to an end….

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 28, 1897 – Mary Gnaedinger.  Edited Famous Fantastic Mysteries and its companions Fantastic and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine.  Conducted “The Readers’ Viewpoint” in FFM and “What Do You Think?” in FN.  May have been a Futurian.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1909 – Al Capp.  His wildly popular comic strip Li’l Abner was made a Broadway musical and a motion picture; it was read by 70 million in the U.S. when the population was 180 million.  It had fantastic elements: Evil Eye Fleegle, the Shmoos, the Bald Iggle.  Capp spoke at NYCon II the 14th Worldcon.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1913 – Edith Pargeter, O.B.E.  Two novels for us, four shorter stories; other work under this name; perhaps her detective fiction under another name about a medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, is best known.  EP was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to Literature.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1930 – Lívia Rusz.  (Hungarian-style her name would be Rusz Lívia; Rusz is the family name.)  Cartoonist, illustrator, sometimes including fantastic elements e.g. Csipike the dwarf (with Fodor Sándor, or as we’d write, “Sándor Fodor”).  Illustrated The Hobbithere is her cover (in Romanian), here is an interior.  (Died 2020) 
  • Born September 28, 1938 – Ron Ellik.  You can see his fanzine Fanac (with Terry Carr; fanac = fan activity) here; it won a Hugo.  Rick Sneary called him the squirrel for his chatter; he cheerfully adopted it; cartoons appeared.  Lived, among other places, in Los Angeles and Berkeley.  Hitch-hiked from L.A. to New York for NYCon II the 14th Worldcon.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate; his trip report was The Squirrel’s Tale.  Served in the Marines.  Under another name, wrote a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel, The Cross of Gold Affair.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1950 – William Barton, 70.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Reviews in SF Eye, interviewed there too (with co-author Michael Capobianco).  Acts of Conscience won a special Philip K. Dick Award citation; he later served a term a a judge.  [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1950 John Sayles, 70. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles. (CE)
  • Born September 28, 1956 Kiran Shah, 64. A dwarf (and yes that’s relevant) who’s been in SupermanSuperman IIRaiders of the Lost Ark,  The Dark Crystal , Return of the JediLegend , Aliens, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Sign of Four. He stunt doubled for Elijah Wood as Frodo and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. He’s got two Who appearances, first as Emojibot 1 in “Smile” and as the mysterious unnamed figure In “Listen”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1963 Greg Weisman, 57. Writer who’s best remembered for GargoylesSpectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1982 Tendai Huchu, 38. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story. The latest issue of Shoreline of Infinity (Issue 18, Summer 2020) is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1986 Laurie Penny, 34. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, “Everything Belongs to the Future“, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer.  “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by JoWalton is in Vector 288. (CE)

(11) CORFLU CONCORDE. The 2021 fanzine fans’ convention, Corflu Concorde, has posted its first progress report on the official Corflu website. The con is planned for March 26-28 in Bristol, UK. Rob Jackson is the Chair.

The FAAn Awards Administrator will be Nic Farey. (Mothers, shield your children!)

Jackson notes provisions are being made for alternate timings for the con “if — as is very possible indeed — we have to postpone from the original date.” A decision about timing will be in PR2, which will be published before Christmas.

(12) THEY’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER. At LitHub, Dan Rockmore considers “How Storytellers Use Math (Without Scaring People Away)”.

…Writing about mathematics presents some special challenges. All science writing generally amounts to explaining something that most people don’t understand in terms that they do. The farther the science is from daily experience, the tougher the task. When it comes to mathematics, its “objects” of study are hardly objects at all. In his famously heartfelt if somewhat dour memoir A Mathematician’s Apology, the mathematician G. H. Hardy describes mathematicians as “makers of patterns.” While all sciences depend on the ability to articulate patterns, the difference in mathematics is that often it is in the pattern in the patterns, divorced from any context at all, that are in fact the subject.

None other than Winston Churchill was able to tell us how it feels to have tower of mathematical babble transformed to a stairway to understanding: “I had a feeling once about Mathematics—that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me—the Byss and Abyss. I saw—as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor’s Show—a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable, but it was after dinner and I let it go.” Let’s assume it wasn’t just the whiskey talking.

(13) WARFARE WITHIN BUDGET. Vanity Fair has an excerpt from a forthcoming book: Game of Thrones: The Chaotic Scramble to Film the Battle of the Blackwater”. Tagline: “George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, and Dan Weiss break down one of the drama’s greatest episodes in this exclusive excerpt from the new Thrones tome Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon.”

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Game of Thrones couldn’t afford to stage a battle. For all its groundbreaking, world-building ambition, the HBO fantasy drama’s 2011 debut season struggled to populate even modest crowd scenes on its $6 million-per-episode budget. Yet going into the show’s sophomore year, GoT producers were faced with the challenge of depicting one of saga author George R.R. Martin’s most colossal events: the Battle of the Blackwater, the climax of his second Song of Ice and Fire novel, A Clash of Kings.

George R.R. Martin: We had a director who kept saying, “Cut this! Cut that! I can’t make the day.” I kept removing elements and it was getting to the point where it was getting as bad as the jousting tournament.

And then, just a few weeks before filming, the director had an unexpected family medical emergency and had to drop out. “I’d done quite a lot of work prepping that episode,” the director said. “Very sadly, I had an illness in the family and I had to leave. I knew I was leaving them with a difficult time, but it was absolutely unavoidable.”

Now the production had another tough problem. After all their pleading and negotiation with HBO for the money and latitude to stage a climactic battle, they were less than a month from shooting and didn’t have a definitive plan or a director.

Bernadette Caulfield (executive producer): That was my first year on the show and probably my first fight with David and Dan. They were like, “Oh, let’s get so-and-so.” I said, “Ninety percent of this is action. We need somebody who really knows action. It’s not easy. We should really look at Neil Marshall.”

David Benioff: Neil did Centurion and Dog Soldiers, movies where the guy is doing an incredible amount of really impressive action on a very thin budget.

Bernadette Caulfield: And other directors kept being mentioned and I kept saying, “I’m telling you, we need an action director!” Then David calls me up. At the time we didn’t know each other that well. And he goes: “Okay, Bernie, we’re going with your idea to hire Neil.”

I swear to God, my stomach dropped. I’m like, “Wait, my idea? This is a community decision!” I hung up the phone and I thought, Shit. Now it’s my idea. I’m responsible for this guy doing our first battle.

Neil Marshall (director): I was aware of Game of Thrones when season one was happening. I thought, This is really my kind of thing, and had my agent contact HBO and say, “If there’s any chance, I’d like to be able to direct an episode.” Their response was like, “We have our directors, thank you very much.”

Then a year or so later on a Saturday morning, I got an emergency call from Bernie to come and fix a situation that, from what I gathered, was a bit out of control. She asked if I would like to direct an episode. I was like, “Absolutely!” I’m thinking this will be in few months’ time. Then she said, “It’s on Monday morning and you’ve got one week to plan.”…

(14) GET STARTED ON YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING. Time Travel Mart offers a Robot Toupee. Know anybody who needs one?

They have lots of amusing novelties. Consider the Pastport:

Whether heading to Pangaea or the future Moon Colony, no time traveler would dare go without their Pastport. Only documentation officially recognized by the Intertemporal Travel Commission.

Travel stamps may be obtained whenever travel to era is approved. Watch social media for era approval stamps.

(15) UNDERGROUND OCEANS OF MARS? The Independent reports “Multiple ‘Water Bodies’ Found Under Surface Of Mars”.

Several liquid bodies have been found under the south pole of Mars, according to a major new study.

The findings give extra credence to previous research that suggested there could be a large saltwater lake underneath the Martian surface, the researchers claim – and also led to them discovering a number of other wet areas.

The findings could be key in the search for alien life on the planet, the researchers note, given life as we know it requires liquid water to survive.

They will also be key to “planetary protection” work that ensures that humanity doesn’t contaminate other planets with life from Earth during missions to explore them.

…The discovery was made using MARSIS, or the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, which is onboard the Mars Express spacecraft sent by the European Space Agency to orbit around Mars.

(16) THAT SOUNDS DANGEROUS. The AP report “New measurements show moon has hazardous radiation levels”.

Future moon explorers will be bombarded with two to three times more radiation than astronauts aboard the International Space Station, a health hazard that will require thick-walled shelters for protection, scientists reported Friday.

China’s lander on the far side of the moon is providing the first full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, vital information for NASA and others aiming to send astronauts to the moon, the study noted.

A Chinese-German team reported on the radiation data collected by the lander — named Chang’e 4 for the Chinese moon goddess — in the U.S. journal Science Advances.

(17) A DOLLAR SHORT. The Space Review’s Dwayne Day looked at the 12 reality shows that claimed to send the winner into space and explained why they all turned into vaporware. “Reality bites”.

…Of course, this is Hollywood, where production companies announce all kinds of plans, some of them much more solid than others, where often the announcement of a project does not mean that the project is about to happen. The article contained this bit of information: “The series will be taken out soon, with a global streaming platform and a broadcast partner in each country, including the U.S., explored as distribution options.”

“Taken out” is Hollywood jargon for “go looking for somebody to pay us to do this.” And when it comes to space-based reality television, lots of proposals like this have been “taken out” before, giving the term a more ominous meaning. In fact, by one count, this is now the twelfth time that somebody has attempted to create a reality TV show with a spaceflight as the prize.

Around 20 years ago, there was the first of a long string of announced reality television shows that would culminate in a flight into space for a lucky winner. The one, or at least the first one that became public, was “Destination: Mir” proposed in 2000 by Mark Burnett, the producer of numerous successful reality television shows, most notably “Survivor.” Burnett wanted to fly the winner of a reality show competition to the Russian space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. NBC even announced that the show would be on its 2001 schedule. After the Mir space station was deorbited, Burnett renamed the show “Destination: Space,” featuring a flight to the International Space Station instead. The reputed price tag for the show was $50 million. Burnett’s project never made it to television….

(18) INSATIABLE. Pac-Man, the iconic arcade game from the 1980s, turns 40 this year. To celebrate, the video game now enters the world of virtual reality.

(19) BRACKETT OUT OF CHANDLER. K A Laity, in “Classic Noir: The Long Goodbye (1973)”, comes up with a bunch of reasons to make you want to find the movie and watch it – even though I don’t remember it being all that good!

I read the novel so long ago (back in my L. A. days so looooong ago) I could only remember the basics of the story. There were probably more of them in the original script by the legend Leigh Brackett, but Robert Altman’s style of filmmaking always left room for improvisation and Elliott Gould—unlikely to be most director’s ideal choice to play Phillip Marlowe—works well here.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “After Earth Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George notes that the 2013 Will Smith film is set in a future Earth where there’s no oxygen even though there are plenty of trees and animals, and how creatures can smell human fear in a world where humans haven’t lived for a thousand years.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Olav Rokne, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Todd Mason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 9/17/20 Hey, You Scroll That Hoopy File Prefect? There’s A Frood Who Really Knows Where Their Pixel Is

(1) IGNYTE AWARDS. Voting for FIYAHCON’s inaugural Ignyte Awards has closed. 1,461 ballots were submitted, of which 1,431 were valid. The winners will be revealed Saturday, October 17 at 5 p.m. (GMT -4:00).

(2) DELANY. “WHY I WRITE”. Samuel R. Delany’s Windham-Campbell Lecture has been posted to Vimeo.

‘Why I Write’ is the theme of this annual lecture celebrating the recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prizes. Due to Covid-19 this year’s lecture by Samuel R. Delany was pre-recorded and posted on the date and time it would have been delivered in person, September 16, 2020 at 5 PM.

(3) DELANY’S UPSTAIRS NEIGHBOR. On Facebook today, Delany related a celebrity brush from his early days in New York. (I bet you can guess before the excerpt ends how this story finishes!)  

…I also gave myself a present: In the narrow four-story house in which we lived (in 21 Paddington St., beside Paddington Park), there was an Indian Restaurant on the ground floor, an African business office on the second floor, we lived on the third, and someone moved into the top floor shortly after we got there. Whoever it was brought a piano, and began to during the day. It was really beautiful music–and a couple of times I went upstairs and simply sat outside the door and listened. The second or third time I did so, I waited till player was almost finishing a piece. Then I stood up and knocked.

The player came to the door and answered. “Excuse me,” I told him. “I’m your downstairs neighbor. I just wanted to say, you play beautifully.”

“You really ???? it . . .?” he said.

“Yes, I really do. My name’s Chip Delany and I live with my wife downstairs.”

“My name’s Tim Curry,” he said. “I’m an actor, actually. But I also compose . . .”

Within the week Tim came down to dinner.

A couple of weeks later, Marilyn and I went to see Tim in a show Upstairs at the Royal Court, where he had a very small part doing a black-out parody of Enoch Powell in a very forgettable part. A few months after that, I saw him on the stairs and asked him how things were coming. Yes, he had another part–this was in a play at the Kings Road Theater, just across the street, it turned out, from the sprawl of the Kings Road Market.

Tim suggested we come to the second or third performance so that the show, which had rehearsed somewhere else, could settle into the space. I believe he even gave us the tickets….

(4) FACE OF THE ARCHIBALD PRIZE. Australian portrait artist Nick Stathpoloulos, a 1999 Hugo nominee and 10-time Ditmar Award winner, has once again had his work picked to represent the Archibald Prize exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where Nick’s “Ngaiire” is one of the 2020 finalists.

Born in Sydney in 1959, Nick Stathopoulos is a self-taught artist known for his hyper-realistic style. Now a six-time Archibald Prize finalist, he won the 2016 People’s Choice with a portrait of Sudanese refugee lawyer Deng Adut. This year, his subject is Papua New Guinea-born, Australian-based singer-songwriter Ngaire Laun Joseph, who is known by the stage name Ngaiire.

The Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers’ House where Ngaire was the 2019 composer-in-residence is just a couple of doors away from Stathopoulos’ studio. He approached Ngaire after seeing her perform live. ‘What an astonishingly powerful, emotive voice! She was wearing this elaborate headdress and make-up and I was captivated and started painting her in my head. After the performance, she happily consented to a portrait.

(5) UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED. Entertainment Weekly tells how “Diana Rigg once ‘stormed off’ the set of Game of Thrones – and inspired costars”.

The great, late Diana Rigg was an inspiring and intimidating force both on and off camera as the Queen of Thorns Olenna Tyrell.

As detailed in the upcoming book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon – the first uncensored behind-the-scenes story of the making Game of Thrones – Rigg was not only formidable as the crafty House Tyrell matriarch across five seasons of the HBO fantasy series, she could be fierce backstage as well.

The Royal Shakespeare Company veteran, who died earlier this month, was 74 when she was offered a recurring role in the series by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss in 2012. “We had tea with her,” Benioff recalls. “Dames don’t audition for you; you audition for them. We loved her, she was funny, she was bawdy, she was everything we wanted for that character.” Adds Weiss: “She said with a big smile, ‘There’s an awful lot of bonking, isn’t there?'” of the show’s R-rated content.

Then Rigg impressed the producers by arriving at her first table read having already memorized all her lines for the season, showing some of the less experienced cast members how a seasoned pro prepares for a job.

… One time Rigg tried – and succeeded – in mischievously getting away with shortening her duties to perform a brief scene in season 6. It was the scene where Olenna discusses strategy with Ellaria Sand and famously cuts short Sand Snakes Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene by snapping, “Oh do shut up … Let the grown women speak.”

“She walked onto the set, and she went, ‘I’m ready now!'” recalls Jessica Henwick, who played the whip-snapping Nymeria Sand. “A cameraman came over and went, ‘Well, okay, but we haven’t finished setting up.’ She interrupted him and said, ‘Roll the cameras!’ And she just started doing her lines. She did two takes, and then the guy came over and was like, ‘Great, now we’re going to do a close-up.’ And she just stood up and she went, ‘I’m done!'”

“Now, she can’t walk fast. She has to be helped. So basically we just sat there and watched as Diana Rigg effectively did her own version of storming off the set, but it was at 0.1 miles per hour. She cracked me up. I loved her.”

(6) APPLYING TO BANKS.  David Polfeldt offers “Iain M. Banks: An Appreciation” at Grand Central Publishing.

…Twice in my life, I reached out to Iain Banks, and to my astonishment and perpetual pride, he replied on both occasions with a personal, type-written and signed letter. In one of the chapters of The Dream Architects, I briefly refer to one of these memories. At the time, my future was looking pretty bleak, and I had reached out to Banks in a desperate attempt to convince him to write for a sci-fi-themed game which I (naively) hoped would inexplicably get funded by the European Space Agency. “No thanks” Banks replied after a few weeks. The letter felt like an extraordinarily polite rejection, but nevertheless I was thrilled! I thought: What if the letter had been written on the same typewriter as the Culture novels?! Although the message was just a considerate version of “farewell”, I took it differently. The presence of Banks warmth and wit in an actual tactile object that had somehow ended up in my hands turned the moment into a symbol of comforting hope, and as a result, the letter spurred me on. Maybe the world was enchanted after all?

(7) NETFLIX CHALLENGER DOCUSERIES. Too soon for me – maybe not for you. “‘Challenger: The Final Flight’ Is A Tragedy About How Nasa Thought It Was Too Big To Fail” at Mel Magazine.

Before 9/11, the biggest national expression of grief in my lifetime took place on January 28, 1986. That was when seven astronauts, including a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, boarded the space shuttle Challenger, took off and, about a minute later, died in a horrible fireball explosion. National tragedies aren’t all the same, though, and in subsequent years, that disastrous launch, although not forgotten, seems to have receded from the cultural memory. Partly, that’s probably because of more recent events like the 2001 terror attacks. But I also suspect that Challenger permanently changed how a lot of people felt about NASA, and space travel in general. Suddenly, neither of them seemed so alluring.

The Netflix docuseries Challenger: The Final Flight looks back at the events that led up to that explosion and its aftermath…. 

(8) TERRY GOODKIND DIES. Terry Goodkind (1948-2020), author of the epic fantasy series The Sword of Truth, died September 17 at the age of 72. He also was known for the contemporary suspense novel The Law of Nines (2009), which has ties to his fantasy series.

The Sword of Truth was adapted into a television series called Legend of the Seeker, which premiered in November 2008 and ran for two seasons.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2000 — At Chicon 2000, Galaxy Quest would win the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. It would also win the Nebula Award for Best Script.  It was directed by Dean Parisot with the screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon; the story was written by David Howard. The other finalists were The Matrix (which was just three votes behind it in the final count), The Sixth SenseBeing John Malkovich and The Iron Giant

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 17, 1917 – Betsy Curtis.  A dozen short stories; fanzine, The Cricket with husband Ed.  Early Pogo fan i.e. from 1949.  B & E parents of Maggie Curtis Thompson of Comics Buyer’s Guide.  B is in Pam Keesey & Forrest J Ackerman’s Sci-Fi Womanthology.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1920 Dinah Sheridan. She was Chancellor Flavia in “The Five Doctors”, a Doctor Who story that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character’s original actor, William Hartnell, had died. If we accept Gilbert & Sullivan as genre adjacent, she was Grace Marston in The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born September 17, 1930 – Tom Stafford, 90.  Commanded Apollo 10 and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Flight.  Graduate of U.S. Naval Academy, then chosen by lottery for Air Force; brigadier general at the time of Apollo-Soyuz, so first general officer to fly in Space.  Memoir We Have Capture.  Space Medal of Honor, Russian Medal for Merit in Space Exploration.  Explorers Club.  [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1928 Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he superbly voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1998.) (CE) 
  • Born September 17, 1939 Sandra Lee Gimpel, 81. In Trek’s “The Cage”, she played a Talosian. That led her to being cast as the M-113 creature in “The Man Trap”, another first season episode. She actually had a much larger work history as student double, though uncredited, showing up in sixty eight episodes of Lost in Space and fifty seven of The Bionic Woman plus myriad such genre work elsewhere including They Come from Outer Space where she was the stunt coordinator. (CE) 
  • Born September 17, 1947 – Gail Carson Levine, 73.  Children’s fiction; a score of novels, half as many shorter stories, a nonfiction book about how.  Many of her tales are retellings, e.g. The Princess Test of The Princess and the PeaThe Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep of Sleeping Beauty (“I give the prince a real reason to kiss Sonora even though, after 100 years, she’s covered with spider webs”).  [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1951 Cassandra Peterson, 69. Definitely better remembered as Elvira, Mistress of The Darkness, a character she played on TV and in movies before becoming the host of  Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation in LA in 1981. She’s a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever which was her debut film, and is Sorais in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. (CE)
  • Born September 17, 1956 – Shauna Roberts, Ph.D., 64.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Earlier, nonfiction, mostly medical.  Plays recorder and harp.  Likes Renaissance and Baroque, Turkish, folk music and blues.  [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1961 – Vince Docherty, 59.  Co-chaired Intersection and Interaction the 53rd and 63rd Worldcons.  Interviewed in StarShipSofa 153.  Co-edited Journey Planet 38 celebrating forty years of SF cons at Glasgow, composed front cover from Bill Burns’ collection.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  At Opening Ceremonies of Interaction, appearing onstage in Scots full dress, said “Remember I told you there’d be no tartan tat?  I lied.”  Enter pipers. [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1973 Jonathan Morris, 47. SFF television series are fertile grounds for creating spinoff book series and Doctor Who is no exception. This writer has only written four such novels to date but oh the number of Big Finish audiobooks that he’s written scripts for now is in the high forties if I include the Companions and the most excellent Jago & Lightfoot spin-off series as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 17, 1991 – Morgan Bolt.  A fantasy trilogy and a stand-alone science fiction novel, all achieved in a few years.  Contracted and killed by a rare form of cancer.  Insisted it did not shake his faith.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1996 Ella Purnell, 24. An English actress best remembered as Emma in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children film. She’s also in Kick-Ass 2 as Dolce, she’s Natalie the UFO film that stars Gillian Anderson, and she was the body double for the young Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan. In a genre adjacent role, she was Hester Argyll in Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows 2020’s most dangerous science fair exhibit.

(12) A GENERATION OF COMIC BOOK ARTISTS. Michael Gonzalez leads his CrimeReads post “On The Art And Life Of Jeffrey Catherine Jones” with a log reminiscence of the 1977 Creation Comic Book Con. Tagline: “In 1970’s New York City, Jones and a few artist friends reinvented what comic art could be.”

…Whereas most fantasy artists of that era drew in a macho style, Jones painted with sensitive strokes. His work was visual Emo, the dreamy visual equivalent of Pink Floyd and Kate Bush. “Jeff’s paintings had something else,” former protégé George Pratt wrote in a 2019 essay. “Hard to describe. Hard to nail down. But they lived in a different space that was emotionally deeper, for me at least. They were rich in self-reflection, a mood at once quieter, contemplative, and more viscerally honest.”

(13) TODAY’S FEATURED ARTICLE. In the Wikipedia: Infinity Science Fiction.

(14) FROM BLACK TO GREEN. Joe Otterson, in “‘She-Hulk’ Disney Plus Series Casts Tatiana Maslany in Lead Role” in Variety, says that Maslany (Orphan Black) will play Bruce Banner’s cousin in a series currently in production for Disney Plus.

The series centers on lawyer Jennifer Walters (Maslany), cousin of Bruce Banner, who inherits his Hulk powers after she receives a blood transfusion from him. Unlike Bruce, however, when she hulks out Jennifer is able to retain most of her personality, intelligence, and emotional control.

… “She-Hulk” is one of several Marvel series in the works at Disney Plus, with several others set to feature stars from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “WandaVision” are on deck first for debuts later this year, followed by “Loki” in early 2021. Marvel Studios is also developing the shows “Hawkeye,” “Ms. Marvel,” and “Moon Knight” as live-action shows.

(15) BUT. In his article “H. P. Lovecraft Is Cancelled” for Crisis Magazine (“A Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity”), Charles Coulombe thinks it should be possible to compose people’s respect for Ray Bradbury into a shield for H.P. Lovecraft – but if not, threatens that Bradbury will go down the memory hole next. The World Fantasy Award trophy and S. T. Joshi also get entered in evidence, as you might expect, but somehow so do George R.R. Martin, John W. Campbell, Jr. and Jeannette Ng.

Was Lovecraft a racist? He was indeed, in the manner of H. L. Mencken, H. G. Wells, and any number of noted scientificists of his day. As were they, he was also an atheist, and disliked all of the immigrants who, in his mind, were destroying the purity of Yankee New England: Italians, Poles, and my own French-Canadians (although his views of the last-named altered radically after visiting the Province of Quebec; one wonders what would have happened had he been able to journey to Poland and Italy). As with the change of his views regarding the French-Canadians, he was also amenable to altering his opinions and, according to those who knew him, never allowed them to affect his treatment of individuals. Indeed, despite his expressed anti-Semitism, he married a Jewish lady.

All of that aside, however—and despite the fact that I find his religious views abominable, as I do those of Mencken and Wells—it does not diminish either his intense talent nor his great literary achievement. Were I to discount him on the basis of his views, I should have to do so with the vast majority of writers in the English canon. But not too surprisingly, Bradbury had a handle on what is coming to fruition now decades ago. Asked in 1994 if he thought Fahrenheit 451 stood up well at that time, he replied: “It works even better because we have political correctness now. Political correctness is the real enemy these days. The black groups want to control our thinking and you can’t say certain things. The homosexual groups don’t want you to criticize them. It’s thought control and freedom of speech control.” Now, of course, it is being applied retroactively, and I shall not be surprised if his legacy too comes under attack…..

(16) DON’T CRUSH THAT DWARF. Today’s Nature witnesses “A planet transiting a stellar grave”.

In the past few decades, the number of planets discovered beyond our Solar System has increased rapidly, and current estimates are that around one-third of all Sun-like stars host planetary systems1 . Given that the Milky Way contains around ten billion Sun-like stars, there are likely to be billions of planets in our Galaxy. All of these planet-hosting stars will eventually die, leaving behind burnt-out remnants known as white dwarfs. What becomes of the stars’ planetary systems when this happens is unclear, but in some cases it is thought that planets will survive and remain in orbit around the white dwarf2 . On page 363, Vanderburg et al.3 report the discovery of a planet that passes in front of (transits) the white dwarf WD 1856+534 every 1.4 days. Their work not only proves that planets can indeed survive the death of their star, but might offer us a glimpse of the far future of our own Solar System.

(17) FOR THE FRIEND WHO HAS EVERYTHING. Here’s a holiday gift shopping idea — “A 67-million-year-old skeleton belonging to a Tyrannosaurus rex named Stan is going up for auction in October”.

What do you get for that friend who has everything? How about a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Christie’s will be selling the skeleton of a T. rex named Stan on October 6 at its “20th Century Evening Sale,” according to a release from the auction house. It’s among the most complete T. rex skeletons ever found.

“There simply aren’t T. rexes like this coming to market,” James Hyslop, head of the auction house’s science and natural history department, said in a statement. “It’s an incredible rare event when a great one is found.” 

Stan, who was unearthed in 1987, is named after his discoverer, Stan Sacrison. It’s unknown what name his parents gave him, if any.

(18) MORE ABOUT VENUSIAN GAS. See the primary research about phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus at Nature Astronomy.

…Studying rocky-planet atmospheres gives clues to how they interact with surfaces and subsurfaces, and whether any non-equilibrium compounds could reflect the presence of life. Characterizing extrasolar-planet atmospheres is extremely challenging, especially for rare compounds1. The Solar System thus offers important testbeds for exploring planetary geology, climate and habitability, via both in situ sampling and remote monitoring. Proximity makes signals of trace gases much stronger than those from extrasolar planets, but issues remain in interpretation.

(19) UNDERGROUND ART. Take a fantastic subway trip in this Adobe Photoshop commercial – view it at DailyCommercials,com.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Floaters on Vimeo, Karl Poyser and Joseph Roberts explain what happens when a spaceship is busted by the space traffic cops.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, N., John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Jeff Smith, SF Concatenation’s Janathan Cowie, John Hertz, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 6/23/20 Nobody Would Have Come If I’d Yelled Chocolate

(1) ON THE DOUBLE. Connie Willis took a much-needed break from the news and devised this recommendation list: “Books And Movies: Doubling Your Pleasure”.

Okay, the world continues to go mad, with Covid-19, racism, and social injustice rampant. (Tonight, for instance, they’re tear-gassing people in D.C. again, coronavirus cases in Arizona are spiking, and two megachurch conmen are claiming they’ve invented a new air conditioning that kills 99.9 per cent of the virus. Note: They haven’t.)

I spend most of my days yelling and/or screaming at the TV and obsessing about how nuts everything is and how many things need to be fixed, and today’s no exception, but some of the time, just to keep a tenuous hold on our sanity, my family and I try to think about stuff that has nothing to do with the mayhem around us. To that end, my husband quilts, my daughter does the Getty Art Challenge, I read Agatha Christie mysteries, and together my daughter and I make up lists of favorite books and movies.

We thought you might need to take a mental break occasionally, too, so we’re sharing this, but I don’t want you to think that we’re not still VERY AWARE of how much is wrong and how much we need to do to rescue the world from its current messes.

So, in that spirit…

My daughter Cord and I had so much fun coming up with our lists of books that we reread over and over again, that we decided to put together another list, this one of movies and books that you should definitely read and/or watch….

For example:

5. BOOK: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen
MOVIE: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant)

It’s impossible to improve on Jane Austen, but Emma Thompson almost pulls it off in her brilliant script for the 1995 movie, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. She got rid of a bunch of extraneous characters and equally extraneous scenes and made the younger sister Margaret (a mere cipher in the novel) into a charming and fully-developed character who by the end was my favorite: “He’s kneeling down!”

(2) IGNORE THOSE CLICKBAIT WEBSITES. That’s what George R.R. Martin says. He means the other ones, not mine, I’m sure. Even if I am also linking to his Winds of Winter progress report. Because we all want to know!

…If nothing else, the enforced isolation [of the pandemic] has helped me write.   I am spending long hours every day on THE WINDS OF WINTER, and making steady progress.   I finished a new chapter yesterday, another one three days ago, another one the previous week.   But no, this does not mean that the book will be finished tomorrow or published next week.   It’s going to be a huge book, and I still have a long way to go.   Please do not give any credence to any of the click-bait websites that like to parse every word of my posts as if they were papal encyclicals to divine hidden meanings.

… Of late I have been visiting with Cersei, Asha, Tyrion, Ser Barristan, and Areo Hotah.   I will be dropping back into Braavos next week.    I have bad days, which get me down, and good days, which lift me up, but all in all I am pleased with the way things are doing.

I do wish they would go faster, of course.   Way way back in 1999, when I was deep in the writing of A STORM OF SWORDS, I was averaging about 150 pages of manuscript a month.   I fear I shall never recapture that pace again.   Looking back, I am not sure how I did it then.    

George is also preparing to participate in the virtual Worldcon.

…I still plan to host the Hugo Awards and fulfill all the rest of my toastmasterly duties for worldcon, and have started pre-recording some bits for the ceremony (a wise precaution, since I am hopeless with Zoom and Skype and like things), but that is a lot less time-consuming and distracting than flying to the other end of the world.   In between tapings, I return to Westeros.  

(3) DOCTORS IN THE HOUSE. SYFY Wire lets you “Watch Jodie Whittaker & David Tennant Judge Stay-At-Home Doctor Who Cosplay Challenge”.

Some inventive Doctor Who fans — and Nate — showed off their costume-making talents to the world, with The Doctors themselves assessing the results. 

The Late Late Show host and former Who cast member James Corden put out a call to Doctor Who fans to compete in a cosplay challenge where they would have some 24 hours to create a costume from the show “using only objects from around their homes.” This is, in fact, keeping with the tradition of the classic series, which has often been teased for its wobbly sets and very low-budget aesthetic. (Seriously, some of the creatures were clearly made from bubble wrap.)  

James Corden also did an interview segment with the two actors.

(4) A KIND OF REALITY. Leslie Klinger, who has annotated Gaiman’s American Gods, is the subject of a LitHub Q&A. “American Gods has a new annotated version with a Sherlockian twist.”

Aaron Robertson: I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek, poetic quality of the annotations. I wonder if you have any literary influences of your own with those?

Leslie Klinger: The big “literary influence” on me is the best Sherlockian scholarship, written by hundreds of amateur scholars who love the world of Holmes and Doyle. Dorothy Sayers famously explained how Sherlockians approach the stories in their scholarship: “The rule of the game is that it must be played as solemnly as a county cricket match at Lord’s; the slightest touch of extravagance or burlesque ruins the atmosphere.”

I have carried that approach—the Sherlockian “game”—over to other books that I’ve annotated, pretending (or “pretending”) that the stories are true and analyzing them from a biographical/historical perspective. Could the character have really done that? Are the historical aspects presented true or made up?

Neil—no mean Sherlockian himself—is especially adept at weaving reality into his fiction. I discovered that in detail in the course of annotating Gaiman’s Sandman and so fully expected to find a wealth of historical underpinnings here.

(5) THE LADY IN THE MOON. “‘Over the Moon’ Cast and Filmmakers Debut Trailer, Discuss Animated Musical” in Variety.

…Actors Sandra OhPhillipa SooJohn Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles and newcomer Cathy Ang joined producers Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou, along with director Glen Keane, to discuss the making of the movie, a musical adventure about a young Chinese girl named Fei Fei (Ang), who builds her own rocket ship to travel to the moon in order to prove the existence of the legendary Moon goddess Chang’e (Soo). 

Soo, a Tony Award nominee for her work in “Hamilton,” noted that she has known about the story of Chang’e since childhood, through a children’s book written by Amy Tan. “I remember as a kid, asking my dad to read it over and over and over to me. Because I was just obsessed with this idea of the moon lady,” Soo said. “And when I was asked to play her, I was of course honored because it’s so infrequent that I’m being asked to play specifically Chinese characters. And also even more rare that I get to be in a film with incredible Asian actors who are surrounding me. So when I read the script and they invited me to come join them to create this beautiful story, I was, of course, immediately on board and so excited.”

(6) AGENT DROPS KRUEGER DUE TO ALLEGATIONS. Publishers Lunch reported today:

Agent DongWon Song announced that he was dropping Filipino-American fantasy author Paul Krueger as a client after allegations were made on Twitter that Krueger had harassed multiple women in publishing, although the specifics of the complaints available on that platform were unclear and mostly second-hand. Krueger posted a vague apology but has since deleted his Twitter account, and one person who publicly accused Krueger subsequently made her account private. DongWon said in his tweet, “I have terminated my professional relationship with Paul Krueger. This was a difficult decision to make but it is the right one.” He referred to “new information coming to light” in the past week and said he had “spoken to several people directly impacted by Paul’s behavior,” later adding, “Thank you to those of you who spoke up. That took courage and I am grateful to you all.”

(7) YOU THINK YOU HAVE TOO MANY BOOKS? “12 million books and a cherry-picker: Graduate Trainee visit to the Bodleian Storage Facility” — a Bodleian Libraries weblog invites you to see the BSF lift in action. You’ll wish one would fit in your home library!

… So how do you store 12.5 million books — and not only books, but maps, manuscripts, microfilms, periodicals and newspapers too? By 2009, the New Bodleian (which had 11 floors of space) as well as facilities at Nuneham Courtenay and a salt mine in Cheshire (yes, really) were at capacity. Costing approximately £25 million, and involving the biggest book-move in the Bodleian’s history (6.5 million items!), the BSF needed some serious storage. As we entered the main warehouse, it became clear that they really pulled it off.

… The BSF is huge. Its shelves are 11 metres high and over 70 metres long. Before the automatic lights kick in, the narrow aisles seem to converge into darkness. We wore high-visibility jackets to alert staff driving the book-retrieval vehicles to our presence. A cross between a cherry-picker and a forklift, these vehicles are configured to fit exactly between the shelves, allowing staff to retrieve an impressive average of one book per minute. Although I personally wouldn’t like to be 11 metres up in the air, Boyd assured us it’s a very safe operation!

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 23, 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie premiered. It was produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis who says they conceived it as a cinematic interpretation of the 1959–1964 TV series at created by Rod Serling. The film stars Vic Morrow, Scatman Crothers, Kathleen Quinlan, and John Lithgow, with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the prologue segment. Burgess Meredith took over as Host, the position of Rod Serling, in the series. So how did it fare? Critics were generally lukewarm, although some like as New York Times‘ media critic Vincent Canby, who called the movie a “flabby, mini-minded behemoth” were almost angry. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 54% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 Eileen Gunn, 75. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1946 Ted Shackelford, 74. He’s mostly remembered as Lieutenant Patrick Brogan on Space Precinct which lasted a single season of thirty-four episodes. It was created and produced by Gerry Anderson. It combined live action, full-body prosthetics, puppetry, and Supermacromation techniques. The writing crew likewise was huge — thirty-seven are listed at IMDB. Likewise the cast was immense, Ted Shackelford, Simone Bendix, Lou Hirsch and Richard James who a cast of thirty-seven actors according ISFDB! He had the usual one-offs in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight ZoneDeadman’s Gun and The Outer Limits. (CE) 
  • Born June 23, 1951 Greg Bear, 69. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. (CE) 
  • Born June 23, 1953 Russell Mulcahy, 67. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company meddled with production. He would later release this film as Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed several episodes of The HungerOn The BeachPerversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1963 Cixin Liu, 57. He won a Hugo Award for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, China’s SFF awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1972 Selma Blair, 48. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 2000 Caitlin Blackwood, 20. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired!  (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1896  – Paul Orban.  His first sale was a watercolor at age 14 for $5 – about $135 in money of 2020.  Fifty years later he had done a dozen covers, some fourteen hundred interiors.  Brian Aldiss said he expressed “perennial things – unending quests, great aspirations, long farewells, and a welcoming pair of arms on the far side of light.”  Here is a cover for Astounding magazine.  Here is a cover for Marooned on Mars.  Here is an interior for The World of Null-A.  Here is an interior for Norman Menasco’s “Trigger Tale”.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1931 – Nancy Share. With her sister Marie-Louise Share produced the fanzine Hodge-Podge for SAPS (the Spectator Amateur Press Society); with Larry Touzinsky, Fan To See (she was Art Director) which had contributions and letters from Robert Bloch, Terry Carr, Harlan Ellison, Juanita Wellons (later J. Coulson).  When Wrai Ballard wrote Non-Poetry that poetry-haters might like, NS countered with Am-So Poetry.  After the revelations of Ghu, Foo (or Foofoo), and Roscoe, NS proclaimed Ignatz.  She married Art Rapp, the first Rosconian.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1937 – Richard Curtis, age 83.  Edited the anthology Future Tense; audio anthology Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy; wrote Squirm, a movie novelization; a few shorter stories.  Best known as a literary agent; contributed “Agent’s Corner” to Locus 1980-1992, collected as Mastering the Business of Writing (rev. 1996).  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1947 – Mark Olson, F.N., age 73 Active Boston fan; has been President and Treasurer of both NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) and MCFI (Massachusetts Convention Fandom, Inc., which has produced three Worldcons, four Smofcons).  Chaired Boskone 23 and Noreascon 3 (47th Worldcon).  Fan Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 9, Minicon 34, WindyCon 33. Fellow of NESFA, a service honor.  Active with fanhistory Website fanac.org (fanac fan activity; FANAC = Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions ran the 50th Worldcon, then started the Website); oversees Fancyclopedia 3.  Fanzine, The Typo Machein.  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1967– Tommy Ferguson, age 53.  Founded the Queen’s University of Belfast Science Fiction & Fantasy Society.  Lived in Belfast, Toronto, Belfast.  Long-time fanzine Tommyworld – TF beat Claire Brialey, Tom Digby, Mike Glyer, Cheryl Morgan, Ted White, and me for Best Fanwriter in the 1998 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards – now a Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1981 – Ertaç Altinöz, age 39.  Digital artist (his name actually uses a dotless-i character which in Turkish stands for a sound different from i, but the software won’t show it).  Here is a cover for Clarkesworld 49.  Here is Shireen Baratheon teaching Ser Davos to read.  Here is “The Pointy End”, which for me recalls Princess Langwidere in Ozma of Oz.  [JH]

(10) FREE COMIC BOOK SUMMER. The revived event will last the summer, with 45 titles for readers to choose from. “Free Comic Book Day Changed to Weekly Event Lasting All Summer” reports Comicbook.com.

After being officially cancelled earlier this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Free Comic Book Day is back! Though usually scheduled for the first Saturday in May each year, Diamond Comic Distributors have announced the event will take place in comic shops around the country with brand new free comics every week starting in July and running through September. Due to the length of the event now, it’s being rebranded as Free Comic Book Summer for this year. Retailers will receive five to six Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) titles in their weekly shipments during each week of the promotional window, the full slate of which you can find below.

“Every year, Free Comic Book Day is our big event to thank current comics fans, welcome back former fans and invite those new to comics to join the fun,” said Joe Field, originator of FCBD, and owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, CA. “In this very different year, Free Comic Book Day is more like Free Comic Book Summer… and there’s so much fun to discover in this year’s FCBD comics! So many cool stories are available for this stretched-out Free Comic Book Day 2020. I’m confident long-time fans and newcomers alike are going to find a story that’ll make them want to visit their local comic shop every week! Fans, bring your friends and family and head to your local comic shop every week starting July 15 through September 9 to check out the new, and fantastic, free comics available that week!”

(11) A RECORD NO ONE WANTS TO SURPASS. Rob Hansen has added a section on the 1970 UK Eastercon to his THEN fanhistory website, with photos and links to audiofiles.

SCI-CON the 1970 UK National Science Fiction Convention took place over the weekend of Friday, 27th March to Monday, 30th March. It was held in London at the Royal Hotel, Russell Square (located a hundred yards or so from Russell Square Underground station). It’s widely regarded as being the worst Eastercon ever held.

Well, I guess that’s frank enough!

Bill Burns’ Prologue gives immediate hints about why things didn’t go well.

…At the Oxford Eastercon in 1969, George Hay proposed with his then-usual enthusiasm that the 1970 convention should be held in London – without having done any prep work on finding a hotel (or indeed on anything else). In the absence of any other bids, George was awarded the con. At the time he was also starting something called “The Environmental Consortium” with an office in central London, whose aims were never quite clear to me, but which an on-line reference notes was one of George’s organisations to promote “applied science fiction”.

Despite winning the bid, George had no hotel, no committee, and no idea how to run a con. Derek Stokes and I looked at each other in dismay, and volunteered for the committee in the hope of steering the con at least partially along traditional lines, but George had his own agenda and couldn’t be restrained….

(12) HAMILTON. Some inside baseball about the Disney+ release of Hamilton.

(13) MIND THE GAP. Yahoo! News reports “‘Black neutron star’ discovery changes astronomy”.

Scientists have discovered an astronomical object that has never been observed before.

It is more massive than collapsed stars, known as “neutron stars”, but has less mass than black holes.

Such “black neutron stars” were not thought possible and will mean ideas for how neutron stars and black holes form will need to be rethought.

The discovery was made by an international team using gravitational wave detectors in the US and Italy.

(14) CATCH ‘EM ALL. Peel a Woodrow Wilson from your money roll and this could be yours: “Ultra rare Pokemon card expected to fetch up to $100,000”.

An extremely rare Pokemon card, thought to be one of only seven ever produced, is up for auction online and experts said it could sell for up to $100,000.

The Pokemon Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer card, being sold by Heritage Auctions, is billed by the auction house as the “holy grail” of collectible cards and its condition was rated a perfect 10 by experts at PSA Card.

(15) TURNING OVER NEW ROCKS. Now that a large number of exoplanets are known, NASA is chipping in some bucks toward SETI. From USA Today, via Yahoo! — “Scientists are searching the universe for signs of alien civilizations: ‘Now we know where to look'”.

For the first time in more than three decades, research scientists have received grant money from NASA to search for intelligent life in outer space.

Specifically, the [$278K, 2 year ] grant will provide funding for a project to search for signs of life via “technosignatures.”

Grant recipient Avi Loeb of Harvard is quoted as saying:

“Such signatures might include industrial pollution of atmospheres, city lights, photovoltaic cells (solar panels), megastructures or swarms of satellites.”

Anogher grantee, Adam Frank (University of Rochester) said:

“The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has always faced the challenge of figuring out where to look. Which stars do you point your telescope at and look for signals? Now we know where to look. We have thousands of exoplanets including planets in the habitable zone where life can form. The game has changed.”

(16) TUBULAR. “Nasa Mars rover: Key questions about Perseverance” – BBC has the answers.

On 20 July, Nasa will get its first opportunity to launch the Perseverance rover to Mars. Here, we answer some common questions about the mission.

What will the rover do?

The Perseverance rover will land on Mars to search out signs of past microbial life, if it ever existed. It will be the first Nasa mission to hunt directly for these “biosignatures” since the Viking missions in the 1970s.

The rover will collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in tubes, and leave them on the planet’s surface for return to Earth at a future date. Perseverance will also study Martian geology and test out a way for future astronauts to produce oxygen for breathing and fuel from CO2 in the atmosphere.

In addition, a drone-like helicopter will be deployed to demonstrate the first powered flight on Mars. Perseverance will explore Mars’ Jezero Crater for at least one Martian year (about 687 Earth days).

(17) PETAFLOPSWEAT. The U.S. is nudged out of first place. “Japanese supercomputer, crowned world’s fastest, is fighting coronavirus”.

The newly crowned world’s fastest supercomputer is being deployed in the fight against the coronavirus.

Japan’s Fugaku supercomputer claimed the top spot on Monday, carrying out 2.8 times more calculations per second than an IBM machine in the US.

The US machine, called Summit, came top of the bi-annual Top500 list the previous four times.

Fugaku’s victory broke a long run of US-China dominance, returning Japan to the top for the first time in 11 years.

Top500 ranks the world’s most powerful non-distributed computer systems.

Fugaku has already been put to work on fighting the coronavirus, simulating how droplets would spread in office spaces with partitions installed or in packed trains with the windows open.

When it is fully operational next year, experts are hoping the machine will also be able to help narrow down the search for effective treatments for the virus.

The room-sized machine lives in the city of Kobe and was developed over six years by Japanese technology firm Fujitsu and the government-backed Riken Institute. Its name is another way of saying Mount Fuji.

Its performance was measured at 415.53 petaflops, 2.8 times faster than second-place Summit’s 148.6 petaflops. The US machine is housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. A supercomputer is classified by being more than 1,000 times faster than a regular computer.

(18) SWIPER, NO SWIPING. Not as attention-grabbing as politics, but with long-term consequences: “Facebook bans ‘loot-to-order’ antiquities trade”.

Facebook has banned users trading in historical artefacts on the site.

It follows a campaign by academic researchers and an investigation by BBC News, exposing how items looted from Iraq and Syria were sold on Facebook.

One expert welcomed the move but said for anything to change, Facebook should invest in “teams of experts to identify and remove networks rather than playing whack-a-mole with individual posts”.

Facebook says all trade in ancient artefacts is banned on its platforms.

(19) PLAIN GOOFY. The Screen Junkies continue their look at older movies with their “Honest Trailer” on A Goofy Movie.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/2/20 This Pixel Scroll Title Made From 60% Recycled Material

(1) SIGNAL BOOST. Julie C. Day’s Weird Dream Society, a charity anthology with all proceeds going to RAICES (The Refugee And Immigrant Center For Education And Legal Services), is in the pre-order stage.

Playful, whimsical, or dark, but always thoughtful and tinged with the inexplicably weird, the Weird Dream Society brings together some of the most innovative creators in speculative fiction. Most of the book consists of reprints with a few new stories to round it out.

The anthology includes stories by Nathan Ballingrud, Carina Bissett, Gregory Norman Bossert, Karen Bovenmyer, Christopher Brown, Emily Cataneo, Julie C. Day, Michael J Deluca, Gemma Files, A.T. Greenblatt, Nin Harris, Chip Houser, James Patrick Kelly, Marianne Kirby, Kathrin Köhler, Matthew Kressel, Jordan Kurella, Premee Mohamed, Sarah Read, Sofia Samatar, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Steve Toase, and A.C. Wise.

In addition to his fictional work, author and artist Gregory Norman Bossert generously donated the anthology’s cover illustration.

Proceeds from this charity anthology go to support RAICES, the nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to under-served immigrant children, families, and refugees. With offices in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, RAICES is “a frontline organization in the roiling debate about immigration and immigrants in the world.”

Paul Jessup has reviewed the project for Vernacular Books:

…But I’ve never been one for rules or guidelines, and really neither is this collection. I will say, I knew a few of these stories ahead of time, they were favorites published in off beat anthologies and magazines back in the day, so seeing them here was a joy and a promise of things to come. You know an anthology is going to be good when you recognize some of your favorites right away….

Weird Dream Society will be released May 26, 2020. Pre-order eBook: Amazon | Kobo | B&N Nook; Pre-order Paperback: Amazon | Barnes&Noble. Find out more at Twitter, their website, and Goodreads.  

(2) PROFIT SHARING. It’s the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling is observing it a bit differently than usual. “JK Rowling donates £1m to two charities”

JK Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter adventures, is donating £1m to charities supporting vulnerable people during the lockdown.

Half of the money will go to Crisis which helps homeless people, and half to Refuge to support victims of domestic abuse.

Rowling’s donations come amid #HarryPotterDay on Twitter.

Saturday also marks the anniversary of one the author’s major events in her stories.

On Twitter, Rowling said: “Today’s the 22nd anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, but I am going to be honest and say that it feels inappropriate to talk about fictional deaths.

“Too many people are losing loved ones in the real world.”

Rowling, who wrote many of her Harry Potter stories while living in Edinburgh, said many vulnerable people who were homeless or in an abusive relationship were suffering at this time.

(3) COMMUNITY RALLIES. Shelf Awareness reports an epic fundaising success to help comics and book stores.

In five days, #Creators4Comics raised $433,166 for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) to support comics stores and indie bookstores hurt by Covid-19. The group’s charity auction featured 635 separate auctions on Twitter and other platforms by comics creators, authors and celebrities.

“Comic shops and indie bookstores have supported so many of us,” said Kami Garcia, author of the graphic novel Teen Titans: Raven, who brought the organizers together. “They aren’t just places where we buy books and comics. These stores are places where we find belonging.”

Among the participants were Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Joe Hill, Shannon Hale, Mike Mignola, Brad Meltzer, Mariko Tamaki, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Marissa Meyer, Danielle Paige, Gene Luen Yang, Tom King, Bryan Edward Hill, Jason Aaron, Marc Guggenheim, Gail Simone, Vita Ayala, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Cassandra Clare, Marieke Nijkamp, Margaret Stohl, Jock, Mico Suayan, and G. Willow Wilson. Seth Meyers, Damon Lindeloff and Robert Kirkman made generous matching donations.

Since March 13, 135 comics retailers and their households have received more than $150,950 in financial assistance for rent, food and essential medications from Binc–more than double the amount distributed last year to this sector of the book industry. In total, 722 comic book stores have now applied for aid….

(4) GENRE PALADIN. Joshua Gillingham takes up the cudgels “In Defense of Genre Fiction”.

…Well, some might say that reading genre fiction is a bit like ordering pulled-pork sandwiches over and over, that it makes you predictable (i.e. boring). Others might add that writing genre fiction is little more than an act of trying to resuscitate long-dead tropes while trying to pass off cheap imitations as original work. Given these two stereotypical notions, especially within the writing community, there can be a lot of shame or defensiveness around reading or writing these kinds of stories. Therefore, I feel the need to present an argument in defense of genre fiction, its readers, and its writers…. 

(5) SERLING SILVER. Herbie J. Pilato continues his “Writing for Your Life” series with “Rod Serling and ‘The Twilight Zone’” at Medium.

The development and execution of The Twilight Zone and its induction into the annals of TV history is a story of an obsessive need for acceptance on many levels.

Submitted for your approval:

Exhibit A: Rod Serling, Zone’s creator, executive producer, central writing force, and charismatic host. The show’s popularity preyed upon his endless reservoir of ideas, originally inspired by his obsession with the past and his preoccupation with aging, mixed in with a measure of courage and faith, and the survival techniques he learned in the army….

(6) AHH NATURE. “Sir Tim Cattenborough Presents The Life Cycle of a Novel” – a Camestros Felapton production.

[A stunning new nature documentary by world famous publisher, naturalist and national treasure Sir Timothy Cattenborough]

Our beautiful planet Earth. From up here on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro we can see the vast vistas of nature’s own miracles and what greater miracle can there be than the majestic novel — one of the natural world’s most miraculous miracles.

Here I am in the forests of Borneo gazing in wonder at the spectacular site of thousands of novels making their nests among the natural shelving of the great pine trees of northern Scandinavia. Whether it is these great majestic creatures of the plains of Patagonia or the more common domesticated novel of these rolling hills of Southern England, the novel is a familiar sight to us all.

But very few people have ever managed to see the hidden lifecycle of a novel. How are they born? How do they grow? And how, via the miracle of evolution do they reproduce? Today, via special cameras disguised as robots disguised as librarians we have, over a gruelling five minute project, at last gained unique footage of the novel’s lifecycle….

(7) MAY THE FOURTH. This will make your Starbucks mocha grande seem cheap by comparison. NBC Los Angeles tells Star Wars fans “Blue Milk on May the Fourth, You Can Have”.

Scum & Villainy Cantina, in Hollywood, can kindly help us locate the cosmic libation, however.

The “Star Wars”-sweet venue, which also celebrates a number of different fandoms via a host of events, will celebrate May the Fourth by offering 21+ fans Wretched Blue Milk Snack Packs for $11.38 each.

(8) TEMPTING TIDBITS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not directly SF (although McPhee has written about Freeman Dyson, just not here.)

The Patch, John McPhee’s newest [in 2019] (and 7th) collection of short pieces, has two parts:

  • six long sports or sport-related articles (mostly golf) (~ 90 pages)
  • “an album quilt” — ~130 pages of dozens of his shorter articles (or excerpts from same)

In case “John McPhee” and “new collection of short pieces” isn’t enough to make you borrow or buy the book, here’s links to 3 sections of quilt, and if these aren’t enough to get you to borrow or buy this book (and, by extension, proceed to read more of his books), well, then more wouldn’t help.

1, “Pools and pools and pools of chocolate — fifty-thousand pound, ninety-thousand pound, Olympus-length pools of chocolate…”

2. [Found via Google Books.] “When Martha, my youngest daughter, was seventeen, her English teacher–Mrs. Thomas–write forty-seven vocabulary words on the blackboard and told the class to write a short composition using all forty-seven words: aspersion, audacious, avarice, blanch…”

(DPD notes, in searching for this, by omitting McPhee’s name, the above search’s results includes “A Glossary for the Fiction of Clark Ashton Smith”.)

3, McPhee tries an eary word processor – quoted in “The Machine That Was Going To Tranquilize This Scene Was Locked Away In A Quiet Cubicle”.

“Joseph Martin, computer methodologist at the [New York] Times, has been pursuing for some years what he describes as ‘the ideal philosophy of creating a newspaper’… you start by ‘capturing the keystroke at the origin.'”

(DPD notes, the first URL does not contain the full text of what’s in the book.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 2, 1952 Tales Of Tomorrow aired its “Red Dust” episode. As the copy provided not the network says, “The first human mission to another solar system loses 2 crew on a red dust-covered planet, which once had an advanced civilization. Due to allergies, neither of the shipmates got anti-radiation shots, so the remaining crew aren’t concerned about their own return to Earth. But then the red dust starts to appear everywhere on the space ship.” It was directed by Don Medford from a script by Irving Elman from the play by noted SF writer Theodore Cogswell, a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. His “The Wall Around the World” novelette as published in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction was nominated for a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4. The cast was Fred Stewart, Lex Barker, Skedge Miller and Robert Patten. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 2, 1890 E. E. “Doc” Smith. Best-known for the Lensman and Skylark series. I note that multiple sources say he is called the father of space opera. Is he indeed that?  Another author I know I’ve read quite a lot of but would be hard pressed to say exactly what I’ve read decades on. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. Bengali filmmaker, screenwriter, graphic artist, lyricist, music composer and writer who is here for his genre fiction which fortunately has been translated into English as most of us don’t read Bengali. Over a decade recently, three collections came in English The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other StoriesClassic Satyajit Ray and The Collected Short Stories) with most of his genre work in the collection. There are nine stories involving Professor Shonku, his most popular SF character. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. He was on Next Generation playing the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode playing CPO Sergey Rozhenko, ret.. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Bikel also guest-appeared on The Twilight Zone in “Four O’Clock” as Oliver Crangle. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragorn in the animated The Return of the King. By the way, Theodore Bikel’s Treasury of Yiddish Folk & Theatre Songs is quite excellent. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favorite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 2, 1941 Paul Darrow. He‘s best remembered for playing Kerr Avon in Blake’s 7. He also had two appearances on Doctor Who, playing Captain Hawkins in Doctor Who and the Silurians, a Third Doctor story, and later Trekker in Timelash, a Sixth Doctor story. He also played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Link” in the Science Fiction series. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 2, 1942 Alexis Kanner. His first genre appearance was on The Prisoner where he so impressed McGoohan in the “Living in Harmony” episode that he created a specific role for him in the series finale, “Fall Out” where he stands trial. He also has an uncredited role in “The Girl Who Was Death” in that series. His final known acting role was as Sor in Nightfall based off the Asimov story of the same name. (Died 2003.)
  • Born May 2, 1946 David Suchet, 74. Though rather obviously better remembered as Hercule Poirot, he does show up on in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Knock Knock,” simply called Landlord.  Don’t let don’t deceive you. He’s appeared in some other genre work from time times to time including Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesHarry and the HendersonsDr. No: The Radio PlayWing CommanderTales of the Unexpected and Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
  • Born May 2, 1946 Leslie S. Klinger, 74. Editor and annotator of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Frankenstein, as well as Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen, and the stories of H. P. Lovecraft. I particularly recommend his Sandman annotations as Gaiman was actively involved in them and they’re quite interesting. 
  • Born May 2, 1948 Bob Null. Very long-time LASFS member who was the club’s VP for an equally long period. Fancyclopedia 3 say that “He also sat on the Board of Directors, and frequently handled logistics for local conventions including both Loscon and local Worldcons, and was always one of those nearly invisible hard-working people who make fandom work. He is a Patron Saint of LASFS.” (Died 2010.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider of Incidental Comics captures the present season of the world.

(12) JOB LOSSES. Condolences to gifted editors Diana M. Pho, Diana Gill, and Melissa Frain who were among Macmillan’s COVID-19 employee layoffs.

(13) JUST WHAT WE NEED. Tipper Gore will be happy to hear that “Deezer develops AI to detect explicit song lyrics”. But what’s their stand on shaving cream?

Streaming service Deezer is developing technology to automatically detect explicit content in songs.

The company has been looking into the issue because record labels often fail to identify offensive lyrics when they submit songs, it explained.

In fact, it said, a “substantially large part” of its library did not have a tag indicating whether or not a song contained strong language or themes.

In response, it is researching a way of automatically flagging up such content.

Although the technology is not yet “fit for tagging songs as explicit in a fully automated manner,” it could be used to help humans identify potentially explicit material.

The problem has grown exponentially bigger over the last couple of years, with profanities cropping up ever-more frequently in mainstream pop songs by the likes of Ariana Grande and Beyonce.

Added to that, a streaming service like Deezer can receive up to 40,000 new tracks every day, making it impossible for humans to review all the lyrical content.

Parents are particularly keen to screen out explicit content – but while mainstream services like Deezer, Apple and Amazon Music offer the ability to “turn off” explicit songs, the results are patchy at best.

(14) LIGHTNING AND LIGHTNING BUGS. “Random House Copy Chief: Stand Tall, Wordsmiths! (But Choose Your Battles)” – a print summary of a linked 25-minute interview; includes realization that singular “they” was necessary. (From 2019.)

Random House copy chief Benjamin Dreyer is not a fan of the word “very.”

“It’s not a dreadful word,” he allows, but “it’s one of my little pet words to do without if you can possibly do without it.”

“Very” and its cousins “rather” and “really” are “wan intensifiers,” Dreyer explains. In their place, he advises that writers look for a strong adjective that “just sits very nicely by itself” on the page. For example, “very smart” people can be “brilliant” and “very hungry” people can be “ravenous.”

Dreyer gets the final say over questions related to grammar, style and clarity at Random House. Now he’s sharing his writing advice in the new book Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.

“Words are my business, and the meaning of words is my business,” he says. “To watch language twisted and distorted — that gets under my skin and makes me unhappy.”

(15) IRON (LIFTING) MAN. Game of Thrones actor breaks 501kg deadlift record”.

Game of Thrones actor Hafthor Bjornsson has set a world deadlifting record by lifting 501 kg (1,104 lbs).

Bjornsson, a powerlifter who portrayed Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane in the HBO series, broke the record at his gym in his native Iceland.

He lifted the barbell for two seconds, before dropping the weights and roaring in delight.

The event was streamed by sports broadcaster ESPN and filmed for Bjornsson’s YouTube channel.

Bjornsson, who is 2.05m tall (6ft 9in), previously won the World’s Strongest Man competition in 2018.

(16) KNITS UP THE RAVELED SLEEVE OF SPACESUITS. Richard Trenholm’s CNET article “Dreams of the future: How sci-fi sees sleep” dates to 2018, but its references – like this one to the Culture – make it timeless.

…A much smarter option for dodging the duvet is employed by space pirate captain Kraiklyn in Ian M Banks’ novel Consider Phlebas. He could put each side of his brain to sleep individually so he could stay constantly awake and no one could sneak up on him in bed. The downside was that his personality changed depending on whether his left or right brain was in charge.

Generally, though, catnap-compressing contraptions are surprisingly rare in speculative fiction — it seems sleep is just too fundamental a human requirement for even sci-fi writers to mess with. Still, that doesn’t stop us trying out all manner of apps and sleep trackers to improve the quality of our kip….

(17) ABOUT SF’S PREDICTIVE POWERS…. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Terry Gilliam, ’12 Monkeys’ screenwriters reunite, admit they ‘had no clue’ when creating film’s fictitious virus” says that when he asked 12 Monkeys co-screenwriter David Peoples what research he did about designing the virus in the film, he said, “How about not at all?  We had no clue,” a thought seconded by director Terry Gilliam.

The sci-fi story follows a prisoner (Bruce Willis) plucked by scientists to time travel (though the filmmakers prefer to think of it as “mind travel”) to the mid-’90s to discover the root of the virus, which is thought to be generated by an anarchist faction known as The Army of the 12 Monkeys.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Conspiracy Cruise” on Vimeo is a short film by Brad Abrahams that asks what happens when members of conspiracy fandom on a cruise are attacked by the conspiracy!

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

2020 SAG Awards Winners

At the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony on January 19, genre standouts Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) and Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) won SAG Awards for their respective film and television performances.

Genre also dominated the stunt awards, with Avengers: Endgame receiving Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture, and Game of Thrones claiming Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series.

The full list of 2020 SAG Awards winners follows the jump:

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