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 9/11/20 Mrs. Pixel, We’re Needed

(1) FUR STUDIES. The Dogpatch Press published a 2-part interview with a professor at Boston College specializing in classical history who teaches a course called “Beast Literature” which covers talking animal stories and gets into animation and furry fandom.

I gather that classicism is about Greek/Roman tradition and how it carries on in modern culture. How does that merge with research about Disney and similar pop culture, and how did that develop as a focus for you?

That’s right — Classics is a complicated term, but it’s shorthand for the study of the ancient Mediterranean world and its continuing significance.

As for Classics, Disney, and pop culture, I can’t say exactly how it all began merging. I’ve loved animation for as long as I can remember. VHS tapes of Disney’s Robin Hood, Bluth’s American Tail, and Vitello’s Gallavants ran non-stop in my house when I was a kid, and that interest has gotten stronger as time goes by. And I’ve been studying Classics for more than 20 years now. If you spend that long learning and thinking intensively about one area, you just can’t shut off that part of your brain. You develop a sensitivity and notice wherever it pops up, whether that’s at work or vegging out in front of the TV.

The fact that Greece and Rome exert this pervasive presence means it happens all the time, and the more you notice, the more complex and interesting those patterns become, and the deeper you want to dive. So it’s an organic mixing of two things I love and have spent a ton of time trying to learn and understand better.

(Dogpatch Press:) It was interesting that you mentioned teaching a course in talking animals. Tell me all about it! Since when, and how unique is that, and how is it being received? What sort of students are in it and what are they studying in general?

(Christopher Polt:) I love that course — the material is so fun and weird and meaningful. The basic question we ask is, “What are we doing when we speak by using animal voices, and what does that say about our attitudes towards humans, animals, and the lines we draw between them?” It’s also my chance to teach some cool, off-the-wall art and literature. We read Apuleius’ Golden Ass, which is a novel about a guy who accidentally turns himself into a donkey and goes on a journey through the Roman provinces (think The Emperor’s New Groove, but much sexier and more violent), and Nivardus’ Ysengrimus, which is the earliest major collection of stories about Reynard the fox, an archetypal animal trickster.

Sometimes I also take students on field trips to tie historical material we’re learning to lived experience. One of my favorites has been to a local pet cemetery. We spend a few days talking about how Greeks and Romans use animals to think about divinity, mortality, and the afterlife, and we look at epitaphs and funeral poems for dead pets, which are often written from the animal’s point of view. There’s a great example in the British Museum, which commemorates the life of a dog named Margarita (“Pearl” in Latin), who died while giving birth to puppies:

Another professor at U of South Florida does an animals in antiquity course that has a section on furries. 

Christopher Polt also discusses masks in ancient drama in an interesting thread that starts here.

(2) GAME OF ZONING. Ben Ashford, in the Daily Mail story “‘All it’s missing is Jon Snow and a couple of dragons!’ GoT author George R.R. Martin submits plans to build fantasy castle in his New Mexico backyard – but his neighbors aren’t bending the knee!”, says that Martin submitted plans to build a seven-story library in his backyard that looks like the tower of a castle, but the Santa Fe Historic Review Board turned him down because the keep was six feet higher than what zoning regulations permitted.

The 71-year-old creator of Dragonstone, Winterfell and the Red Keep describes his proposed Gothic-style structure as a free-standing ‘seven-sided library’ in a planning application lodged with the City of Santa Fe.

But locals say the fortress-like building, featuring imposing stone walls, battlements and a 27ft tower, is akin to something from HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones and totally out of place in a suburban neighborhood where it will spoil their views.

Martin’s architects toned down the medieval aspects in revised drawings but still need special permission from the city’s Historic Design Review Board to start work on the ‘Water Garden Keep’ because the turret is several feet higher than zoning codes allow.

(3) SUSANNA CLARKE REVIVAL. The New Yorker visits “Susanna Clarke’s Fantasy World of Interiors”. Tagline: “Fifteen years after an illness rendered her largely housebound, the best-selling writer is releasing a novel that feels like a surreal meditation on life in quarantine.”

… Often while I spoke to Clarke I could hear Greenland in the background, clinking dishes in the kitchen sink. Later, he told me that Clarke gets up much earlier than he does, and tries to write for the few hours when her energy is at its peak. By the afternoon, she needs to rest, and even in the morning her ability to participate in, say, a demanding conversation is limited to about an hour. She is very private about whatever she’s working on; in fact, she can be a little cagey about whether she’s working on anything at all. “She’s on her sofa with her laptop,” Greenland said. “And I don’t know if she’s playing a game, if she’s watching TV, if she’s writing e-mails, or if she’s working. It’s not apparent to me. She’s in her bubble. But what I do know is that, for a long while, she was too ill to write. And then, after that, she was writing fragments.”

Many of these “bits,” as Clarke calls them, have been squirrelled away for possible inclusion in some future work. “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” is partly written in a style reminiscent of John Aubrey, the British scholar best known for his “Brief Lives” series of short biographies. In the novel, these passages come complete with footnoted anecdotes that document the history of English magic with a distinctive combination of whimsy and nineteenth-century punctiliousness. One such story mentions a chick, hatched from an enchanted egg, that “grew up and later started a fire that destroyed most of Grantham.” Clarke writes, “During the conflagration it was observed bathing itself in the flames. From this circumstance, it was presumed to be a phoenix.”

Although the origins of “Piranesi” predate Clarke’s illness, she did not commence intensive work on it until her symptoms abated, a few years ago…. 

 Dan Kois’ review of Piranesi for Slate, “Susanna Clarke’s First Novel in 16 Years Is a Wonder”, begins:

How big is the House? It is limitless. Its towering rooms are the size of two soccer fields or more. Connected by passageways and staircases, the rooms extend in every direction as far as Piranesi can explore. He writes in his journals that he has traveled nearly a thousand rooms from what he believes to be the center of things and has never reached the end. Even the staircases are huge, their steps much taller than a man can comfortably climb, as if, Piranesi writes, “God had originally built the House intending to people it with Giants before inexplicably changing His Mind.”

(4) OLD PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll reread “The Amazing Adventures of Space Cat!” for the first time since 1969. (James may not really be that old, but he is the curator of the Young People Read Old SFF series, so what else could I call it?)

…Convinced the cat is lucky (as opposed to, say, needing more supervision than it is getting), Fred insists that the cat accompany him on humanity’s very first trip to the Moon. Fred’s superiors acquiesce because they would not dream of taking away a man’s good-luck charm. When Fred leaves for the Moon on rocket ship ZQX-1, Flyball accompanies him.

(5) I, FOR ONE. In “Two Books Wonder: How Long Until You Fall in Love With a Robot?”, the New York Times’ Amanda Hess discusses Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny by Debora L. Spar and Sex Robots And Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex, and Death by Jenny Kleeman.

“Science fiction is not about the future,” the sci-fi novelist Samuel R. Delany wrote in 1984. The future “is only a writerly convention,” he continued, one that “sets up a rich and complex dialogue with the reader’s here and now.” That is a useful way of understanding all the many pop nonfiction books that speculate about the technologies of the future, and attempt to divine their effects on human beings. Their predictions depend on how well they interpret the present.

One such interpreter is Debora L. Spar, the dean of Harvard Business School Online, who writes at the intersection of tech and gender. In her new book, “Work Mate Marry Love,” she considers an emerging wave of innovations that she believes could upend how we experience relationships, reproduction, gender expression and death. “We will fall in love with nonhuman beings,” Spar predicts in the book’s opening pages, “and find ways to extend our human lives into something that begins to approximate forever.” Spar argues that new technologies spark shifts in the most intimate of human affairs, often in unexpected ways. She casts this as a causal relationship, one imbued with a sense of inevitability. The book’s subtitle, “How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny,” gives the machines the agency.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Paul Winchell, the voice of Jerry Mahoney and Disney’s Tigger has the honor of having filed the first patent for an artificial heart: “Paul Winchell: An Amazing Inventor”.

…But what was probably most fascinating about Winchell was the fact that he was a very successful inventor. Over the course of his life, he held patents on over 30 devices, including a disposable razor, a flameless cigarette lighter, an illuminated ballpoint pen, a retractable fountain pen, an inverted novelty mask, battery-operated heated gloves, an indicator to show when frozen food had gone bad after a power outage, and the first artificial human heart. That’s right, the artificial heart.

This invention was developed through collaboration with Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, and held the first patent for such a device.

(7) FERRIS-YERXA OBIT. It has been leaned that author Frances Ferris-Yerxa died March 3, 2019 at the age of 101. The family notice said:

She married Le Roy Yerxa. When Le Roy passed away at an early age, she was left with four young children to raise and care for. She later married William Hamling and they had two more children. She was always oriented to the welfare of her family. She loved all her children, all her grandchildren, all her great grandchildren and great great grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

The Yerxa website notes that both Leroy (as his name was spelled on magazine covers) and Frances wrote stories for the “pulp” science fiction magazines Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures.

These magazines were published by Ziff-Davis out of Chicago, IL. By the early 1940s, Palmer, the managing editor of these publications, had developed a stable of local (Chicago-based) writers who could write to order, often producing stories around cover paintings by Harold McCauley, Robert Gibson Jones, or Malcolm Smith. The mainstays were Don Wilcox, Robert Moore Williams, David Wright O’Brien, William P. McGivern, Leroy Yerxa, and David Vern, plus (later in the decade) Chester S. Geier, Berkeley Livingston, and William L. Hamling.

Leroy Yerxa was among the most prolific contributors to the Ziff-Davis magazines. He was twenty-seven years old when his first story, “Death Rides at Night,” appeared under his own name in the August 1942 Amazing. In the next four years, till his untimely death in 1946, he sold more than seventy stories to Palmer for Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, with many of those published pseudonymously. He is rumored to have written an entire issue of Fantastic Adventures (possibly the one for December 1943). While other writers wrote more, their output was not concentrated in such a short, intense period. Possibly Yerxa’s only rival in this regard was David Wright O’Brien, who in the five years from 1940 through 1944 sold more than a hundred stories to Palmer, not counting his collaborations with McGivern.

Palmer’s core of writers were so prolific that they could fill every issue. To avoid the frequent recurrence of names, the authors used various personal pseudonyms, some of which were later adopted by other authors. For instance, “Lee Francis” began as a pen name of Leroy Yerxa’s (which he often used when his wife Frances published a piece under her own name in the same edition), but after his death in 1946 it was used by others, including Hamling. In addition, a practice began of creating a number of “house names.” The house names were used by several writers, so that we had the authors using several names and several authors using the same name.

Leroy Yerxa died and, after a reasonable length of time, William Hamling, who had been a good friend as well as colleague, proposed to Frances Yerxa. Frances, who had already made a name for herself as a writer with her material appearing all over the place, accepted Hamling’s proposal and Hamling assumed responsibility for Yerxa’s sons Edward and Richard, and began raising them as his own. Then, Bill and Frances had two children, a daughter Debbie and Billy Jr. They lived in Evanston, the north contiguous suburb of Chicago, on Fowler Avenue in a nice, comfortable house.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2010  — At Aussiecon 4 a decade ago this month, China Miéville‘s The City & The City would win the Best Novel Hugo in a tie with The Windup Girl by  Paolo Bacigalupi. It would be his first, and to date only, Hugo Award. It would later win the BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Impressive indeed. It was written as a gift for Miéville’s terminally ill mother, who was a fan of police procedurals. It  would be made into an audiobook narrated by John Lee who also narrates Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect Tom Dreyfus novels. A four-part television adaptation by the BBC was broadcast in 2018.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 11, 1862 – O. Henry.  Master of the short story, often with a surprise ending.  I’ve read the 1926 Complete Works with almost three hundred, poems too; perhaps half a dozen are ours.  When in Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke Jeanne Green compares YH to O. Henry and YH recoils, Wouk who is no dope means us to see YH is wrong and JG is right; YH doesn’t know his own greatness in his fog of yearning for sophistication.  Of course we’d never –  (Died 1910) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1889 – Ann Bridge.  Alpinist, archaeologist, gardener.  Novel And Then You Came, four shorter stories, for us; a score of other novels including detective fiction, also travel, memoirs.  Praise: people, history, politics shown with truth and skill.  Blame: snooty.  Decide for yourself.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1940 Brian De Palma, 80. Though not a lot of genre work, he has done some significant work including Carrie. Other films he’s done of interest to us are The Fury which most likely you’ve never heard of, and the first Mission: Impossible film along with Mission to Mars. Not genre, but I find it fascinating that he directed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video which has a genre connection as actress Courtney Cox would be in the Misfits of Science series and the Scream horror franchise as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1941 Kirby McCauley. Literary agent and editor who as the former who represented authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Roger Zelazny. And McCauley chaired the first World Fantasy Convention, an event he conceived with T. E. D. Klein and several others. As Editor, his works include Night Chills: Stories of Suspense, FrightsFrights 2, and Night Chills. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1951 Michael Goodwin, 69. Ahhh — Alan Dean Foster’s Commonwealth series. I know that I’ve read at least a half dozen of the novels there and really enjoyed them, so it doesn’t surprise that someone wrote a guide to it which is how we have Goodwin’s (with Robert Teague) A Guide to the Commonwealth: The Official Guide to Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth Universe. Unfortunately, like so many of these guides, it was done once and never updated. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1952 Sharon Lee, 68. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories which are quite excellent reading with the latest being Neogenesis. They have won Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for for lifetime contributions to science fiction, and they won The Golden Duck (the Hal Clement Young Adult Award) for their Balance of Trade novel.  They are deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born September 11, 1956 – Jefferson Swycaffer, 64.  Ten novels, thirty shorter stories; regular correspondent in Broken Toys; active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation), indeed winning both its Kaymar and Neffy Awards.  [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1958 Roxann Dawson, 62. Best remembered for being B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. She’s also a published genre author having written the Tenebrea trilogy with Daniel Graham. This space opera series is available from the usual digital suspects. She’s got two genre film creds, Angela Rooker in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, and Elizabeth Summerlee in the 1998 version of The Lost World. She’s the voice of The Repair Station computer on the “Dead Stop” episode of Enterprise. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1960 – William Tienken.  This appreciation by Our Gracious Host beats anything I could do.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1961 – Sally Green, 59.  Half Bad and Smoke Thieves trilogies, plus 3½ novella “Half Lies”.  Meanwhile she still runs most days despite several attempts to give it up.  [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1965 Cat Sparks, 55. Winner of an astounding fourteen Ditmar Awards for writing, editing and artwork, her most recent was in 2019 when she garnered one for “The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction“.   She has just one published novel to date, Lotus Blue, though there’s an unpublished one, Effigy, listed at ISFDB. She has an amazing amount of short stories all of which are quite stellar. Lotus Blue and The Bride Price collection are both available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1976 – Lizzy Stevens, 44.  A novel and (with husband Steve Miller) five shorter stories; “A Lost Memory” an Amazon Best Seller.  Some other fellow having written Dharma Bums, LS and SM wrote about karma bums.  That Loki is always right in the way.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WINGING IT. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt says that former Marvel Comics editor Christian Cooper, famed as the Black birder accosted by a white woman in Central Park, has come out with a comic called “It’s a Bird!” that is “The first issue of ‘Represent!’ a digital series from DC Comics that will showcase writers and artists from groups underrepresented in the industry.” “Christian Cooper has written a comic book partly inspired by his viral Central Park moment”.

… “It’s a Bird” features Jules, a teenager given a pair of binoculars by his father and told to explore his surroundings. Jules, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of birds, is quickly harassed by those threatened by his presence as an unannounced Black man in an open space.

That and other moments of hostility evoke racial profiling that Cooper and other Black birders have experienced, but the story turns slightly mystical when Jules begins using his binoculars and sees images of Black people who have fallen to police violence, including Amadou Diallo, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Cooper works as a senior editorial director at Health Science Communications and didn’t think he would wind up back at one of the superhero publishers so quickly, but here he is.

“I really appreciated it when [DC Comics] came to me and said do you want to do this comic, because I did have something to say,” he said in an interview. “It’s interesting how it slips into maybe this space in the DC Universe that isn’t normally occupied. It is a very magical-realist tale. There is something fantastical that happens in the course of the story. But it’s not capes. It’s not superheroes.”

(12) LEGO MY THINGO. The Drum invites readers to “Meet Bygglek: how Ikea and Lego built a creative solution to messy play”. I thought only Dr. Seuss tought up names like that.

Lego is well aware that its product encourages mess. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, as any decent Lego session ends with bricks and figures all over the floor. To make it easier for parents to cope without stifling creativity, Lego looked to the giants of storage, Ikea. Together they created a simple solution, aptly named ’Bygglek.’

…Løgstrup recalls how, while struggling to make the right contact at Ikea, a chance encounter at a school board meeting kickstarted the soon-to-be long-term collaboration between the two beloved Scandinavian brands. “By some coincidence, the leader from our licensing department happened to sit next to someone at Ikea and they started discussing the potential project,“ he explains.

Spurred on by this coincidence, the early courtship saw the Lego team invite Ikea to ‘come play‘ by sending them a stop motion movie to spell out the challenge Lego faced. An attractive offer that few could refuse, Ikea designer Andreas Fredriksson notes. “Of course we wanted to play. It was a yes from the beginning. It‘s the perfect match because we work with small space living at home and Lego is all about play.“

(13) MULAN OPENS QUIETLY IN CHINA. Pei Li, in the Reuters story “Disney’s ‘Mulan’ battles mixed reviews and media muzzle at Chinese launch”, says that Mulan was launched in China with “no major media buildup and no star-studded premier or red-carpet launch” with the film getting mixed reviews in China due in part to its historical anachronisms (buildings exist in the film that were built several hundred years later).

…”Mulan” has provoked a backlash on overseas social media over its star’s support of Hong Kong police and for being partly filmed in the Xinjiang region, where China’s clamp-down on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims has been criticised by some governments and rights groups.

Chinese authorities told major media outlets not to cover the film’s release in the wake of the uproar, four people familiar with matter told Reuters, further weighing on its chances of success.

(14) MISGUIDED MISSIVE. Early Bird Books, a division of Open Road Media, sends subscribers emails with a list of e-books which are on special for the moment. Yesterday, a now-former subscriber reports they sent her an email with the subject “Message From Our Partner: Relieve Dryness & Make Intimacy Comfortable” with extensive information and endorsements about a product marketed by FemmePharma. The recipient was outraged and copied it to me.

One almost wonders if it was an act of revenge by an employee on their way out the door.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. German Netflix series Dark ended this year; here’s a breakdown on its themes on nihilism and fate from the YouTube channel Wisecrack.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/22/20 Unobtainium Glistens Like Chrome In All Of The Federation Parsecs

(1) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL. Here are a few more of the many entries about Ray Bradbury today.

The Martian Chronicles is not a child’s book, but it is an excellent book to give to a child—or to give to the right child, which I flatter myself that I was—because it is a book that is full of awakening. Which means, simply, that when you read it, you can feel parts of your brain clicking on, becoming sensitized to the fact that something is happening here, in this book, with these words, even if you can’t actually communicate to anyone outside of your own head just what that something is. I certainly couldn’t have, in the sixth grade—I simply didn’t have the words. As I recall, I didn’t much try: I just sat there staring down at the final line of the book, with the Martians staring back at me, simply trying to process what I had just read.

The fifth episode of my podcast Bradbury 100 drops today. The theme of the episode is biographies, as my interview guest is Jonathan R. Eller, author of three biographical volumes on Ray: Becoming Ray Bradbury, Ray Bradbury Unbound, and Bradbury Beyond Apollo.

Jon is also the Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, and has done more than anyone to explore Bradbury’s thinking and authorship.

… Bradbury’s poetic, metaphor-filled prose was not easy to adapt to the screen, which is perhaps why there have been far fewer screen versions of his work than that of, say, Stephen King. But there were still a number of significant adaptations of Bradbury’s work for both the small and big screen, including some that he was directly involved in as a screenwriter….

01 – It Came from Outer Space (1953)

With the exception of a handful of short stories adapted for various early 1950s anthology TV shows, this was the first relatively major film based on Bradbury’s work and still remains one of the finest. Oddly, it wasn’t adapted from a published story but an original screen treatment he developed for director Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon). 

In the film (the first sci-fi movie to use a 3D filming process), an alien ship crashes on Earth and its crew makes copies of the local townspeople to gather what they need to effect repairs. The aliens are not hostile, but merely want to fix their ship and leave peacefully. This was an unusual idea for the time — the extraterrestrials in most films from the era were decidedly dangerous — and sets It Came from Outer Space apart as a thoughtful yet still suspenseful piece. 

(2) FROM WAUKEGAN. When she was seven years old, Colleen Abel tells LitHub readers, she took something her grandmother said literally: “Growing Up With Ray Bradbury’s Ghost in Waukegan, Illinois”.

…Bradbury, intoning gravely over shots of the artefacts: People ask, Where do you get your ideas? Well, right here. As the camera pans, Bradbury says, Somewhere in this room is an African veldt. Beyond that, the small Illinois town where I grew up. He sits at a typewriter and the keys clatter. One night, watching these credits, my grandmother said to me, “You know, he’s from here.” She meant, of course, from Waukegan, “that small Illinois town” where he grew up and where we sat now in her neighborhood of tiny homes called The Gardens. But I, at age seven, thought she meant here, here in the house we sat in, that he had grown up in the house, perhaps even still lived in the basement which resembled, in its murk and books and clutter, the same office Bradbury sat down to write in during the opening credits of his tv show.

It wouldn’t be a bad premise for a Bradbury story: a young girl, bookish and morbid, discovers an author living in her grandmother’s musty basement. And in a way, he was there. My father’s old room was part of that basement, still set up the way it had been when he lived there, commuting to college and working part-time at a bookstore. One room was floor to ceiling bookshelves and by the time I was in junior high school, I would go down there regularly and pick something out to read. Most of the books were yellowed and falling apart, their covers marked with their original prices: fifteen cents. Among these were a few volumes of Bradbury’s short stories. I would pick one, often The Illustrated Man, and take it back upstairs to the velour armchair and settle in.

(3) “IN AN ATOMIC NUTSHELL.” First Fandom Experience dramatizes young Ray’s fanzine article: “In 1940, Ray Bradbury Asked, ‘Are You Ad Conditioned?’”

The latest video from First Fandom Experience brings to life a three-page screed by a young Ray Bradbury addressing the issue of the incongruous and annoying ads in pulp magazines.

The piece appeared in the Spring 1940 issue of Sweetness and Light, an edgy, satirical fanzine from a faction of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. A full reading of the piece is presented along with historical context and a selection of the offending advertisements. Enjoy!

(4) PIXEL BUDS. Plainly, it’s our duty here to signal boost the review of a product by this name: “Thoughts on Pixel Buds 2: The Buddening” by John Scalzi at Whatever.

1. To begin, they look pretty cool. Like the first generation, they come in their own little charging case, and when they’re nestled in there and the top is flipped open (which is a solidly satisfying tactile experience, by the way), it looks for all the world like a cute little robot with bug eyes (at least in the orange variant).

(5) WEREWOLF. THERE COURTHOUSE. “George R.R. Martin files lawsuit over film rights to a werewolf novella”: the LA Times has the news.

Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin has filed a lawsuit over the film rights to his werewolf novella “The Skin Trade.”

According to the complaint, filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Mike The Pike Productions was granted an option to the film rights of Martin’s novella in 2009. The company subsequently assigned the option to Blackstone Manor, LLC., the named defendants.

Described as a “werewolf noir,” “The Skin Trade” was originally published in 1988 as part of “Night Visions 5,” a horror anthology that also included stories by Stephen King and Dan Simmons. The story follows Randi Wade, a private investigator who is looking into a series of brutal killings in her small town, which eventually leads to her learning about werewolves and other demons. The story won a World Fantasy Award in 1989.

According to the complaint, Blackstone exercised the option on Sept. 2, 2014, and, per the 2009 agreement, it had five years to start principal photography before the rights reverted to Martin.

The complaint alleges that Blackstone “hastily assembl[ed] a barebones cast and crew” a day before the 2019 deadline “to shoot a handful of scenes” for no other reason than to maintain the appearance that it was making the progress necessary to retain the rights. Martin says the “token” production was “insufficient,” comparing the move to a contractor hurriedly building a gazebo in lieu of the agreed-upon skyscraper when faced with a deadline…

(6) WW84. DC dropped a new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 at the DC Fandome event.

Fast forward to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah. With director Patty Jenkins back at the helm and Gal Gadot returning in the title role, “Wonder Woman 1984” is Warner Bros. Pictures’ follow up to the DC Super Hero’s first outing, 2017’s record-breaking “Wonder Woman,” which took in $822 million at the worldwide box office. The film also stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Kristen Wiig as The Cheetah, Pedro Pascal as Max Lord, Robin Wright as Antiope, and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta.

(7) LEFT IN THE SILO. Nicholas Whyte, CoNZealand’s Deputy Hugo Administrator, in “The 1945 Retros that weren’t”, runs the numbers to show why various categories did not make the final ballot.

We didn’t publish the full stats for the 1945 Retro Hugo categories that weren’t put to the final ballot this year, mainly because voting ended only seven days before the Retro ceremony and we had to prioritise fairly ruthlessly.

But after internal discussion, we are publishing them here….

(8) THE SLUSHPILE’S MY DESTINATION. DreamForge Magazine returns with further explanations: “Why We Didn’t Buy Your Story, Part 2”.

What are the numbers again? This time we received over 600 works from hopeful contributors. At a guess, over 2 million words of fiction.

The majority of those writers really tried to send us something they thought we could use. For instance, we’re not a horror magazine. People knew that and sent very little horror. We didn’t get much in the way of apocalyptic dystopia either. Sex and swearing were at a minimum, yet people also recognized we’re not a children’s magazine nor specifically aimed at the young adult market.

By and large, the stories contained hopeful themes, big ideas and presented worlds filled with diversity, empathy, heroism, and hope.

I don’t have the exact numbers, but we read a lot of good stories. Let’s say 25% were “good to excellent.” It could be more. Conservatively, that would be over half a million words.

At $0.06/word, that’s over $30,000 (if we were able to buy all those good stories). While we do a good job of making DreamForge look big-time, that’s more than our annual budget for everything related to the magazine. And if we could somehow invest in all those stories, they would fill our pages for the next 3-4 years.

Second, creating an issue of a magazine is not just about selecting great stories. It’s about creating a reading experience. Think of it as a variety show. If all the stories are literary, philosophical, message pieces with troubled characters navigating complex plots, our readers aren’t going to make it through the whole issue.

Some stories are challenging, and they require a clear head and concentration before delivering a payoff in emotion or thoughtful meaning. And honestly, I don’t want to read those at 11:30 pm after a long day when I open a magazine for a few minutes of relaxation. I check the Table of Contents for a short story that looks light and easy to get through…

(9) ANGUS BUCHANAN OBITUARY. Industrial archaeologist and biographer Angus Buchanan died June 17. He is profiled in The Guardian. There’s a kind of steampunk sensibility to the topic.

Engineers shape economies, landscapes and how people work and live in them. Yet in the past their achievements were little celebrated. Angus Buchanan, who has died aged 90, did much to increase awareness of their endeavours and breakthroughs.

The appearance of his book Industrial Archaeology in Britain as a Pelican Original in 1972 marked a significant step forward for an emerging discipline. It supplied the crucial link between the development of industrial archaeology at regional and national levels in Britain, leading to the conservation, restoration and reuse of buildings, sites and engineering that might otherwise have been lost.

…The culmination of Buchanan’s research came with Brunel: The Life and Times of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (2002). In building the Great Western Railway and important bridges, tunnels and dockyards, the great Victorian engineer changed the face of the British landscape. Innovations at sea included the SS Great Britain, the first screw-driven iron transatlantic steamship, and his designs revolutionised modern engineering.

The biography provided the first fully documented and objective account, placing Brunel’s significance in a historical context. The desire to avoid concentrating on familiar incidents and the legends surrounding them led Buchanan to a thematic approach rather than a chronology, covering Brunel’s overseas projects and professional practices, and the politics and society within which he functioned, as well as familiar subjects, among them his other major ship, the SS Great Eastern.

The [Bristol Industrial Archeology Society] BIAS had a major influence on the preservation of Bristol’s city docks, thwarting traffic planners who wished to build a major road complex across them. In 1970 the Great Britain was returned from the Falklands to the dry dock where it had been built in 1843, and it is now a popular tourist attraction; nearby is another of Brunel’s masterpieces, the Clifton suspension bridge.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 22, 1957 X Minus One’s “Drop Dead” first aired. Based off of Clifford D. Simak‘s story of that name which was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in July of 1956,  it’s a superb tale about a planet with a very obliging inhabitant called The Critter and how it serves the astronauts who land there. The radio script was by Ernest Kinoy with the cast being Lawson Zerbe, Ralph Camargo and Joseph Bell.  You can listen to it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 22, 1880 – George Herriman.  Wrote the immortal and so far unique comic strip Krazy Kat; also illustrated Don Marquis’ poetical tales of Archy and Mehitabel a cockroach and another cat.  Krazy sometimes seems male, sometimes female, which hardly matters; is endlessly the target of bricks thrown by Ignatz Mouse, taking them as a sign of affection; is the subject of protection by Officer Pupp, to whom they are merely illegal.  Other characters, equally unlikely, are also animals (including birds), whom anthropomorphic is equally inadequate for.  Nor does dialectal justly describe the language, nor surreal the landscape.  Here is the theme.  Here is a variation.  Here is an elaboration.  (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1919 Douglas W F Mayer. A British fan who was editor for  three issues of Amateur Science Stories published by the Science Fiction Association of Leeds, England. He was thereby the publisher of Arthur C. Clarke’s very first short story, “Travel by Wire”, which appeared in the second issue in December 1937. He would later edit the Tomorrow fanzine which would be nominated for the 1939 Best Fanzine Retro Hugo. (Died 1976.) (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1920 Ray Bradbury. So what’s your favorite work by him? I have three. Something Wicked This Way Comes is the one I reread quite a bit with The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles being my other go to regularly works by him. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1925 Honor Blackman. Best known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts. She was also Professor Lasky in “Terror of the Vervoids” in the Sixth Doctor’s “The Trial of a Time Lord”. Genre adjacent, she was in the film of Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary as Rita Vandemeyer. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1945 David Chase, 75. He’s here today mainly because he wrote nine episodes including the “Kolchak: Demon and the Mummy” telefilm of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He also wrote the screenplay for The Grave of The Vampire, and one for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Enough Rope fur Two”, which he also directed. (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1946 – Rafi Zabor, 74 Seldom does work from outside our field wholly engage with our spirit.  But The Bear Comes Home is superb.  Naturally we ignore it.  It does have explicit sexual activity, not gratuitous.  In a year when Earthquake Weather could not reach the ballot, of course The Bear could not muster even 5% of the nominations.  Don’t let that stop you now.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1948 – Susan Wood.  Her we do recognize.  Met Mike Glicksohn at Boskone 4, 1969; Energumen together to 1973, Hugo as Best Fanzine its last year; both Fan Guests of Honour at Aussiecon (in retrospect Aussiecon One) the 33rd Worldcon though marriage gone.  Three Hugos for SW as Best Fanwriter; Best of SW (J. Kaufman ed.) 1982.  Taught at U. British Columbia; Vancouver editor, Pac. NW Rev. Books.  Atheling Award, Aurora Award for Lifetime Achievement, Canadian SF Hall of Fame.  One Ditmar.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1952 – Chuck Rothman, 68.  Two novels (Atlanta Nights with many co-authors was –), fifty shorter stories.  Interviewed in Flash Fiction Online Nov 15.  Movie-TV-music blog Great but Forgotten.  Einstein and CR’s grandfather.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1954 – Gavin Claypool, 66.  Los Angeles area actifan.  LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) Librarian.  Won LASFS Evans-Freehafer service award twice; only five people have ever done so.  Reliably helpful to others e.g. at SF cons.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1955 Will Shetterly, 65. Of his novels, I recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, which were both nominees for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, and his sort of biographical Dogland. Married to Emma Bull, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing as you’ll spot Minnesota fans in it. And Emma as the Elf Queen is definitely something to behold! (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1963 Tori Amos, 57. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams, and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman series is based on her. (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1964 – Diane Setterfield, Ph.D., 56.  Three novels.  The Thirteenth Tale sold three million copies (NY Times Best Seller), televised on BBC2.  “A reader first, a writer second….  The practice of weekly translation from my undergraduate years [her Ph.D., from U. Bristol, was on André Gide] has become an everyday working tool for me: when a sentence doesn’t run the way I want it to, I habitually translate it into French and retranslate it back into English.  It’s like switching a light on in a dim room: suddenly I can see what’s not working and why.”  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SUICIDE SQUAD ROLL CALL. Adam B. Vary, in the Variety story “‘The Suicide Squad’ First Look, Full Cast Revealed by Director James Gunn at DC FanDome” says that director James Gunn revealed at DC Fandome that the cast of The Suicide Squad, coming out in April 2021, includes Margot Robbie and Viola Davis from the 2016 film Suicide Squad but also Nathan Fillion, John Cena, and Peter Capaldi as “The Thinker,” a DC villain from the 1940s.  Principal photography was completed before the pandemic hit and the film is completed and ready to go.

… Among the new cast, Gunn said that he reached deep into the DC Comics canon to find a motley crew of villains to populate the movie, and it appears he brought some invention of his own to the project as well.

(14) A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN. “DC FanDome: Snyder Cut of Justice League to be four hours” at Lyles Movie Files.

…A big question was how the Snyder Cut would get released in HBO MAX. Snyder revealed it will be split into four one-hour segments.

Snyder then teased an entire full uninterrupted version as well with maybe the possibility of a solo purchase version.

(15) SOME CELESTIAL OBJECTS WILL BE RENAMED. “NASA to Reexamine Nicknames for Cosmic Objects”. The full statement is at the link.

Distant cosmic objects such as planets, galaxies, and nebulae are sometimes referred to by the scientific community with unofficial nicknames. As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful. NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the “Eskimo Nebula.” “Eskimo” is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Most official documents have moved away from its use. NASA will also no longer use the term “Siamese Twins Galaxy” to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Moving forward, NASA will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate. 

…Nicknames are often more approachable and public-friendly than official names for cosmic objects, such as Barnard 33, whose nickname “the Horsehead Nebula” invokes its appearance. But often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science. 

The Agency will be working with diversity, inclusion, and equity experts in the astronomical and physical sciences to provide guidance and recommendations for other nicknames and terms for review….

(16) HONEST GAME TRAILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Fandom Games asks in this Honest Game Trailer, “Destroy All Humans”, since alien invasion is “the only box left on the 2020 bingo card” why not enjoy this 2005 game where you’re an alien mowing down humans and giving bad Jack Nicholson impressions?

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

Pixel Scroll 8/18/20 It’s A World Of Cats On To Be Read Piles, It’s A Scroll, Scroll World!

(1) STATE GUIDANCE ISSUED FOR SF IN CHINA. Variety reports“China Issues Guidelines on Developing a Sci-Fi Film Sector”.

Chinese film authorities issued a new document outlining policy measures to boost the country’s production of science fiction movies.

Entitled “Several Opinions on Promoting the Development of Science Fiction Films,” the document highlights how the sci-fi genre fits into the ruling Communist Party’s broader ideological and technological goals. It was released earlier this month by China’s National Film Administration and the China Association for Science and Technology, a professional organization.

The document focuses on domestically developing pro-China science fiction film content and high-tech production capability. It comes in the wake of the country’s first VFX-heavy sci-fi blockbuster hit, “The Wandering Earth,” which remains the third highest grossing film of all time in the territory with a local box office of $691 million.

…To make strong movies, the document claims, the number one priority is to “thoroughly study and implement Xi Jinping Thought.” Based on the Chinese president’s past pronouncements on film work, filmmakers should follow the “correct direction” for the development of sci-fi movies. This includes creating films that “highlight Chinese values, inherit Chinese culture and aesthetics, cultivate contemporary Chinese innovation” as well as “disseminate scientific thought” and “raise the spirit of scientists.” Chinese sci-fi films should thus portray China in a positive light as a technologically advanced nation.

…Nevertheless, China’s lack of strong sci-fi is primarily due to a lack of innovative ideas and scripts, the document said. The country should focus on generating strong sci-fi scripts through talent incubators and prizes, and by urging film festivals to set up specific sci-fi film departments. The adaptation of sci-fi literature, animation and games should be encouraged to stimulate the production of new original content.

Elementary and middle school students should be made to watch “excellent sci-fi movies,” while universities should be urged to “strengthen the training of sci-fi related talent.”

(2) CANCELLATION CULTURE. David Brin writes much more about what he suspects in “The Postman speaks: Save the Post Office!”

Amid outcry over Republican efforts to wreck the U.S. Postal System, scientist/science-fiction author David Brin — author of the popular novel “The Postman” — offers a few tools and perspectives…. 

What Will They Do to Destroy the Mail?

Oh, these proto-Holnist traitors can be feral and clever. Here are some ways they have already — or plan to — sabotage our nation’s oldest institution.

  • Don’t allow overtime (done)
  • Remove extra mailboxes (started; incomplete)
  • Remove critical equipment (done)
  • Remove ballot bulk mail postage discount (done)
  • Reduce funding
  • Refuse to deliver if no/insufficient postage
  • Change filters on automated sorting to reject more mail
  • Demand postal workers take unused leave at critical times
  • Misprint ballots so auto-processing fails
  • Shut down critical sorting warehouses in key areas
  • Companies currying GOP favor will send a lot of mail during the 2 weeks that mail-in ballots are flooding the system, causing jams
  • Use mercenaries and ‘holnist’ barbarians to terrorize voters, sabotage mailboxes and vehicles and workers, sow chaos and provide excuses for ‘martial law.’
  • Don’t put anything past them.

(3) JOB DESCRIPTION. David Gerrold shared a free post on his Patreon: “I Am Not A Writer. I Am A Storyteller.”

…I have been accused of being a writer. I’m not. My 1962 writing instructor was right when he told me, “You can’t write. You’re wasting your time. You’ll never be a writer.”

He was right. I’m not a writer. 

I’m a storyteller. 

A story is — pay attention now, this is the good stuff —  a story is about a person with a problem. 

Let me repeat that. A STORY IS ABOUT A PERSON WITH A PROBLEM. 

This is why stories are the essential part of human intelligence. Because all human beings have problems. We either defeat them or they defeat us. 

But either way, we end up with a story about the problem. 

The essential definition of a story is this: “Here’s a problem. Here’s what didn’t work. Here’s what did work. And here’s what I learned.” It’s that last phrase that’s important. The problem is an access to the lesson. Even if the problem didn’t get solved, the lesson is still critical. And if there is no lesson to be learned, then it wasn’t a real problem, just some stuff to be handled. (“I have to do the dishes,” isn’t a problem. Just do the damn dishes.)…

(4) COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND UPDATE. Graeme McMillan, in The Hollywood Reporter story “Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Attempts to Rebuild After Chief’s Exit” discusses how the fund is rebuilding after the departure of Charles Brownstein on sexual harassment charges. 

On June 22, Charles Brownstein resigned from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund after serving as executive director for 18 years. The exit came following pressure from comic industry professionals as details of his alleged assault of creator Taki Soma 15 years earlier re-emerged online. More than a month after his departure, the CBLDF is attempting to rebuild both itself and trust from the comic book community.

In 2005, Soma reported to police that Brownstein assaulted her during the Mid-Ohio Con convention, with details becoming public the following year. In 2006, Brownstein admitted to the assault, calling it “a stupid, drunken prank, of which I’m ashamed” in a public statement, although he kept his position inside the CBLDF following an independent third party investigation.

… “Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen a response from the fund that would make me feel comfortable supporting them after Brownstein’s departure,” Batman writer James Tynion IV told The Hollywood Reporter. “I want to see who they put forward as the voice of the fund, and see what kind of work they’re open to doing to make a better community. Until they do that, I’ll be a skeptical observer, and my money will keep going to the [another comic book non-profit] Hero Initiative, where I can see measurably good work being done.”

Harrow County artist Tyler Crook is also skeptical about the continued viability of the organization.

“I’m very glad to see Brownstein gone, but I won’t be supporting them until after we see what changes they make to reform the organization,” said Crook, adding that Brownstein remaining with the organization for so many years despite his alleged behavior identified structural problems that need to be addressed. “Right now, I’m feeling pretty pessimistic about the CBLDF’s ability to change. I think our industry might be better served with a new, organization built on stronger foundations and with a stronger moral compass.”

Calvin Reid, in “Trexler Named Interim CBLDF Executive Director” in Publishers Weekly, says that Jeff Trexler has been named interim director.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has appointed Jeff Trexler its interim director, effective immediately. He succeeds Charles Brownstein, who resigned from the position in June after allegations of assault leveled against him resurfaced.

Trexler will oversee and update the CBLDF’s operations and its mission. He will also be charged with restoring the organization’s credibility and stature in the comics community after the departure of Brownstein, who held the executive director position at CBLDF for 18 years.

“The original mission of CBLDF is one I passionately support as a longtime member of the comics community,” Trexler said in a statement. “This is a time of evolution for the organization, and I am honored to be a part of it.”

Before joining the CBLDF, Trexler was associate director of the Fashion Law Institute. He is a member of the ethics committee at Kering Americas, and has served on the board of the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art. Trexler is also a lifelong comics fan as well as a lawyer, and has provided legal analysis on a variety of issues surrounding the comics industry….

(5) FULL COURT PRESS. “CBS Beats Copyright Claims Over ‘Star Trek: Discovery’”Bloomberg Law has the story.

A story arc about a giant tardigrade in “Star Trek: Discovery” didn’t infringe a copyright in an unreleased video game that also featured a giant tardigrade, the Second Circuit affirmed Monday.

Many elements of the work that CBS Broadcasting Corp. and Netflix Corp. allegedly infringed covered uncopyrightable scientific facts and ideas about tardigrades, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said.

Anas Osama Ibrahim Abdin owns a copyright in the “distillation” of the concept for his video game “Tardigrades,” a compilation of images, descriptions, and illustrations detailing the game’s characters and backstory. It features a space-station botanist who travels through space after being absorbed into a giant tardigrade, based on the real-life microscopic creature that can endure extreme heat, cold, pressure, and radiation.

Three episodes in the first season of CBS’ “Star Trek: Discovery” also involve a space encounter with a massive tardigrade-like creature, and Abdin sued CBS for copyright infringement in Manhattan federal court. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed Abdin’s claims in September.

The Second Circuit affirmed that CBS and Netflix—which is licensed to air “Discovery” outside of the U.S.—didn’t infringe because the works aren’t substantially similar. Abdin’s use of tardigrades largely wasn’t copyrightable, the court said.

“Abdin’s space-traveling tardigrade is an unprotectable idea because it is a generalized expression of a scientific fact—namely, the known ability of a tardigrade to survive in space,” the court said. “By permitting Abdin to exclusively own the idea of a space-traveling tardigrade, this Court would improperly withdraw that idea from the public domain and stifle creativity naturally flowing from the scientific fact that tardigrades can survive the vacuum of space.”…

(6) WELL WORTH YOUR TIME. [Based on notes from John Hertz.] Roberta Pournelle left our stage on August 3, 2020.

There was no public church service and no public interment.  Her remains were laid to rest at Forest Lawn on August 14th, as it happens not far from OGH’s father’s.

“Roberta Jane Isdell Pournelle, 16 June 1936–3 August 2020” is Jennifer Pournelle’s eulogy.

 … I was hardly an “only child,” and I’m not merely referring to my wonderful brothers. Roberta taught in schools where most would not. She taught kids who were guilty of being poor, or black, or Latinx, or homeless. or abused, or dyslexic, or otherwise illiterate and/or desperate. Kids with “form,” kids with little future; kids who were pregnant or fathers or incarcerated for crimes real or imagined and precious little hope of anger management. The kids nobody wanted. The kids dismissed as “juvvies.” The kids about whom precious few truly, actually, cared.

Advised to leave, advised to cease, advised that her talents lay elsewhere, she taught on. She was there….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

August 18, 1950 Destination Moon, produced by Geotge Pal, premiered in the United Kingdom. It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson,  Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. Mainstream critics usually didn’t like but Asimov said In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.”  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating. It is not in the public domain but the trailers are and here is one for you.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 18, 1929 Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1931 Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he did have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course, he shows up in Outer Limits where he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”.  And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1931 – Seymour Chwast, 89.  French ed’n of Doctor DolittleOdysseyCanterbury TalesDivine Comedy; three dozen more.  Here is We.  Here is Analog 6 (anthology).  Here is Lord Tyger.  Much outside our field too; see hereherehere, and this archive.   Saint Gaudin Award, Art Directors Hall of Fame, American Inst. Graphic Arts Medal, honorary doctorate from Parsons.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1934 Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence by writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement as it doesn’t seem like there’s any connection. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1935 — Brian Aldiss. He’s well known as an anthologist and SF writer with Space, Time and Nathaniel, a collection of short stories being his first genre publication. I’ll single out Space Opera and other such anthologies as my favourite works by him. His “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” is the basis for A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Much honoured, he’s was named a Grand Master by SFWA and inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He also has received two Hugo Awards, one Nebula Award, and one John W. Campbell Memorial Award. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1943 –Richard Bober, 77.  Three dozen covers.  Here is Lake of the Long Sun (in Polish).  Here is Shards of Empire.  Here is the 2003 Chesley Awards Retrospective (at left, top to bottom, images by Bober, Ledet, Eggleton, Bonestell).  Gallery, Feb 98 Realms of Fantasy.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1947 – Paul Skelton, 73.  Long-active fanziner, in his own zines (sometimes with wife Cas Skelton) and letters of comment to others’.  Five FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards, four for Best Correspondent and one for life achievement thereat.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1949 –Takeshi Shudô.  Known for Magical Princess Minky Momo (television animé), Pokémon (pocket monsters; TV, film, novels), and Eternal Filena (serialized light novel, then OVA – original video animation, made for home release without prior theater or television showing – then role-playing video game).  For Pokémon, coined Team Rocket’s motto.  Won Best Screenplay at first Japan Animé Awards.  Memorial exhibit at Suginami Animation Museum, Tokyo, 2011.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1950 Mary Doria Russell, 70. The Sparrow series, The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God, are awesome. The Sparrow won the Arthur C. Clarke, BSFA, and Tiptree Awards, and it was the reason she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Though not genre, Doc and its  sequel Epitaph are mysteries using the historic character of  Doc Holliday.  (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1966 – Alison Goodman, 54.  Seven novels, five shorter stories.  Translated into ten languages.  Part of “Time Travel, Time Scapes, and Timescape” in NY Rev. of SF with Benford, Blackford, Broderick, McMullen, Townsend.  Two Aurealis Awards.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1981 – Bridget (“B.R.”) Collins, 39.  Seven novels.  Bradford Boase Award.  Blog is called jugjugjug “because ‘jug jug jug’ is supposed to be the noise a nightingale makes (the way ‘tu-whit tu-whoo’ is supposed to be an owl).”  Website shows bookshelves with The Complete Sherlock Holmes and The Sot-Weed Factor.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) FACE THE MUSIC. Stephen Colbert repurposed the last Avengers movie trailer:

(11) CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE. David Langford’s contribution didn’t make it into the CoNZealand edition of Worldcon Order Of Fan-Editors (W.O.O.F.) for whatever reason, so he posted it on his own site: Cloud Chamber #164.

(12) FIRST CABIN. George R.R. Martin told Not A Blog readers he’s “Back in Westeros”.

…But some decades ago, wanting more solitude, I bought the house across the street and made THAT my writer’s retreat.   No longer would I write all day in my red flannel bathrobe; now I would have to dress and put on shoes and walk all the way across the street to write.  But that worked for a while.

Things started getting busier, though.   So busy that I needed a full-time assistant.   Then the office house had someone else in it, not just me and my characters.   And then I hired a second assistant, and a third, and… there was more mail, more email, more phone calls (we put in a new phone system), more people coming by.   By now I am up to five assistants… and somewhere in there I also acquired a movie theatre, a bookstore, a charitable foundation, investments, a business manager… and…

Despite all the help, I was drowning till I found the mountain cabin.

My life up here is very boring, it must be said.  Truth be told, I hardly can be said to have a life.   I have one assistant with me at all times (minions, I call them).  The assistants do two-week shifts, and have to stay in quarantine at home before starting a shift.   Everyone morning I wake up and go straight to the computer, where my minion brings me coffee (I am utterly useless and incoherent without my morning coffee) and juice, and sometimes a light breakfast.  Then I start to write.   Sometimes I stay at it until dark.   Other days I break off in late afternoon to answer emails or return urgent phone calls….   

(13) SFWA. “SFWA Announces New Communications Manager”, Rebecca Gomez Farrell.

… The Communications Manager will lead SFWA’s communications initiatives to produce high-quality content to engage both SFWA members and potential members within the SF/F community, as well as expand the organization’s brand recognition.

… SFWA Executive Director Kate Baker said, “Because of the nebulous nature of the organization, and because our members are located around the world, having a steady and engaging presence via social media is more important than ever. I am thrilled that Rebecca has joined the organization to help shape our messaging, to build upon the excellent work done by past volunteers, and to promote not only the organization and its members, but communicate what is important to all SF/F writers, wherever they may be. Please join us in welcoming Rebecca to the team!”

“Since joining in 2012,” said Gomez Farrell, “my fiction career has benefited greatly from the events and services SFWA offers its members, but most importantly, from the community we share. I’m thrilled to lend my skills in new media communication to fostering more of that community for my fellow members.” 

(14) SPECTRUM. The new Spectrum Advisory board was announced on Muddy Colors. Arnie Fenner listed the names with short bios at the link.

….it’s Cathy’s and my pleasure today to present in alphabetical order our new Spectrum Advisory board!

… Talk about a Dream Team!

And what exactly does the Spectrum Advisory Board do? Well, they have two primary jobs: the first is to nominate, debate, and ultimately select each year’s Grand Master honoree. (I wrote about the criteria for the Grand Master Award in a previous Muddy Colors post for anyone that’s curious.) It’s a big responsibility, for sure, but the Board’s second job is even more difficult and crucial:

Job #2 is to help us not be stupid.

Cathy and I started Spectrum because of a sincere love for fantastic art in whatever guise it takes and a desire to help creators receive the recognition and respect we felt they deserved. Spectrum quickly became a welcoming home, a community, and a family, for all artists regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, politics, or ethnicity, a celebration of diversity and imagination. Though we’re moving a little slower and our energy isn’t what it once was, that love and that purpose are as strong in us today as they were when we first began 27 years ago. But time and technology march on and nothing survives in a vacuum: with so many changes and challenges, with so many societal minefields to traverse, we count on our Advisory Board to help us avoid the avoidable mistakes (as best anyone can) and better serve the community as a whole….

(15) STAND UP, EMPTY POCKETS. The “Stand Still. Stay Silent. – Book 3” Kickstarter appeal invites donors to “Help us print the third book of Minna Sundberg’s award-winning Nordic fantasy and adventure webcomic Stand Still. Stay Silent.” There being a lot of people wanting to lock down a copy of the book, they have raised $198,054 of their $35,000 goal with 26 days to go.

An underfunded, questionably selected, rag-tag team of explorers are assembled and launched into the unknown in a search for information and relics of the Old World – hopefully valuable relics. Stand Still. Stay Silent. follows six people (and a cat) on a journey filled with adventure, camaraderie and Nordic mythology. Who knows what they might find on their journey… and what they might lose.

(16) CATCHING UP. Nnedi Okorafor’s new book was released today – just in time for one feline’s appreciation.

(17) ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE, Let File 770 be the last to tell you what Yahoo! Life was the next to last to tell you: “Somehow We All Just Figured Out Where Gandalf Keeps His Pipe”.

Nearly two decades years after the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, fans are still discovering new things in Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There’s a lot of material to cover, with the three lengthy theatrical releases further extended in their home video editions. Which is why it’s so surprising that, all these years later, people keep spotting one particular detail for the first time.

We’re talking about Gandalf’s pipe, specifically where he keeps it…

(18) REAR VIEW. “Why did scientists paint eyes on hundreds of cattle butts? To save lives, study says”.

For four years, researchers painted fake eyes on hundreds of cattle butts for the sake of science. What seems like a silly prank, the “eye-cow technique” proved lifesaving for the animals as it made predators rethink their attack, choosing another meal instead.

The scientists say their method is a more humane and “ecologically sound” alternative to lethal control and fencing used to separate cattle from carnivores. The team even theorizes the technique could be used to prevent human-wildlife conflicts and reduce criminal activity, according to a news release. A study was published Aug. 7 in the journal Communications Biology.

“The eye-cow technique is one of a number of tools that can prevent carnivore-livestock conflict—no single tool is likely to be a silver bullet. Indeed we need to do much better than a silver bullet if we are to ensure the successful coexistence of livestock and large carnivores,” study co-author Dr. Neil Jordan, a researcher with the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, said in the news release.

“But we’re hoping this simple, low-cost, non-lethal approach could reduce the costs of coexistence for those farmers bearing the brunt,” he added.

Eye patterns can be found — naturally — on butterflies, fish, molluscs, amphibians and birds to scare predators away. Images of eyes have even been shown to reduce bike theft in people, a 2012 study showed. But no mammals are known to possess eye-shaped patterns on their coats.

So, in the Okavango Delta of Botswana in Southern Africa, where livestock and lions, leopards, hyenas, cheetahs and wild dogs coexist, such a deceptive tactic could save animals from their death sentence, the researchers thought.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  The Old Guard” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the latest film from Netflix designed to “make you look up from your phone for two minutes so it counts as a view.”  The film featured Charlize Theron leading a group of “illumi-hotties” who, although they’re thousands of years old, haven’t come up with a cool catchphrase.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Bill Higgins, Hampus Eckerman, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W. (I had to come back and use the other half of Kip’s 2018 verse.)]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #52

A Few (Pointed) Observations of the 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony

By Chris M. Barkley:  I usually don’t offer any commentary after the Hugo Awards are given out because the will of the voters has been expressed and as the song goes, “Some will win, some will lose, some of them will sing the blues.”

And when you consider what happened last Saturday morning in Wellington, New Zealand, I think what unfolded may have looked really bad, but it could have been far, far worse.

Having said that, I think the CoNZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony team deserves a modicum of credit for bringing us a telecast of the awards at all under somewhat grueling circumstances;  even though there were a number of other glitches that were glaringly evident as time went on.

And on.

AND ON…

THE HUGO AWARDS CEREMONY

Yes, the CoNZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony will probably go down as one of the longest and most poorly executed as of now and well into the near future. I am quite sure that everyone involved, and I definitely include George R.R. Martin and the CoNZealand production team had the best of intentions.

I believe that he, and Robert Silverberg, were trying to convey to a global audience the grand, sweeping history and the importance of the award, which is still, after sixty-seven (67!) years, the only prestigious literary award given to authors and artists by readers. But they took an awfully long time to convey that. 

When planning something as arduous as the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the uppermost thing to keep in mind is that brevity and conciseness are your friends and droning on and boring your audience is not what you want under any circumstances. A VERY tight script would have redeemed this broadcast.

Also, and more importantly, GRRM and the producers on his end completely misread the audience tuning in. While his folksy reminiscing and cute anecdotes about the good old days of pre-internet fandom may have been entirely appropriate on a Worldcon panel (of which I have no doubt he has done countless times beforehand) his comments were perceived by the somewhat younger crowd as meandering, problematic and boring. His stories were about as meaningful and relevant as Henry Ford regaling Elon Musk about what a genius idea the production line was.

I am rather puzzled how GRRM, a seasoned writer/producer of several tv shows, could have possibly not foreseen this Titanic-sized iceberg in the making. And with at the very least five or so months of advanced planning, it was entirely avoidable. 

But there’s the rub; this fiasco was NOT entirely GRRM’s fault. He had plenty of help. 

Someone in CoNZealand’s end of the production and the producer in charge of GRRM’s studio, whom I do not know and cannot readily find,  should have recognized the problems at the scripting stage and should be held ultimately responsible for this fiasco. And whomever they are, they should have provided GRRM with the proper pronunciations of the nominee’s names far in advance of the start of the Ceremony.

Very little responsibility should fall on the line producers of the broadcast, Directors Alan Bond and Dragos Ruiu, who were recruited late in the process.   

The script GRRM and his producers had drafted by early July had a proposed running time in excess of OVER THREE HOURS, and that was without the recipients’ speeches! That’s as long as some of the more egregious Academy Awards telecasts of recent years. The final running time of the Ceremony (including the Hugo Award recipients’ speeches) clocked in at three hours thirty-four minutes and fifty-eight seconds. (And for those of you keeping score at home, no, it was not as long as Gone with the Wind; it would have needed yet another 24 minutes to accomplish that. But it sure FELT like it…)

Several days after CoNZealand ended and the bloody autopsies of the broadcast were in full swing, I came across a Facebook post that claimed that the original tech crew had been unceremoniously sacked and had to sign non-disclosure agreements to boot.   

And then there was also this curious post from a recent File 770 comments page:

Chip Hitchcock on August 6, 2020 at 8:30 am wrote:

“@Soon Lee: I’m sympathetic to the issues brought up by having to pivot so close to curtain time. ISTM that the program book should not have been one of those, but the slow connections in the Hugo ceremony (explained in another thread as having been picked up on 3 days’ notice because the original team crumped) is understandable.”

Curious about these claims, I spent several days seeking out, contacting and speaking extensively with a source who worked on the convention. I can completely debunk and dispose both pieces of gossip:

The original technical crew did not “crump”. Nor were they sacked or forced to sign NDAs.

According to my source, the decision was made to replace the New Zealand crew by the American based production team on the evening of July 29 (the first day of the convention) at the request of the US-based producers. This request was made directly by them to the Events Division Head, Mel Duncan. The explanation that was offered was that the tech crew was too widely distributed across several time zones (AEST/NZST/PDT/EDT) and the producers wished to use a centralized crew based solely in the Pacific Daylight Time zone.

That is all fine and well in theory, BUT the original crew had already gone through several rehearsals already and may have been in a better position to handle the technical issues or difficulties that occurred. Or not. We’ll never know for certain.

One thing is certain, GRRM and the production team haven given the World Science Fiction Society a big, black eye. Needless to say, this terrible program has churned up a considerable amount of negative reactions from a wide spectrum of fans and critics. How bad? One acclaimed Hugo Nominated Best Series author, Tade Thompson, was so disgusted by the perceived racism (in praise of problematic writers and editors from generations ago) that he publicly announced on Twitter that he would no longer accept any future nominations from WSFS. So yes, really bad.   

(For those of you who are curious, there is a fan edited version of the Ceremony that is an hour and forty two minutes long.)

BEST RELATED WORK and BEST NOVELLA

The BEST part of the broadcast was the acceptance speeches by the recipients, they were fantastic! In particular, I was especially happy for Jeannette Ng, whose speech at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon accepting the (now former) John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer won the 2020 Best Related Work category. I was privileged to be in the room when it happened; her scathing condemnation of white privilege, fascism and racism was truly one of the most electrifying moments in modern literature and subsequently made headlines around the world. Ms. Ng’s acceptance speech was also heartfelt and stirring, too. 

Of all of the fiction award winners, my only lament is that Ted Chiang’s magnificent novella, “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom”, was bested by “This Is How You Lose the Time War”. But Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s story was an epic tour-de-force and just as deserving.

THE 1945 RETRO-HUGOS

I had other concerns. 

When the Retro-Hugo Awards were first established in 1996, it was generally thought that it would be a good idea to honor works of fantasy and science fiction from 50, 75 and 100 years ago. And now after honoring eight years (1938,1940, 1942-1945, 1950 and 1953), folks are having second thoughts about the whole endeavor.

The good news is that the late Leigh Brackett and artist Margaret Brundage were big winners. Brackett won twice, the first for her novel Shadow Over Mars (aka The Nemesis From Terra) and in the Best Related Work for her Writer’s Digest article, “The Science Fiction Field”. The late Ms. Brundage was honored as the Best Artist of 1944, primarily for her artwork that year for Weird Tales

The bad news, as far as I was concerned, was yet another Short Form Editor award for John W. Campbell, Jr and a Best Series award for H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

It seems to me it’s as though when the Retro-Hugos are handed out, the nominators and voters seem to punch Campbell’s award ticket EVERY SINGLE TIME. I freely admit that, without question, he was one of the most influential editors of 20th century sf literature. And despite being a bit of a weird, cranky, an eccentric and a virulent racist, he was revered by his peers and fans alike for decades.

And because of those beliefs, I don’t think that Campbell is held in such high regard by a majority of contemporary fans, writers and editors. But the Hugo Award is not given for a person’s beliefs and character, they are given for the work that has been done. And as much as I may dislike JWC as a person, there is no doubt he did some admirable work, in his era.

By my count, Campbell’s work has netted him fifteen Hugo Awards, eight of those being Retro-Hugos. The question I have is this; how much adulation is enough? Because it seems to me that even with some of the more recent revelations of Campbell’s true nature, there is a die-hard cadre of enthusiasts who will continue giving his surviving family members a Hugo Award in spite of those personal criticisms of his character.      

Well, I stopped nominating and voting for John W. Campbell, Jr.on my Retro ballot years ago. Because there were other editors of that early era who deserve recognition, too. 

As for H.P. Lovecraft, I also recognize that he has had a lasting influence in modern day fantasy and horror. He is also a very disturbing individual and racist whose writing style was admired by his contemporaries and many, many others after his death. Despite that, I have no love or admiration for his work, no matter what his personal views were.I find his works turgid, stomach-turning and generally unpleasant. So my opposition to honoring Lovecraft’s work is strictly aesthetic not personal.

In closing, I will note that Clifford Simak’s “Desertion”, the runner up in the Short Story category, was one of the most enthralling tales that I had ever read in my youth.  It is a far superior story in comparison to the winner, Ray Bradbury’s “I, Rocket”. I think that Bradbury’s long literary shadow was at work here and I believe that honoring such an inferior story would shock and dismay him.

BEST SEMI-PROZONE and BEST EDITOR, LONG & SHORT FORM

Somewhere in the middle of this miasma of an awards show, both GRRM and author Robert Silverberg mused at length about the Best Semiprozine and the Long and Short Form Editing categories. Specifically, why were these awards named in such a manner.

Well, if they knew their Hugo Awards history, they would have known that the Semiprozine category was first awarded in 1984 and, according to Wikipedia, “…is given each year for semi-professionally-edited magazines related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues, with at least one issue appearing in the previous calendar year.” The award was dominated for decades by Locus Magazine (with 8 wins as Best Fanzine in the 13 years before the creation of the Semiprozine category, followed by another 22 wins until a WSFS Constitution rules change in 2012 made it ineligible in that category.)

I was so disgusted by this category and Locus’ repeated wins that I was once recruited by Discon III Fan Guest of Honor Ben Yalow to try and KILL it altogether at a WSFS Business Meeting. Obviously, we did not succeed, at least, in this timeline. But that’s another story for another day…

In the past decade, there have been meaningful attempts to draft a constitutional amendment to make this category more relevant (and ditch the unwieldy name as well). 

This rather dovetails with Mr. Silverberg’s comments about how odd it was to have a long and short form award for editors. Having labored for three agonizing years in the conclave of SMOFs email lists and the Business Meetings, I can tell Mr. Silverberg that I was in the room where it happened and that he really, REALLY, doesn’t want to know how this particular sausage was made. 

What I can tell you is that the intent of splitting up the Editing category was to find a way to honor magazine/anthology editors and book editors, who had been sadly neglected over the decades. How neglected, you may ask? 

The last two Hugo Award winning book editors were Judy-Lynn Del Rey (1986) and Terry Carr (1987). Both were deceased by the time they were honored..

Ideally, in the 21st century, this mess can be easily solved by establishing the following categories:

  • Best Magazine: Any magazine (in print or online) related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues or edited volumes in the previous calendar year.
  • Best Anthology or Collection: Any Anthology of original stories or a single author collection related to science fiction or fantasy published in the previous calendar year.
  • Best Book Editor:The editor of at least four (4) novel length works primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy published in the previous calendar year that do not qualify as a magazine or a website.

The only thing needed for the last category to work is the establishment of a uniform commitment by publishers to credit the novel’s editor in every book. Besty Wollheim of DAW Books has been working for the past two years to make this happen. Bravo to her!

There has been some disturbing news in the past few years that certain members of the Business Meeting might be open to abandoning the Book Editor category in favor of a Best Publisher or Imprint Award. I think that would be a terrible shame to shunt book editors back into the shadows after thirteen years in the limelight.  

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION LONG & SHORT FORM

One of the most egregious oversights this year was the omission of the HBO mini-series, Chernobyl from the Long Form category.

If fans had enough gumption to nominate a film like Hidden Figures, which brilliantly dramatized the work of African-American “calculators” who helped guide the Mercury spaceflight program of the 1960’s, what was the impediment to nominating the chilling and dystopian epic of the worst nuclear disaster on record?

In a similar vein, I practically shouted to anyone who would listen that fans should NOT nominate individual episodes of Watchmen, the acclaimed ten part series that served  as a “indirect sequel” to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s 1986 Hugo Award winning graphic novel.

And it ALMOST worked; an official statement from CoNZealnd’s Hugo Award Administrators posted on the voting results read as follows:

Watchmen gained enough votes to qualify in this category (81), but two individual episodes also qualified for the Short Form category (“A God Walk Into Abar” 81, “This Extraordinary Being,” 54) with more votes collectively. The Administrators therefore removed Watchmen from this category.”

UGH!   

With Watchmen relegated to two episodes in the Short Form Category, the beneficiary of that move was The Rise of Skywalker, who slipped into the sixth spot with 75 nominations. Next in line was Spider-Man: Far From Home with 74 nominations. (See the 2020 Hugo voting statistics here.)

And what’s this? The entire season of Russian Doll was nominated????? Russian Doll but not Watchmen? That’s the year 2020 for you; all crazy, all of the time. 

So with Chernobyl nowhere to be seen and Watchmen regulated out of the Long Form competition, is anyone surprised that the adaptation of Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens (also nominated as a series) was the eventual winner? A good choice, yes, But personally, I’d like to think that Watchmen would have given them a run for their money.

In the Short Form category, the same story, same show, a related result:

“Good Omens: Hard Times (Episode 3)” gained enough votes to qualify in this category (108 nominations), but the entire series of Good Omens also qualified for the Long Form category, with more votes. The Administrators therefore removed “Good Omens: Hard Times” from this category.”

The beneficiary here? The Doctor Who episode “Resolution”, which was promoted on the ballot, just ahead of an episode of The Good Place, “Pandemonium”.

And as much as I like Michael Shur’s comedy of moral philosophy and demonic manners, I heart simply aches that “The Answer” was given the nod over two of Watchmen’s incredible episodes, “A God Walks into Abar” and “This Extraordinary Being.” 

This sort of heartbreak could be avoided if the WSFS Business meeting would come to its senses and adopt the common sense solution that fellow fan Vincent Docherty and I formally proposed two years ago at ConJose (and can be found in Appendix B: 2018 Report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee, on page 27). 

Best Dramatic Presentation: Series – Any TV or streaming series of four 60 minute episodes or more than 240 minutes.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Episodic Form – TV or any other dramatic form, 30-89 minutes.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form – For films, audio books, theatrical productions, 90 minutes or more.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form – Any dramatic form of 30 minutes or less.

Yes, FOUR categories of Dramatic Presentation. If anyone has a better idea, please step forward at the Business Meeting and be prepared to be hammered down.

So, until the proposal above comes to pass (or something like it), my advice to all of you nominating voters stands; if you love this year’s series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Homecoming, Lovecraft Country or The Umbrella Academy, DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT nominate individual episodes, nominate the whole series. That’s what the Long Form Category was created to honor in the first place. 

THE LODESTAR AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK

No one has EVER explained to my complete and utter satisfaction as to why this cannot be a Hugo Award category.

NO. ONE.

I hope it happens one day. Soon.

In the meantime, CONGRATULATIONS to Naomi Kritzer for her winning book, Catfishing on CatNet. Well Done! 

THIS award should be either a Hugo Award category OR renamed to honor the works and memory of  Ursula K. Le Guin. At this point, either would suit me just fine. Just Sayin’…

Pixel Scroll 8/4/20 Authors Pull Flashing Swords From
Story Stones

(1) SHATNER’S NOT SHOCKED. Ross A. Lincoln, “In Case You Were Wondering, William Shatner Knows Exactly What ‘Star Trek’ Slash Fiction Is” in The Wrap, says that someone thought she was blocked from Shat’s Twitter feed for making “Spirk”  (Spock/Kirk) slash fiction references, and Shat explained that he knew what slash fiction was, thought it hilarious, and noted that there are references to slash fiction in the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

(2) FINDING WOMEN HORROR WRITERS. “Weird Women:  The Forgotten Female Horror Writers of the 19th Century And Beyond” on CrimeReads is an excerpt from the introduction to a new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton (also called Weird Women, but with a different subtitle) of women who wrote supernatural fiction in the nineteenth century who the editors think are neglected and should be better known today.

…Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.

(3) INSURANCE FOR WRITERS. SFWA announcement:“Coalition of Eleven Book Industry Associations Launch Official Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP)”. Details at the link.

Today, a coalition of eleven book industry associations, including Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), launched the official Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP), an alliance with Lighthouse Insurance Group (LIG) Solutions designed to provide members from across the associations with a choice of health insurance options.

As of August 2020, official BIHIP coalition members include American Booksellers Association, American Society for Indexing, Authors Guild, Book Industry Study Group, Graphic Artists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, Novelists Inc., Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Inc., and Western Writers of America Inc….

(4) SECOND BLAST. The Dragon Awards website continues its Q&A with previous winners: “A Blast from the Past (Winners) – Part 2”.

So, your book comes out. At that time, what did you know about the Dragon Awards? Had you heard of them, and if so, how and what had you heard? How did you react when you found you were nominated?

Brian Niemeier: Oh, yes. I was well aware of the Dragon Awards from the day they were announced. The industry was in desperate need of a true readers’ choice award open to anyone, and I applauded the Dragons for meeting that need. Learning that Souldancer had been nominated confirmed that my writing efforts were worthwhile. It was like receiving the mandate of greater science fiction fandom.

Kevin Anderson: I’ve been aware of the Dragon Awards since the beginning, and I was thrilled as a fan and professional to know there was one award big enough to truly exemplify the feelings of a large pool of readers and voters. I had been soured on other awards because of politics and in-fighting, but the Dragon Awards really reflective of what readers like. Sarah and I were very thrilled to find out Uncharted had landed on the ballot.

SM Stirling: I’d heard of them and thought they were a good idea; the other major awards had become dominated by small cliques of the like-minded, and we needed a broad-based fan award. I’ve been going to Dragon Con for many years now — it’s my favorite con, full of youthful energy and like sticking your finger into a light socket, but in a -good- way. I was delighted to be nominated; you’re always in good company at the Dragons. Didn’t expect to win, though.

(5) TECH WRECK. Tim Maughan is interviewed by Brian Merchant in “The Man Whose Science Fiction Keeps Turning Into Our Shitty Cyberpunk Reality” on Medium.

.. Tim Maughan: I talk about surveillance to people who don’t think about surveillance all the time like I do and you do…And you walk in the house and they’ve got an Alexa. And you say, “I don’t like the Alexa because it’s a surveillance machine.” And they say to you, “Well, I haven’t got anything to hide. I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not a problem to me. It doesn’t matter if they’re listening to me. I’ve got nothing to hide.”

And it’s like, actually, the reason I dislike it isn’t the fact that I’m worried they might be listening to me now — it’s monitoring my behavior, and that’s what I’m worried about. I don’t care if it overhears what I say, or an algorithm is listening to it or even someone in an offshore call center. Even if they’re listening to it, that privacy thing isn’t what worries me. The issue that worries me is that they’re modeling my behavior, and they’re making judgments based on that, which might not be the right judgments for everybody. And they’re using that model to make decisions about people who aren’t even their users, too, or they’re using it to make decisions about their users.

It becomes a thing about like, well, okay, what information can we collect from Alexas about a neighborhood or just their Amazon use? What decisions can Amazon make geographically in physical spaces? This neighborhood in South Brooklyn, I used to live in, East Flatbush, it’s gentrified. And I’m sure Amazon can pull up a map of where all the Alexas are, where all their Amazon Prime accounts are and go, “Well, this is a neighborhood which is increasingly likely to be gentrified” — aka, more whites.

Tech workers are moving into the neighborhood. What can we do in that neighborhood for them? And suddenly you’re changing the nature of the neighborhood. …

(6) WOLFE TICKETS. At ReReading Wolfe, “Jack Dann talks about Gene Wolfe’s influence on the genre and his own Renaissance Man career”.

Jack Dann discusses Wolfe’s influence, on the writing process, on the New Wave, and on how he got his start.

(7) SOCIOLOGY OR ARCHEOLOGY? In case you haven’t heard enough about fandom in the Seventies this week… Hey, where did everybody go? James Davis Nicoll forwarded this link to Albert I. Berger’s paper “Science-Fiction Fans in Socio-Economic Perspective: Factors in the Social Consciousness of a Genre” in Science Fiction Studies (Nov. 1977), which analyzes the responses to 3,000 questionnaires distributed at the 1973 Worldcon in Toronto.

Since 1948, several different studies have been made of the demographic characteristics of science-fiction readers, most by the editors of the commercial science-fiction magazines seeking to determine the characteristics of their own readerships. The results of these, along with data collected at two recent science-fiction conventions, have been admirably collected and summarized by Charles Waugh, Carol-Lynn Waugh, and Edwin F. Libby of the University of Maine at Augusta, whose work this paper used throughout for purposes of comparison.2 This study, conducted at the 31st World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto, September, 1973, is offered against the historical perspective of these earlier studies. As the Waughs and Libby discovered, there are difficulties in applying the findings of this survey to the entire science-fiction audience, since it is impossible to know exactly in what ways, if any, people at a convention differ from those who did not attend. Certainly science-fiction fans themselves are divided into groups, with some, notably those primarily interested in film and television SF, and members of the cult following of the series Star Trek, under-represented at this convention (see tables 20 and 21 below). However, the numbers of people responding to the questionnaire, and the diversity of their involvement in science fiction beyond attendance at the convention, suggests that the picture of fans irelatively reliable for readers of science fiction as a whole and, if qualified for the greater affluence of those who could afford to travel to Toronto, is at least as reliable as such commonly accepted-with-qualifications measurements as the Gallup polls….

(8) COPYEDITING, THE GAME. The New Yorker signal boosts “Stet!, the Hot New Language Game”.

… Nitpickers by profession, we ran into a problem right away. The instructions for Stet! suggest that you “play with three or more players” (is that redundant?), and we had been unable, during the pandemic, to scare up a third nerd. The game of Stet! comprises two packs of cards with sentences on them, fifty of them Grammar cards with indisputable errors (dangling modifiers, stinking apostrophes, and homonyms, like horde/hoard and reign/rein) and fifty of them Style cards, on which the sentences are correct but pedestrian, and the object is to improve the sentence without rewriting it. There are trick cards with no mistakes on them. You might suspect that there is something wrong with (spoiler alert) “Jackson Pollock” or “asafetida” or “farmers market,” but these are red herrings. If you believe that the sentence is perfect just as it is, you shout “Stet!,” the proofreading term for “leave it alone” (from the Latin for “let it stand”), which is used by copy editors to protect an author’s prose and by authors to protect their prose from copy editors.

(9) PLAY NICELY. BBC says “Sony’s Spider-Man exclusive sparks backlash”.

The upcoming Marvel Avengers game has sparked a backlash after it was revealed that Spider-Man will only be in the PlayStation version.

Its developer said the web-slinger will be available as downloadable content (DLC) next year on one platform only.

The game will be released on 4 September across several platforms including PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Fans have suggested the move will see many players missing out on the game’s full experience.

Sony has owned the rights to Spider-Man since 1999.

However, the superhero has appeared in games on multiple consoles and PC over the years, including games based on The Amazing Spider-Man film and its 2014 sequel.

But one recent game, simply entitled Spider-Man, was a critically-acclaimed PlayStation 4 exclusive title.

Numerous fans shared their outrage on social media following the surprise announcement on Monday.

(10) MAY SETTLE IN SHIPPING. “Sales Of ‘Settlers Of Catan’ Skyrocket During Coronavirus Crisis”NPR demonstrates, and interviews the creator.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In the pandemic, board games are back. And as NPR’s Rob Schmitz reports, many people are turning to a classic one from Germany.

(SOUNDBITE OF DICE ROLLING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Eight.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Eight again. More brick.

Family game night – we’ve done this a lot this year, thanks to the pandemic. And my family has dusted off Monopoly, Scrabble, but we usually settle on “Settlers Of Catan.”

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Two bricks for anything.

SCHMITZ: It’s a game of trade and development. Players compete for resources on an island and trade with each other in order to build settlements, cities and roads. The most successful developer wins.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Why in the world would I need brick?

SCHMITZ: Entrepreneurs love the game. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a fan, as is LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who plays the game in job interviews as a way to size up an applicant. In its 25th year, “Catan” has sold more than 32 million units. It’s one of the bestselling board games of all time.

…SCHMITZ: [Klaus] Teuber spoke with me over an old computer, and his voice sounded distant, so we asked one of our colleagues to read for him. He’s 68 now, and he’s just released his autobiography “My Way To Catan” to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the game. Teuber was a dental technician, bored out of his mind by his job when he began creating games in his basement in the 1980s.

…SCHMITZ: And as families shelter in place, sales of “Catan” continue to climb. As the pandemic sent the global economy into a downward spiral, “Catan’s” sales skyrocketed by 144% for the first five months of this year. Teuber, whose two sons work for his company Catan Inc., says he still plays the game with his family, but he admits he’s not very good at it and that he rarely wins. He says what he enjoys most is playing it and being there with his family, something millions of other families are enjoying, too.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 4, 1992  — In the United Kingdom, The Lost World premiered. This is the third film made off the Doyle novel, the first being made in 1925. Another film would be made between these two in 1960, and four radio dramas would be as well. The 1944 one would have John Dickson Carr narrating and playing all parts, and the 1966 one would have Basil Rathbone as Professor Challenger. This film was directed by Timothy Bond and produced by Harry Alan Towers from a screenplay by Marion Fairfax. The primary cast was John Rhys-Davies, Eric McCormack, David Warner and Tamara Gorski whole character replaced that of Lord Roxton. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a twelve percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 4, 1792 – Percy Shelley.  This great poet wrote in our sphere, e.g. AdonaisPrometheus UnboundThe Triumph of Life, the novel St. Irvyne.  What about “Ozymandias”?  David Bratman, what’s this I hear about “The Marriage of King Elessar and Arwen Undómiel” appearing over his name in a Sep 82 issue of The New Tolkien Review?  I can’t get at it or I’d look instead of asking you.  (Died 1822) [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1869 – Evelyn Sharp.  For us a score of short stories, mostly collected in All the Way to Fairyland and The Other Side of the Sun; one novel (a dozen more of those).  At that time there were both suffragettes and suffragists; she was vital.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1924 – Gumarcindo Rocha Dorea, 96.  Brazilian writer, editor, publisher.  His GRD Edições alternated translations with work by local writers, beginning in 1958 with Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet and in 1960 Eles herdarão a Terra (Portuguese, “They shall inherit the Earth”) by Dinah Silveira de Queiroz.  Edited Antologia brasileira de ficção cientifica (1961), first local anthology of only Brazilian authors.  His enterprise continued despite Brazilian politics and what Roberto de Sousa Causo calls a terminal inability to make money.  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1933 – Thé Tjong-Khing, 87.  There are nine and sixty ways of transliterating Chinese these days, and every single one of them is right.  He’s an Indonesian Chinese from Java living in the Netherlands.  Illustrator.  Likes Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Stan Drake’s Heart of Juliet Jones, Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates.  He’s worked in that style, but see hereherehere – a thumbnailsworth of a long productive career.  Three Golden Brush prizes, Woutertje Pieterse prize, Max Velthuijs prize.  Website here (in Dutch).  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1937 David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is ‘a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.’ I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is.) (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born August 4, 1941 Martin Jarvis, 79. He makes three appearances on Doctor Who over twenty years. Hilio, captain of Menoptra, in “The Web Planet”, a First Doctor story.  He later is the scientist Dr. Butler in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”, a Third Doctor story, and as the governor of the planet Varos in “Vengeance on Varos”, a Sixth Doctor story. He also voiced Alfred Pennyworth in the animated Batman: Assault on Arkham Adylum which is the real Suicide Squad film. (CE)
  • Born August 4, 1950 Steve Senn, 70. Here because of his Spacebread duology, Spacebread and Born of Flame. Spacebread being a large white cat known throughout the galaxy as an adventuress and a rogue. He’s also written the comic novels, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol and Loonie Louie Meets the Space Fungus. (CE) 
  • Born August 4 – Taras Wolansky.  Persevering contributor to AboriginalAlexiadFOSFAXThe MT VoidNY Review of SFSF ChronicleScience Fiction & Fantasy Book ReviewSF Review.  Good at asking questions, like “If he had been, would he have done anything differently?” Never mind that I’d leave off the last two letters.  We’ve met in person, which is more than I can say for some people I know.  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1961 Lauren Tom, 59. Voice actress for our purposes. She shows up on Superman: The Animated Series voicing Angela Chen. From there on, she was Dana Tan in Batman Beyond and several minor roles on Pinky and the BrainFuturama is her biggest series to date where she voices Amy and Inez Wong. (CE)
  • Born August 4, 1969 Fenella Woolgar, 51. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Her only other genre was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. (CE) 
  • Born August 4, 1961 – Andreas Findig.  It’s possible to be a Perry Rhodan author and an absurdist; he was.  Six PR novels; two short stories and a novella Gödel geht tr. as “Gödel’s Exit” which may be impossible.  (Died 2018)  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1981 Meghan, the former Duchess of Sussex, 39. Yes, she’s done a genre performance or so. To be precise, she showed up on Fringe in the first two episodes of the second season (“A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects” as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup. She was also in the  “First Knight” episode of Knight Rider as Annie Ortiz, and Natasha in “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” on Century City, a series you likely never heard of. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater finds working at home can be inconvenient.
  • Lio helps prepare for the zombie apocalypse.

(14) OH MY GOD, YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. In the new episode of Two Chairs Talking, “Translations, transforms and traumas”, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss discuss ConNZealand and the 2020 Hugo Awards, then take the Hugo Time Machine back to the very interesting year of 1963, when The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick won Best Novel, and “The Dragon Masters” by Jack Vance won Best Short Fiction.

(15) KEEPING SCORE. Lyndsey Parker, in the Yahoo! Music story “‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’ composer Danny Elfman assumed he’d never work in Hollywood again: ‘I thought the score would get thrown out'”, looks at how Danny Elfman began writing film scores 35 years ago with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and discusses how Elfman got into film music responding to a challenge from his brother and then explains why he is Tim Burton’s preferred choice for writing scores.

…Elfman’s Pee-wee score, with its goofy oompah riffs, Looney Tunes references, and frenetic pacing, was a wild and whimsical ride; created with Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek, it became one of the most instantly recognizable scores in ‘80s cinema. Elfman acknowledges that he quickly became the movie and TV industry’s go-to “quirky comedy guy” — for instance, Matt Groening later enlisted him to compose the Simpsons theme song. It was a label that was tough for Elfman to shed when he was hired by skeptical producers to compose an uncharacteristically darker-sounding score for Burton’s Batman, four years after Pee-wee. But it turns out the most skeptical person in Hollywood was Elfman himself.

(16) TUBULAR, MAN! See “The Roman Empire’s Roads In Transit Map Form”.

Unless you’re a historian or map buff, interpreting a map of the Roman Empire can be a daunting exercise. Place names are unfamiliar and roads meander across the landscape making it difficult to see the connections between specific cities and towns.

Today’s visualization, by Sasha Trubetskoy, has mashed-up two enduring obsessions – transit maps and Ancient Rome – to help us understand the connection between Rome and its sprawling empire.

At the height of the Roman Empire, there were approximately 250,000 miles (400,000 km) of roads, stretching from Northern England to Egypt and beyond. This impressive network is what allowed Rome to exercise control and communicate effectively over such a large territory….

(17) I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Louise McCreesh, in “Game of Thrones’s George RR Martin Accused of Making Racially and Sexually Insensitive Comments At Awards Show” on Digital Spy would only be interesting because she includes the words “in a post on File 770” and links to F770 which is the first time I have ever seen this on a random item in the Yahoo! news feed.

(18) THEY MADE A LITTLE MISTAKE. Meanwhile, Hampus Eckerman emailed to tell me, “You got promoted!” when he saw this passage in io9’s article “George R.R. Martin Responds to Accusations of Hugo Awards Racism, Apologizes for Mispronouncing Names”. (Their link for “the comment section” is to File 770.)

…In response to the criticisms of his hosting—a number of people have described it overall as racist—Martin took to the comment section of the Hugos’ official website to comment rather than his often used personal blog.

Wow. I thought io9 writers were supposed to know fandom better than that.

(19) NOW ON A MOON OF SATURN. Mad Genius Club has revamped its site design. Looks good! Or maybe I’m just a sucker for sky blue at the top of a page….

(20) SPACE CAMP SAVED. With large donations from several companies—as well as many individual donations—the USS&RC has achieved its minimum $1.5 million goal. WAFF 48 reports “New donation pushes US Space & Rocket Center past fundraising goal”.

 A $250,000 donation from Science Applications International Corporation has pushed the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s “Save Space Camp” campaign over its initial goal just one week after the effort launched.

The campaign began July 28 with the hope of raising a minimum of $1.5 million to sustain museum operations and to be able to reopen Space Camp in April 2021.

…The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the Rocket Center, which closed March 13, 2020, in keeping with state health orders intended to combat the surge in coronavirus cases. The museum reopened in late May, but with far fewer than normal visitors. Space Camp did not reopen until June 28, and then with only 20 percent of its usual attendance. With limited admission from international students and school groups this fall and winter, Space Camp will again close for weeklong camp programs in September.

The Space & Rocket Center is continuing to ask for support for the campaign. For more information and to make a donation, visit savespacecamp.com.

(21) EVERYBODY FIGHTS, NOBODY QUIPS! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Starship Troopers (ft. Casper Van Dien)” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the 1997 film “not at all based in the classic sci-fi novel” featuring soldiers whose bodies pulse “with the repulsive green goo they use to make Monster Energy” drinks.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/1/20 Scrollers Tick
In Vain

(1) WORLDCON ENDS: FILM AT ELEVEN. Watching CoNZealand’s Closing Ceremonies brought back a memory —

When Winnipeg started its bid for the 1994 Worldcon, chair John Mansfield had everybody on the committee fill out a questionnaire about their interests. On the last day of the convention he returned these forms to everyone saying, “Okay. Here’s your life back.”

At today’s Closing Ceremonies the gavel passed to DisCon III’s Bill Lawhorn and Colette H. Fozard.

(2) TABLE SERVICE. Camestros Felapton illustrates an aspect of the 2020 Hugo Award nomination process in “EPH Fan Writer”.

… As each person is eliminated, the points get redistributed. By looking at the change in points for each surviving nominee, you can calculate the proportion of points that the survivor gets from the eliminated.

(3) THE PAST THROUGH TOMORROW. There are several good rundowns on the problems with last night’s Hugo Awards ceremony, including this one from Sean Reads Sci-Fi, “Uh-Oh, the Hugos Were a Hot Mess!”, which includes some good excerpts from the acceptance speeches.

…Some of the history was admittedly interesting, but I kept waiting for Martin to catch up to the present day, to illustrate how the long arc of the Hugos has bent toward justice, how the field continues to evolve to this day. He never did. He stayed rooted firmly in the past, and as the night wore on his stubborn refusal to acknowledge current movements in SF/F began to feel pointedly exclusionary rather than just incidentally so.

And I haven’t even mentioned the names! To mispronounce someone’s name live is one thing. As a teacher, I can attest to the fact that you will occasionally get someone’s name wrong on the first day. But (a) they had plenty of time to practice, (b) they almost certainly were given pronunciation guides by most authors, and (c) this doesn’t excuse the constant mispronunciations during pre-recoded segments, unless, of course, Martin refused to re-record them, which is its own set of problems. The folks behind the scenes should have done more to vet these segments, and should have pushed back harder when it became clear what Martin was doing.

What’s fascinating to me, though, is how the awards themselves drew such a sharp contrast to the nostalgic navel-gazing of the toastmaster. It really felt like the past and the future colliding – and the future won. Literally! The winners often talked about systemic problems within the industry, about the fights that we still have to fight, about the hard work that women, people of color, queer folks, and others have to do in order to even be considered alongside the white/cis/het fuddy-duddies running last night’s show. It was such a welcome breath of fresh air, for instance, when R.F. Kuang, one of the first winners, emphasized the barriers that she faced getting into the field:

If I were talking to a new writer coming to the genre in 2020, I would tell them, well, if you are an author of color, you will very likely be paid only a fraction of the advance that white writers are getting. You will be pigeon-holed, you will be miscategorized, you will be lumped in with other authors of color whose work doesn’t remotely resemble yours. Chances are very high that you will be sexually harassed at conventions or the target of racist micro-aggressions or very often just overt racism. People will mispronounce your name, repeatedly, and in public, even people who are on your publishing team. Your cover art will be racist, and the way people talk about you and your literature will be tied to identity and your personal trauma instead of the stories you are actually trying to tell. If I had known all of that when I went into the industry, I don’t know if I would have done it, so I think that the best way we can celebrate new writers is to make this industry more welcoming for everyone.

R.F. KUANG, ASTOUNDING AWARD FOR THE BEST NEW SF WRITER

This was refreshing precisely because it’s an aspect of the history of the awards and of the fandom in general that George R.R. Martin, in his endless panegyrics to days gone by, refused to even acknowledge. Pointing out the deep-rooted, structural, and personal racism and sexism at the heart of the industry isn’t a sign of ingratitude – it’s a sign of strength and resolve in the face of tough barriers. As Ng put it in her speech:

Pulling down memorials to dead racists is not the erasing of history, it is how we make history … It would be irresponsible for me to stand here and congratulate us as a community without reminding us that the fight isn’t over and that it extends well beyond the pages of our books … Let us be better than the legacies that have been left us. Let them not be prophecies. Let there be a revolution in our time.

JEANNETTE NG, BEST RELATED WORK

That revolution was in strong form last night, as most winners took the time to celebrate marginalized voices and denounce the forces that marginalized them in the first place. I keep coming back to Martine’s speech, as well – to the knife that hurts all the more because you loved it before it cut you. A trenchant description of an industry and a genre that many loved but were excluded from for so long. That is, thankfully, changing. Not fast enough to prevent last night’s debacle – but fast enough to allow for last night’s inspiring wins

(4) GRRM RESPONSE. George R.R. Martin has commented here on File 770 about some of the reports and criticisms in circulation, beginning with – http://file770.com/2020-hugo-awards/comment-page-2/#comment-1205393

Whoever is circulating the story that I was asked to re-record portions of my Hugo hosting to correct mispronounced names, and that I refused, is (1) mistaken, or (2) lying. Never happened.

CoNZealand did ask me to re-record three of my videos, all for reasons for quality control: poor lighting, poor sound, wobbly camera. I complied with their request on two of the videos, the two that opened the evening; I re-did those live from the JCC. (The originals had been done in my cabin on an iPhone, when we were just trying to get the hang of this thing). The third segment they wanted re-recorded was the bit about the Hugo trophy, where I had some fun with the juicer, the Alfie, and the like. In that case, we decided to stay with the first take, since I no longer had the props on hand and could not easily have reproduced what I’d done at the cabin, which everyone seemed to like.

There is also a story out there that I was provided with the correct phonetic pronunciations of all the names. That too is completely untrue….

(5) YOUR NEW HUGO LOSERS HOSTS. Who wouldn’t sign up for that?

(6) GROWING PAINS. Scott Edelman stirred up some memories that were called out by his sister-in-law in service of an anti-Vietnam War protest.

(7) LEM STORY DRAMATIZED. “Review: A Sci-Fi Classic Featuring a Multiverse of Stooges” comes recommended by a New York Times reviewer.

…You wouldn’t think that the 4-foot-wide by 8-foot-tall space, approximately the same shape as an iPhone screen, would be big enough for a play, let alone an avant-garde company. Yet the closet, only 2 feet deep, is one of the stars of Gelb’s Theater in Quarantine series, which since late March has produced, on a biweekly schedule, some of the new medium’s most imaginative work from some of its simplest materials. As in silent movies, clowning, movement and mime are usually part of the mix.

“The 7th Voyage of Egon Tichy,” which was livestreamed on Thursday evening and will remain available in perpetuity on Gelb’s YouTube channel, has all of those and then some. Based on a 1957 story by Stanislaw Lem, the Polish science fiction writer most famous for “Solaris,” it concerns an astronaut named Egon who, passing through a minefield of gravitational vortexes, is caught in a causal loop paradox that bombards him with innumerable (and insufferable) alternative selves.

Lem’s story is a satire of the infinite human capacity for self-defeat, with the various Egon incarnations bickering and undermining one another as the gyrations of space-time bend them into conflict. When “a meteor no bigger than a pea” pierces the ship’s hull, destroying the rudder, everyone has ideas about fixing it — but since it’s a two-man job, making cooperation essential, nothing actually gets done.

(8) HEARING A DISCOURAGING WORD. Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich asks “Why are all these science-fiction shows so awful?”

Science fiction was once a niche TV commodity, but March brought three major live-action genre projects. Star Trek: Picard finished its debut season on CBS All Access. FX shared Devs with Hulu, pitching the miniseries as prestige bait for the chattering class. Season 3 of Westworld was HBO’s new hope for a buzzy, sexy-violent epic. And they were all terrible….

I get it: We are all scared of phones, and bots, and the Algorithm. Yet by demonizing technology, these projects oddly exonerate the people behind that technology. CEOs with tragic origin stories in Westworld or Devs are puppets for machines they can’t control. Higher-tech powers in Brave New World and “You May Also Like” control whole civilizations comprised of unaware humans.

(9) LIBRARIES TAKE HEAT IN CANADA. Publishers Weekly has the story:“Canadian Libraries Respond to ‘Globe and Mail’ Essay Attacking Public Libraries”.

[Intro] Editors Note: In a nearly 3,000 word opinion piece published on July 25 in ‘The Globe and Mail’ Kenneth Whyte, publisher of Toronto-based indie Sutherland House Books, pinned the troubles of Canada’s independent bookstores and publishers on the work of public libraries….

Publishers Weekly reprinted the Canadian Urban Libraries Council’s response:

It is otherwise hard to understand why public libraries are to blame when bookstores and libraries have coexisted harmoniously and supported each other for decades.

So what’s changed? While there are a lot of changes that point to shifts in the marketplace, such as the research identifying a decline in leisure reading, coupled with less and less space for literary reviews in major news outlets, these are minor compared to the two major developments that have dramatically altered the book and reading landscape—and they have nothing to do with public libraries. First is the explosive growth in popularity of e-books and digital audiobooks. Second, is the increasing dominance of Amazon in the book retail and publishing marketplace.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 1, 1986Howard The Duck premiered. Directed by Water Huyck and produced by Gloria Katz who were also the screenplay writers.  George Lucas was executive producer. Its human stars were Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones and Tim Robbins. Howard The Duck was Ed Gale in the suit with the voice being Chip Zien. Critics almost unanimously hated it, it bombed at the box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 38% rating. It would be the last Marvel Film until Captain American twenty-one years later. (CE)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 1, 1819 – Herman Melville.  Without debating – though some do – how far Moby-Dick is fantasy, we can claim some more clearly – hmm, maybe not the best word with this writer – anyway, “Bartleby”, “The Tartarus of Maids”, “The Encantadas”, let’s say nine or ten.  John Clute would include The Confidence-Man.  (Died 1891) [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1898 – William Ziff.  I mean Ziff Sr., though Ziff Jr. is noteworthy too.  The elder was the Ziff in Ziff-Davis Publishing, which took over Amazing from Hugo Gernsback, added Fantastic Adventures, comics with art director Jerry Siegel and e.g. John Buscema.  I happen to think this cover for Weird Adventures 10 is feminist – look how the man is fascinated while the woman with him knows they should fear – but then I think Glory Road is feminist, and how many see that?  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1910 Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May, 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available in digital form. (Died 1977.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1914 – Edd Cartier.  Oh, how great he was.  Eventually we put him on two Retrospective Hugo ballots.  We think of him as a comedian; true enough, but see this cover for Foundation and Empire.  Vince Di Fate knew; see his treatment of EC in Infinite Worlds.  World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.  (Died 2008)  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1923 Alan Yates. Though better known under the Carter Brown name where he wrote some one hundred and fifty mystery novels, I’m noting him here for Booty for a Babe, a Fifties mystery novel published under that name as it’s was set at a SF Convention. (Available from the Kindle store.) And as Paul Valdez, he wrote a baker’s dozen genre stories. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1930 Geoffrey Holder. Best-remembered for his performance as Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die but he’s also the narrator in Tim Burton’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. He was also Willie Shakespeare in Doctor Doolittle but it’s been so long since I saw the film that I can’t picture his character. And he was The Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland that had Richard Burton as The White Knight. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1945 – Yvonne Rousseau, 75.  Author, editor, critic, long-time fan.  Australian SF Review, 2nd Series with J. & R. Blackford, Foyster, Sussex, Webb.  Three short stories and a novelette.  Contributor to Banana WingsChungaFlagFoundationJourney PlanetThe Metaphysical Review, Riverside QuarterlySF CommentarySF Eye.  Fan Guest of Honour at ConFictionary, where the fire alarm went off and the hotel actually was on fire.  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1954 James Gleick, 66. Author of, among many other books, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, and he is one of us in that he writes genre reviews which are collected in Time Travel: A History. Among the works he’s reviewed are Le Guin’s “Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” and Heinlein ‘s “By His Bootstraps”.  (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1955 Annabel Jankel, 65. Director who was first  a music video director and then the co-creator and director of Max Headroom. She and her partner Rocky Morton first created and directed The Max Talking Headroom Show, a mix of interviews and music vids which aired on Channel 4 and HBO. Jankel and Morton would go on to direct Super Mario Bros. And they’re both responsible for the Max Headroom movie and series. (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1969 – Dirk Berger, 51.  Five dozen covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Sucker Punch.  Here is Empire Dreams.  Here is Nova 23.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1979 Jason Momoa, 41. I knew I’d seen him before he showed up as Aquaman in the DC film franchise and I was right as he was Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis for its entire run. He was also Khal Drogo in the first season of A Game of Thrones. And not surprisingly, he was the title character in Conan the Barbarian. (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1993 – Tomi Adeyemi, 27.  Children of Blood and BoneChildren of Virtue and Vengeance, both NY Times Best Sellers.  Norton Award, Waterstones Book Prize, Lodestar Award.  Parents thought she’d be better off if they didn’t teach her their native tongue (they’re Yoruba), so with an honors degree from Harvard she got a fellowship to study it in Brazil.  Website here.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur offers a suggestion on how to get started on that post-apocalyptic novel.

(13) BE PREPARED. A Public Service Announcement from the Dread Pirate Roberts channeling Inigo Montoya.

(14) ADVICE FOR SFF POETS. Veteran editor of Star*Line and Mobius: A Journal for Social Change “gives some surprising insights on submissions” in this interview conducted by Melane Stormm at SPECPO.

A must watch for any writer, but especially if you identify as female or if you’re feeling hesitant to submit your work someplace.

(15) ON BRADBURY’S SHELVES. The second installment of Phil Nichols’ Bradbury 100 podcast had dropped.

My guest is Jason Aukerman, Managing Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. The “Bradbury Center”, as it’s known for short, is the place where Ray’s working papers are held in archive, along with the contents of Ray’s personal library, and many of his professional and personal artefacts such as awards, videotapes and film prints.

(16) BALESTRIERI JOINS READ-A-THON. A Bradbury Read-A-Thon is planned as part of the author’s centenary celebration: “Iowan to join top authors, celebs in sci-fi ‘read-a-thon’” RadioIowa has the story.

A library curator at the University of Iowa will join “Star Trek” actor William Shatner and a list of other celebrities, authors and science fiction experts in a Ray Bradbury Read-a-thon next month. The event on August 22nd will mark what would have been the famed author’s 100th birthday.

Peter Balestrieri, curator of science fiction and popular culture collections at the UI Libraries, says he’s thrilled to be taking part.

“The Read-a-thon will be about 40 people reading segments of Ray Bradbury’s famous novel, ‘Fahrenheit 451,’” Balestrieri says. “All of the clips from all of the different readers will be put together into one seamless audio-visual book.”

Balestrieri will read a six-minute portion of the book as part of the roughly-four-hour event. Top sci-fi authors who will also read aloud include Neil Gaiman, Marjorie Liu and Steven Barnes, as well as former NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

(17) THAT’S NOT GOOD NEWS. “Nasa: Mars spacecraft is experiencing technical problems and has gone into hibernation, space agency says” at Yahoo! News.

Nasa‘s Mars spacecraft is experiencing technical problems and has sent itself into hibernation, the space agency has said.

The spacecraft was sent to space Thursday in a launch that had no technical problems – even despite an earthquake that struck just before liftoff, and a preparation period that came during the coronavirus outbreak. Shortly after it was launched, Nasa announced that it had received its first signal from the spacecraft.

But soon after it was in space and headed towards Mars, it became apparent that something had gone wrong with the craft. After that initial signal, mission controllers received more detailed telemetry or spacecraft data that showed there had been a problem.

The signal, which arrived on Thursday afternoon, showed that the spacecraft had entered a state known as “safe mode”. That shuts down all but its essential systems, until it receives new messages from ission control.

The hibernation state is intended to allow the spacecraft to protect itself in the case of unexpected conditions, and will be triggered when the onboard computer receives data that shows something is not as expected.

Nasa’s engineers think that the state was triggered because part of the spacecraft was colder than expected while it was still in Earth’s shadow. The spacecraft has now left that shadow and temperatures are now normal, Nasa said in an update.

Mission controllers will now conduct a “full health assessment”, the space agency said, and are “working to return the spacecraft to a nominal configuration for its journey to Mars”.

(18) TOLKIEN SAYS. At BookRiot: “28 J.R.R. Tolkien Quotes From His Books, Essays, And Letters”.

“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’” —The Fellowship of the Ring

(19) NAVIGATING ON VIRTUAL SEAS. Mlex reports  on the Cyberpunk Culture Con (July 9-10), with some commentary on other virtual cons (BaltiCon, ConZealand, Fantastikon): “Cyberpunk Culture Conference”.

…I want to report on the recent virtual con, the Cyberpunk Culture Conference (Jul 9-10, 2020), which managed to swim perfectly through the fantastic milieu of the future that has already become the past, and floated out from the wreckage on that frenzied ouroboros of possibility waves as easily as a swimmer takes to an inflated tire inner tube on a summer pond.

The conference sprang up around recent books published by Routledge, which are quite excellent, I should add…

(20) 3D. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Great article about racing and 3D printing — “3-D Printing, a Boon for Racers, Inches Closer for Carmakers” — in the New York Times. Here’s two key ‘graphs from the top:

The Belgian racing team Heli had an engine problem. Specifically, under race conditions, the manifold of the four-cylinder turbo diesel in its BMW 1-series exploded, bursting along an ultrasonically welded seam that held together the manifold’s two halves.

…In 2018 Heli took the problem to ZiggZagg, a Belgian company that fabricates parts using an HP 3-D printer. ZiggZagg made a digital scan of the two-piece manifold and after 10 hours had a digital blueprint for a stronger, lighter, one-piece manifold. In its first race with the new manifold, printed using what is known as PA 12 nylon, the part held up and Heli took third. That same manifold lasted until the car was retired earlier this year.

(21) THE DRAGON RETURNING – MAYBE. NPR reports “Astronauts Set To Return To Earth In First U.S. Splashdown In Decades”.

The two astronauts that blasted off in the first private space vehicle to take people to the International Space Station are about to return to Earth — by splashing down in the waters around Florida.

This will be the first planned splashdown for space travelers since 1975, although a Russian Soyuz capsule did have to do an emergency lake landing in 1976.

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley says that he and his crewmate Robert Behnken are prepared for the possibility of seasickness.

“Just like on an airliner, there are bags if you need them. And we’ll have those handy,” Hurley said in a press conference held on Friday, while on board the station. “And if that needs to happen, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that that’s happened in a space vehicle. It will be the first time in this particular vehicle, if we do.”

The astronauts will come home in the same SpaceX Dragon capsule that took them up on May 30. Their flight marked the first time people had been launched to orbit from U. S. soil since NASA retired its space shuttles in 2011.

The success of their trip in the SpaceX vehicle has been a major milestone for commercial space travel, and a vindication of NASA’s long-term plan to rely on space taxis for routine flights to and from the orbiting outpost—while the government agency focuses on developing vehicles for a return to the moon.

The current plan is for the Dragon “Endeavour” capsule to undock from the International Space Station on Saturday at 7:34 p.m. ET, with scheduled splashdown at 2:42 p.m. ET on Sunday. There are potential splashdown zones both in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. With a hurricane headed towards Florida, however, it’s unclear if the weather will cooperate with the plan.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Virtual Viewing:  Disney’s Cruise Line’s Tangled, The Musical” on YouTube is an hour-long musical, with three songs composed by Alan Menken, that was performed on Disney’s Cruise Line and is worth seeing for people who need a Disney musical fix.  (Hat tip to Mark Evanier.)

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

Pixel Scroll 7/29/20 It Appears To Be Some Sort Of Pixel Scroll

(1) RED HOT RETRO-HUGOS. The 1945 Retro-Hugos were presented at CoNZealand today – see the winners here.

The full voting stats are online, and Deputy Hugo Awards Administrator Nicholas Whyte also has done a quick analysis of the results.

(2) PETITIONS AND PUBLISHING. Seanan McGuire has a quite interesting series of tweets inspired by social media petitions flogging certain authors to produce their next book now, in which she tries to open readers’ eyes about the traditional publishing process. Thread starts here.

(3) ABOUT THE GUARDIAN’S “OPEN LETTER” COVERAGE. Chris Barkley posted his letter of complaint sent to The Guardian’s Reader Service about their article.

Hello,

I am writing to complain about Alison Flood’s article on the Saudi Arabian bid to hold the 2022 World Science Fiction Convention.

While Ms. Flood’s reporting was informative, it did lack ANY reaction directly from the current co-chairs of the current Worldcon in New Zealand (Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates) or any member of the Worldcon who could explain the function of the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Convention and how it relates to the multi-year bidding process works.

Nor had she any quotes or commentary from any other fans who could have offered additional information or insights about sf fandom.

It would be very much appreciated if she were to update this important story with more of these elements rather than the somewhat sensationalized version that was posted.

Chris M. Barkley
Cincinnati, Ohio
USA

I have worked in Worldcon Press Offices since 1983. In this day and age there is NO EXCUSE for sloppy reporting…

(4) TOASTMASTER WARMS UP THE AUDIENCE. George R.R. Martin previews the CoNZealand Hugo Ceremony in “Worldcon… Virtually” at Not A Blog.

…Anyway, here is how the Hugos are going to work…  I have already pre-recorded all of my opening remarks, introductions of the guest presenters (we will have several), amusing (one hopes) anecdotes and bits of history, discussions of each category, and readings of the names of the finalists (in the cases where I am presenting myself, rather than throwing the ball to a guest presenter).  ConNZealand has all those videos.  The rest of it will be live streamed from my theatre in Santa Fe, the Jean Cocteau, where a member of worldcon’s tech team will be helping me Zoom.   I will have the envelopes with the names of the winners sealed therein.  I may actually have a Hugo to wave about.

So the drill will go like this: for each category, you will get a pre-recorded video of me as a lead-in.  Then I will either read the finalists, so throw it to another presenter who will do the same.  Most of their remarks are pre-recorded as well.  Then back to me, this time live at the JCC, where I will rip open the envelope and announce the winner.  Then we cut to the happy winner, somewhere in the world…  assuming they are in front of their computers and know how to Zoom and all.  (No, unlike the other major awards shows, we have no plans to show the fake smiles on the faces of the sad losers).  The happy winner will make an acceptance speech, long or short as may be, that is entirely up to them.  Then back to me… either live me at the JCC, or pre-recorded me for the next category.

And on and on, starting with the Lodestar and ending with Best Novel….

(5) CONZEALAND DAILY NEWZINE. Cruise Log has found a substitute for the Worldcon daily zine’s usual “warm body count” —

1400 people have logged into the CoNZealand discord server as of 09:00 Thursday morning!

(6) POCKET CHANGE FOR NEVERNEVERLAND. “New Peter Pan and Tinkerbell 50p coins launch – and they look magical” in the Mirror.

The new collection of Peter Pan British Isles 50p coins have been developed in partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital to celebrate 90 years since author, J.M. Barrie, gifted all future rights of the book to them.

The new set will be the first ever collection of its kind in the UK – but won’t be released by the Royal Mint and therefore won’t be entering circulation.

Prices start at £6.25, and for every coin sold, a donation will go directly to GOSH Charity to support the hospital’s most urgent needs: fund support services, pioneering research, equipment and refurbishment.

(7) DREAM FOUNDRY WRITING CONTEST. The Dream Foundry Writing Contest will be open for submissions from August 10 to October 11, 2020. Full guidelines here.

We’re looking for complete and finalized stories of speculative fiction of up to 10,000 words. This year, we’re proud to announce monetary prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places.

1st: $1000; 2nd: $500; 3rd: $200

There is no submission fee. All rights remain with the creators.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 29, 1953 — George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds premiered in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was directed by Byron Haskin from the screenplay by Barré Lyndon. It starred Gene Barry and Anne Robinson. It was narrated by Cedric Hardwicke. The film was both a critical and box office success earning back its budget in its first release. And it would win an Academy Award for Special Effects. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 71% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 29, 1876 Maria Ouspenskaya. In the Forties, she did a run of pulp films, to wit The Wolf ManFrankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and Tarzan and the Amazons. A decade or so earlier, she was in Beyond Tomorrow. (Died 1949.) (CE) 
  • Born July 29, 1878 – Don Marquis.  (name pronounced “mar-kwis”)  At The Sun, New York, a column “The Sun Dial” 1912-1922; at The Herald Tribune, “The Tower” (later “The Lantern”); three novels; plays, poems, essays, sketches.  Introduced, famously and of interest to us, a cockroach whose writings DM found in the typewriter next morning; the cockroach wrote by diving onto the keys, could not get capitals, and so is known as archy; in turn archy knew a cat, mehitabel; they, illustrated by George Herriman who meanwhile drew Krazy Kat, outcreated everything.  (Died 1937) [JH]
  • Born July 29, 1888 Farnsworth Wright. Editor of Weird Tales. editing an amazing 179 issues from November 1924–March 1940. Mike Ashley in EoSF says, “Wright developed WT from a relatively routine horror pulp magazine to create what has become a legend.”  His own genre fiction is generally considered undistinguished. He also edited during the Thirties, Oriental Stories and The Magic Carpet. The work available digitally is a poem, “After Two Nights of the Ear-ache”. (Died 1940.) (CE)
  • Born July 29, 1907 Melvin Belli. Sole genre role is that of Gorgan (also known as the “Friendly Angel”) in the Star Trek “And the Children Shall Lead” episode. Koenig objected to his playing this role believing the role should have gone to someone who was an actor. (Died 1996.) (CE) 
  • Born July 29, 1927 Jean E. Karl. She founded Atheneum Children’s Books, and she edited Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea sequence and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence. As an author, she wrote three genre novels, Strange Tomorrow Beloved Benjamin Is Waiting and But We Are Not of Earth, and a reasonable amount of short fiction, all of which is In the Clordian Sweep series. Nine of those stories are in The Turning Point collection. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born July 29, 1939 Curtis C. Smith, 81. Editor of Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, plus two genre biographies, Olaf Stapledon: A Bibliography with co-author Harvey J. Satty, and Welcome to the Revolution: The Literary Legacy of Mack Reynolds. Not active since the mid-Eighties as near as I can tell. (CE)
  • Born July 29, 1941 David Warner, 79. Being Lysander in that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was his first genre role. I’m going to do just highlights after that as he’s got far too extensive a genre history to list everything. So he’s been A Most Delightful Evil in Time Bandits, Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Ed Dillinger / Sark In Tron, Father in The Company of Wolves, Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Creature in Frankenstein, voice of Ra’s al Ghul on Batman: The Animated Series and Abraham Van Helsing on Penny Dreadful. (CE)
  • Born July 29, 1945 – Sharon Creech, 74.  First person to win both the Newbery & Carnegie Medals.  Three novels for us, many more (two, for adults, under another name).  Some verse, some prose.  “While teaching literature I learned so much about writing”; Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 29, 1948 – John Harris, 72.  Two hundred covers, as many interiors.  Two artbooks.  Chesley for Lifetime Achievement.  Commissions for NASA, Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Philips, Shell.  Here is Stand on Zanzibar.  Here is The Ringworld Throne.  Here is Ancillary Mercy.  Here is The Best of Gregory Benford.  [JH]
  • Born July 29, 1953 – David Lee Anderson, 67.  A score of covers, half that many interiors.  Lately Oklahoma landmarks and landscapes.  Here is the Oct 93 Tomorrow.  Here is A Glimpse of Splendor (collection).  Here is ISS Repairs (Int’l Space Station).  Here is Rioghain (“ree-ann”) from Afterwalker (D. Glaser dir.; in post-production as of Mar 2020).  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 29, 1956 – Chitra Divakaruni, Ph.D., 64.  Five novels for us; much more.  The Palace of Illusions, her re-telling of the Mahabharata from Drapaudi’s perspective, was an India best-seller for a year; here (Web archive) is an India Reads review whose author confesses having known the Mahabharata only from television.  American Book Award, Light of India Award, Pushcart Prize, Ginsberg Poetry Prize.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 29, 1969 – Forrest Aguirre, 51.  Two novels, five dozen shorter stories in ApexAsimov’sVasterien.  Edited two Leviathan anthologies (one with Jeff Vandermeer; World Fantasy Award).  Speaks Swahili.  Collections, The Butterfly ArtistFugue XXIX.  Ranks Thank You, Jeeves above Gorky Park (agreed).  Interview at SF Site here.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) POPULARITY CONTEST. Camestros Felapton produced a highly scientific graph that confirms “Martians are more popular than Venusians”.

…However, I realised that the Google n-gram site would provide a neat empirical confirmation of Mars bias in popular culture. I did a search on Martians and Venusians, choosing the inhabitants rather than the planets to avoid hits about astronomy or the gods….

(12) WHAT A CONCEPT. “You can now boot a Windows 95 PC inside Minecraft and play Doom on it” reports The Verge.

If you’ve ever wanted to build a real and working Windows 95 PC inside Minecraft, now is the time. A new VM Computers mod has been created for Minecraft that allows players to order computer parts from a satellite orbiting around a Minecraft world and build a computer that actually boots Windows 95 and a variety of other operating systems.

The mod uses VirtualBox, free and open-source virtual machine software, to run operating systems like Windows 95. Within Minecraft you simply place a PC case block and then use it to create virtual hard drives to install operating systems from ISO files….

(13) SMALL MONSTER STORY. NPR’s Jason Sheehan writes that the ~interstitial “‘Empire Of Wild’ Tells A Small Story — But Not A Slight One”.

I like a small book. I trust a small book. I appreciate a small book for all the things it doesn’t do, for all the stories it does not tell.

Big books? They’re dangerous in their excess. Bloated (often) with words they do not need and larded (often) with detail that no one asked for. You can slip into a big book and lose your way too easily. But a small book is intimate. Close. Every word it says matters. The writer of a small book knows that every page has to count.

Cherie Dimaline wrote a small book called Empire Of Wild. It isn’t small in pages (320, give or take) or in words (it has the normal amount), but it is tiny in consequence. In the scope and reach of the story it tells.

It is about Joan, who has lost her husband. And who means to get him back. That’s all. There are no worlds to be saved, no history to be altered. Joan’s actions, and the reverberations of those actions, are felt only close by. Her family, her community, the barrooms and living rooms and Walmart parking lots of the small towns around Georgian Bay, Ontario are the only places where her footsteps are felt. And that’s enough. That’s more than enough.

…Down in its bones, Empire Of Wild is a monster story. Mythic but not epic, swimming in Indigenous medicine, not magic. Calling it urban fantasy gives it a gloss it doesn’t possess. Magical realism implies something absurdist, asynchronous, and doesn’t speak to the way that the medicine of the Métis elders is woven into every breath and line.

Here, Dimaline uses the Métis legend of the rogarou to square her narrative architecture — to give weight and nightmares to Joan’s private hurt. The rogarou is the bogeyman that scares children home before it gets too dark outside. It makes Métis girls walk home in pairs. It keeps men from doing wrong by women, each other or the community. The rogarou is part man, part dog, a wolfman that makes itself through bad choices. And Joan believes in the rogarou because she’s seen one before. She knows the smell of one when it’s close — and with a cell phone, some salt bone, her aunt Ajean’s medicine and her chubby, mopey nephew Zeus by her side, she knows that she’s going to have to meet one, fight one, slay one to bring Victor back home.

(14) LANDSHIP TROOPERS? Yahoo! News reports “Marines to Test Exoskeleton Suit That Can Do the Work of Up to 10 Troops”. Includes a photo.

The Marine Corps is moving ahead with plans to test a wearable robotic exoskeleton that conjures up images of that power-loader suit Ellen Ripley wore to take down a space monster in the movie “Aliens.”

By the end of the year, the service will have a Guardian XO Alpha full-body robotic exoskeleton that allows one person to do the work of four to 10 people, depending on the task. The wearable suit can do hours of physical labor that would otherwise be impossible for a Marine to do alone, lifting and moving up to 200 pounds of gear repeatedly for eight hours straight.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. NPR declares,“Believe It Or Not, Forests Migrate — But Not Fast Enough For Climate Change”.

We’re all familiar with migration: Wildebeests gallop across Africa, Monarch butterflies flit across the Americas … but did you know that forests migrate, too?

In his new book The Journeys of Trees, science writer Zach St. George explores an agonizingly slow migration, as forests creep inch by inch to more hospitable places.

Individual trees, he writes, are rooted in one spot. But forests? Forests “are restless things.” As old trees die and new ones sprouts up, the forest is — ever so slightly — moving.

“The migration of a forest is just many trees sprouting in the same direction,” St. George writes. “Through the fossils that ancient forests left behind, scientists can track their movement over the eons. They shuffle back and forth across continents, sometimes following the same route more than once, like migrating birds or whales.”

(16) NOT SO FAR. We knew the smaller stones came from Wales, but now the BBC reports “Mystery of origin of Stonehenge megaliths solved”.

The origin of the giant sarsen stones at Stonehenge has finally been discovered with the help of a missing piece of the site which was returned after 60 years.

A test of the metre-long core was matched with a geochemical study of the standing megaliths.

Archaeologists pinpointed the source of the stones to an area 15 miles (25km) north of the site near Marlborough.

English Heritage’s Susan Greaney said the discovery was “a real thrill”.

The seven-metre tall sarsens, which weigh about 20 tonnes, form all fifteen stones of Stonehenge’s central horseshoe, the uprights and lintels of the outer circle, as well as outlying stones.

(17) PERSEVERING THROUGH THE PLAGUE. FastCompany tells how “Even amid COVID-19, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is ready for takeoff”.

…“Putting together a spacecraft to Mars and not making a mistake is hard no matter what,” said NASA deputy project manager Matt Wallace. “Trying to do it during the middle of a pandemic is a lot harder. Everyone told us we could not have come up with a better name than Perseverance.” (Wallace and others in this story spoke during or in videos presented at a virtual June press conference.)

Despite this seismic hurdle, the Mars 2020 rover is on track for a July 30 launch toward its seven-month, 314-million-mile journey to the Red Planet. Its two-year mission is to gather samples suggesting past microscopic life for subsequent retrieval and return to Earth, explore the 4-billion-year-old geology of the Jezero Crater landing site, and demonstrate technologies for future robotic and human exploration. The mission has cost $2.4 billion from development through launch, with another $300 million earmarked for operations and surface science.

(18) MOVING UP. “Airbus to build ‘first interplanetary cargo ship'”.

Airbus-France will build the huge satellite that brings the first Martian rock samples back to Earth.

This material will be drilled on the Red Planet by the US space agency’s next rover, Perseverance, before being blasted into orbit by a rocket.

It’ll be the Airbus satellite’s job to grab the packaged samples and then ship them home.

The joint American-European project is expected to cost billions and take just over a decade to implement.

But scientists say it’s probably the best way to confirm whether life has ever existed on the Red Planet.

Any evidence is likely to be controversial and will need the powerful analytical tools only found in Earth laboratories to convince the doubters, the researchers argue.

(19) SORRY CHARLY. No longer smart, these glasses soon will be mainly useful as paperweights: “Google offers refunds after smart glasses stop working”.

Smart glasses company North has told customers that their $600 (£460) purchases will stop working in a few days’ time.

The Canadian company, recently purchased by Google, says its Focals glasses will cease functioning on Friday.

From then, owners will not be able to use “any features” of the glasses, or connect to the companion app.

But the company has also said it will automatically refund all customers.

It promised to send the purchase price back to the original payment method, and to contact those customers whose refunds it could not process.

At the end of June, North announced it was being acquired by Google, and would not release a planned second-generation device.

It also said it would “wind down” its first generation smart glasses, released last year.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The YouTube algorithm says I should watch “The Secret Every Tolkien Nerd Knows” by Diana Glyer.  What do you think of the algorithm’s judgment?

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

Virtual Worldcon Kicks Off

CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, kicked off today as the first ever virtual Worldcon.

At the opening ceremony, New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, welcomed the participants: “I’m sorry I couldn’t welcome you here in person, though it seems in true sci-fi spirit, that this year’s convention will take place virtually, and I’m sure it will be a brilliant success.”

CoNZealand Toastmaster George R. R. Martin lamented not having the opportunity to make a grand entrance by bursting from a paper mache kiwi on a physical stage. He noted members were “Socially distant in our own castles but still as one, united by our love of fantasy and science fiction.”

Artist Guest of Honour, Greg Broadmore said, “I’m glad CoNZealand is doing this as it sets the stage for how some events will be held in the future.” 

CoNZealand was originally planned to be held in Wellington — an event 10 years in the making, from when the bid process began to bring Worldcon to New Zealand for the first time. Once the bid was successful in 2018, hundreds of volunteers got together to put on an unforgettable South Pacific experience, with thousands flocking from across the globe.

“When the global pandemic was declared in March 2020, we had to move quickly to transfer the convention online,” say CoNZealand Co-Chairs Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates.

“Certainly, going virtual cannot replicate the atmosphere of a physical event, but given how hard everyone worked to make this fun and engaging, we’re off to a very good start.”

CoNZealand will run for five days, with hundreds of online events spread across five online platforms, integrated for a seamless experience.

[Based on a press release.]