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.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/20 When There’s Evil On The Hat Rack, You Can Rest Knowing They Got Your Back

(1) AND INTRODUCING GUY FLEEGMAN. Looper chimes in about “Sci-fi shows ruined by terrible endings”. (Wait a minute – as far as I’m concerned ALF started out ruined!)

These sci-fi series are perfectly awful examples of this lamentable phenomenon. For some, the finale retcons fans’ understanding of everything the show did up until that point. For others, the finale serves as a sad reminder of what could have been, had the show been given another chance. Some leave dozens of loose ends dangling. Some attempt to wrap things up too neatly. Some are tonally inconsistent. All of them are disappointing — and all of them loom large in fans’ understanding of the show as a whole. We’re here to examine the worst finales in sci-fi television, no matter how much it makes us shudder. Spoiler warning: We’re going to reveal every last detail of these shows’ endings, in an effort to fully explain why they’re so darn detestable.

Here’s one of the shows they named:

Quantum Leap leaves Sam in limbo

… Despite its poor time slots, Quantum Leap’s blend of humor and social commentary garnered a fanbase. But due to declining viewership, it ended after five seasons. In the series finale, “Mirror Image,” we learn that Sam can return home if he chooses — but instead, he decides to go back in time and save his friend Al’s marriage. In doing so, Sam willingly makes it so he and Al never met, trapping himself in a paradox and giving up the life he so desperately wished to return to throughout the duration of the series. Sam’s fate is finally revealed in the show’s last frame: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” 

This ending changes the mood of the show entirely. Instead of being wacky misadventures, each episode is reframed as one man’s fruitless quest to return home. He will, apparently, just keep going through these motions… forever. That’s not just bleak — it’s horrifying.

(2) FLESHLESS THINGS. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick reports that a fellow NPR contributor’s “Pitch-Perfect ‘Mexican Gothic’ Ratchets Up The Dread”.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking novel. I want to discuss it around tea, preferably while in the mountains, preferably somewhere well-lit. I remember placing my bookmark in the book and thinking, I should not have read this before bed.

I was afraid of what I might dream.

Noémi’s cousin Catalina writes a strange letter begging for help. She claims her new husband Virgil Doyle is poisoning her, that “fleshless things” and ghosts trouble her, that “they will not let me go.” Noémi — self-assured, chic and stubborn — leaves the glamor of 1950s Mexico City for the countryside, still depressed after a mining bust and fecund with secrets, to determine whether Catalina needs rescue.

Reader, she does. The situation is more complicated and sinister than the initial fear of just a con artist husband isolating his new wife and convincing the world she’s mad so he can steal her money.

(3) REPRESENTATION IN GAMING. BBC follows as a “Trailblazing Muslim superhero goes gaming”.

“It’s the representation in gaming I’ve waited for my whole life.”

Marvel’s Avengers are assembling once again, not on the big screen, but for a blockbuster video game.

It features many of the superheroes you might expect, including Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America. But they are joined by a new addition: Kamala Khan.

The Muslim-American teenager of Pakistani heritage, who has shape-shifting abilities, is the latest character to adopt the Ms Marvel moniker.

When the game’s publisher Square Enix announced that Marvel Avengers would include Kamala Khan as one of its main playable characters and make her central to the plot, it garnered praise from both fans and industry insiders.

“I first heard of Ms Marvel from the comics a few years ago,” says Maria Afsar, a 25-year-old gamer.

“I immediately thought it was so cool when read her background was like mine, being Pakistani, Muslim and a girl.

“When I saw the announcement she is going to be in the game and one of the main characters, I just thought I’ve literally been waiting for something like this my whole life. I saw nothing like this when I was younger.”

(4) CONZEALAND INITIATIVE. The 2020 Worldcon boosted the signal for the “CoNZealand Chairs’ Colonised, Marginalised and Historically Underrepresented People Inclusion Initiative”.

The Chairs of CoNZealand are pleased to be able to offer a Membership upgrade initiative to support inclusion of colonised, marginalised and historically underrepresented people in at Worldcon.

With the pandemic affecting job security, the financial ability to participate in conventions and the fan community is becoming increasingly difficult for many fans. 

Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities. 

…The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. There Is no requirement for the supporting membership to be purchased before grantees are notified. 

Eligible members who are already fully paid, but would like some income relief are also invited to apply. 

In return, we ask that successful applicants willingly participate in our community. Whether that be through programme, art show, or volunteering is up to the individual and how they enjoy participating in this community. 

Applications can be made on this google form: https://forms.gle/4odYVgwvuvL8naLy5

Grantees will be chosen by the chairs. As long as there is a good plan for participation, we expect to grant applications. The grantees will be notified as soon as practical, and we will continue to announce grantees at least weekly as long as upgrades last.

Questions about this initiative can be mailed to inclusion@conzealand.nz.

(5) GLASS BELL. The winner of Goldsboro Books 2020 Glass Bell Award was not one of the genre works on the shortlist, but the tale of a fictional ’70s rock band, Daisy Jones and the Six.

(6) DOOMED. Here’s a promising subject – James Davis Nicoll lists “Five Doomed Armies in Science Fiction” at Tor.com.

…Armies sacrificed for no obvious purpose and meaningless wars are not entirely unknown in speculative fiction. Here are five examples from that golden age of such stories, the Vietnam War era, and its literary aftermath.

(7) LIBERTARIAN FUTURIST SOCIETY AT NASFIC AND WORLDCON. The LFS told members about their plans to participate in two of the summer’s virtual sff cons.

Their scheduled presence at the Columbus 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention will migrate online with the rest of the virtual con. There will be a back-to-back Prometheus Awards ceremony and Prometheus-Awards-themed panel discussion, free and widely available to watch live.

Novelist F. Paul Wilson, previously confirmed by NASFiC as their and LFS’ Prometheus Awards Guest of Honor, will participate in the awards ceremony by presenting the Best Novel category, which Wilson was the first author to win in 1979. Wilson also will be a panelist in a “Visions of SF, Liberty, Human Rights: The Prometheus Awards Over Four Decades, from F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Today”. So will Sarah Hoyt, the 2011 Prometheus Award Best Novel winner for Darkship Thieves, LFS co-founder Michael Grossberg and newspaper journalist Tom Jackson.

During CoNZeland’s virtual convention, LFS will put on a panel “Freedom in Science Fiction: Four Decades of the Prometheus Awards, From F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Ursula LeGuin, Vernor Vinge, Cory Doctorow, Neal Stephenson and Today.” Tom Jackson will moderate, joined by F. Paul Wilson and others to be announced. The Worldcon online program will initially be accessible that weekend for viewing only by registered Worldcon members.

(8) HISTORY OF SF. It’s Quilette, and if that doesn’t tell you what to expect, the first paragraph of “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” by Jordan Alexander Hill will make everything clear.

When mainstream authors like Eric Flint complain that the science fiction establishment, and its gatekeeper the Hugo Awards, has “drift[ed] away from the opinions and tastes of… mass audience[s],” prioritizing progressive messaging over plot development, the response from the Left is uniform: Science fiction is by its very nature progressive. It’s baked into the cake, they say. This is a superficially plausible claim. With its focus on the future, its embrace of the unfamiliar and other-worldly, and its openness to alternative ways of living, it is hard to see how the genre could be anything but progressive. In fact, studies indicate that interest in SF books and movies is strongly correlated with a Big Five personality trait called openness to experience, which psychologists say is highly predictive of liberal values.

But openness to experience also correlates with libertarianism and libertarian themes and ideas have exercised far greater influence than progressivism over SF since the genre’s inception. From conservatarian voices like Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Poul Anderson, and F. Paul Wilson to those of a more flexible classical liberal bent like Ray Bradbury, David Brin, Charles Stross, Ken McLeod, and Terry Pratchett, libertarian-leaning authors have had an outsized, lasting influence on the field. So much so that The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has deemed “Libertarian SF” its own stand alone “branch,” admitting that “many of libertarianism’s most influential texts have been by SF writers.”

…Although he began his career as a utopian socialist working for Upton Sinclair’s 1934 gubernatorial campaign, Heinlein underwent a political transformation and became known for the rest of his career as a libertarian “guru” of sorts. Scott Timberg at the LA Times describes him as a “nudist with a military-hardware fetish” who “dominated the pulps… and became the first science fictionist to land on the New York Times bestseller list.” A four-time Hugo Award winner, Heinlein is credited with helping to elevate SF from its ray-blaster and tentacled space-monster phase to a more serious, respectable prominence, penning such classics as Stranger in a Strange Land and, Milton Friedman’s favorite, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a book that reads like an anarcho-capitalist blueprint for revolutionary uprising. Friedman even named his 1975 public policy book after the novel’s slogan TANSTAAFL (“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”).

…Perhaps this is why so much of SF expresses itself as dystopian fiction, a genre which, by its very nature, cannot but take on a libertarian flavor. Totalitarianism, war, and wide-scale oppression is almost always carried out by state force. Liberation, accordingly, must come in the form of negative rights—that is, “freedom from”—and voluntarism: “[I]n writing your constitution,” Professor de la Paz instructs, “let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do.”

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

July 2 UFO Day. And “Has E.T. Gone Home?” asks Statista.

There is some controversy as to whether World UFO Day falls on June 26 or July 02 with people seemingly celebrating it on both days. The occasion is an awareness day for UFOs coinciding with the Roswell incident’s anniversary. It is getting increasingly popular as UFOs have been making headlines again lately, notably due to the “Storm Area 51” event which went viral last year. That’s on top of The New York Times running an interesting article about several U.S. Navy fighter pilots encountering mysterious objects near the southeastern coast of the United States. The high-profile story remains unexplained and so do plenty of other UFO sightings reported by members of the public every year like strange lights crossing the night sky or orange disks hovering in the distance.

The National UFO Reporting Center which is based in the U.S. maintains statistics about global UFO sightings. Notably, they are ticking up again….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 2, 1877 – Hermann Hesse.  You’ll expect me to celebrate The Glass Bead Game (also published as Magister Ludi), and I do, subtle, profound, satirical, moving, the first Nobel Prize SF novel, to my surprise and delight reaching the Retrospective Hugo ballot.  Other books of his in or near SF and more in line with the Hesse fad are SteppenwolfSiddharthaJourney to the East.  (Died 1962) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1908 Rip Van Ronkel. Screenwriter who won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Millenium Philcon for Destination Moon. He also produced the earlier Destination Space movie for television, andwrote the screenplay for The Bamboo Saucer. (Died 1965.) (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1914 – Hannes Bok.  Under this name (from Johann S. Bach) and in a short life he was one of our masters.  First Hugo for Best Cover Artist, shared with Emsh (Ed Emshwiller).  A hundred covers, his many monochromes maybe even better.  See how well he could work when he wanted to do without his famous weirdness (he turned down hundreds of commissions he didn’t want): Lest Darkness Fall; the Nolacon I Program Book (9th Worldcon); F & SF under Davidson (yes, I know those are covers).  Author too, novels, two dozen shorter stories, poems published posthumously as Spinner of Silver and Thistle.  See Petaja’s biography and flights of angels, and Ned Brooks’ index.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1935 – Doug Hoylman, Ph.D.  I hope I know when Our Gracious Host has done better than I can.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1946 – Arnie Katz, 74.  He’s done much.  Fundamentally a fanziner, he’s contributed to clubs and cons.  I might not be luxuriating in APA-L (alas, this Fancy 3 article has not caught up with Fred Patten) if AK hadn’t been a forerunner with APA-F.  He owes me a chicken dinner, but he’s quite fair about what I must do to collect.  Anyway, I pray for his prosperity.  And see here.  [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1948 – Larry Tucker.  How bodacious July 2nd has been for the birth of nearly unbelievable brothers (sisters too! it just happens I’ve come to another brother).  This Titan took fanzines to video  – took fanzines to video early on, while the tech was still truculentUncle Albert’s Video Fanzine (he had in mind this Uncle Albert; alas, I never asked if he also thought of, less directly or even less fairly, this one (but look who has the cigar).  LT co-founded the Ann Arbor SF Ass’n and the SF Oral History Ass’n; he didn’t start, but always inspired, the Stilyagi Air Corps and the well-named ConFusion.  The photo here is by Mark Olson; speaking of Leah Zeldes Smith (see no. 8 here), I’ve just recommended one of her stories.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1948 Saul Rubinek, 72. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, though he does show rather often on genre series and films including EurekaMasters of HorrorPerson of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship seem to be his only only genre films. His latest genre role is in For all Mankind as Rep. Charles Sandman in their “He Built the Saturn V“ episode. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1949 Craig Shaw Gardner, 71. Comic fantasy author whose work is, depending on your viewpoint, very good or very bad. For me, he’s always great.  I adore his Ballad of Wuntvor sequence and highly recommend all three novels, A Difficulty with DwarvesAn Excess of Enchantments and A Disagreement with Death. Likewise, his pun filled Arabian Nights sequence will either be to your liking or really not. I think it’s worth it just for Scheherazade’s Night Out. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1950 –Stephen R. Lawhead, 70. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two of the Bright Empires series which are also very much worth reading. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1956 Kay Kenyon, 64. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely as a listening experience a few years back. I’ve not read his Dark Talents series, so opinions please. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1962 – Laura Benedict, 58.  Nine novels, a few shorter stories; anthologies.  “You don’t look like a person who writes scary stories.  I hear those words often and it makes me laugh every time.”  She put them next to this photo for good reason.  Three anthologies (with Pinckney Benedict, who – never mind, it’s not his birthday notice) are called Surreal South, for good reason.  [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1970 Yancy Butler, 50. Detective Sara Pezzini on the  Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe answers a history quiz. Spectacularly wrongly.
  • Two Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(12) UMM, ROBOT LITMUS TEST? This line occurred recently in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson was trying to identify who on a bus might be a time-traveling robot from the future and he came out with this:

(13) THE MARCH OF FUR. Coming July 3, The Fandom is a feature length documentary about the furry community from its origins in sf and anime fandoms up to present day.

The Fandom explores the history of animation fans who brought anime to the western world in the 1970s, Disney animators who faced threats to their careers, sci-fi fans who started the first furry conventions, and why furries became early adopters of the 1980s internet. It contrasts that with the modern fandom covering how it became a haven for the LGBT community as well as a positive economic and artistic impact on major US cities.

The production earned praise from blogger Patch O’Furr: “The Fandom movie: Furry paws seize the media”.

…I keep an eye out for all media about furries, and often call the Furry 101 kind boring. The Fandom raises the bar by giving an intimate tour with quality and heart. It’s 95% positive celebration.

Documentaries can show more drama or criticism or bad sides than this really does. But how much negativity do you need in these times? Not to say that this documentary has no opinion — it’s strong advocacy.

(14) GRRMTM. George R.R. Martin told readers he’s working on his videos for the virtual Worldcon.

The toastmaster wears many hats at worldcon, but probably the single biggest part of the gig is hosting the Hugo Awards ceremony.   I am going to be doing that with a combination of live streaming and pre-recorded videos, which we will (I hope I pray) edit seamlessly together.   This week I have started recording some of those videos.   It has been fun, if a little surreal, to be reading off the names of this year’s Hugo finalists when voting has not actually started yet.   And trying to be amusing (one hopes) while talking into a camera without the feedback of laughter (or moans, boos, or soul-chilling silence) from an actual audience is challenging as well.   But so it goes.

…((And before anyone starts to panic, “oh my god he is making videos in place of writing,” OF COURSE I am still working on WINDS OF WINTER as well.   That really should go without saying, yet somehow I need to say it, or someone might make stupid assumptions.   I am also doing some editorial work on three new Wild Cards books, reading scripts and making notes on a couple of exciting Hollywood projects, texting with agents, editors, and friends about this and that, eating several meals a day, watching television, reading books, and from time to time using the toilet.   Just because I do not mention it in every Not A Blog does not mean it is not happening)).

(15) BE YOUR OWN CTHULHU. This bit of Lovecraftian solipsism has been making the rounds:

(16) ON HOLD. BBC reports “Perseverance launch pushed back again”.

The launch of Nasa’s Mars rover Perseverance has been pushed back again to 30 July at the earliest.

In an update, the US space agency said a technical issue needed to be investigated, prompting the delay.

The robot rover will search for signs of past life on the Red Planet and also carries a drone-like helicopter which will demonstrate powered flight in the Martian atmosphere.

It is scheduled to land in February 2021.

In its statement, Nasa said: “A liquid oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate.”

The mission’s original launch window extended from 17 July to 11 August.

But the rover will now get more time to launch.

“Flight analysis teams have expanded the mission launch opportunities to August 15 and are examining if the launch period may be extended further into August,” Nasa said.

(17) EXCERPT. SYFY Wire invites fans to “Read An Excerpt Of Sam Maggs’ Debut, Con Quest!”

Sam Maggs is no stranger to SYFY FANGRRLS. She’s got her hands in some of our absolute favorite properties of all time, from Spider-Man to Star Trek, and we’re so thankful she’s there to represent our, well, fangirling. But now, Maggs is back with something brand new on her plate: original fiction! Her debut novel Con Quest! came out just last week. 

Con Quest! is a comics convention adventure for young readers about fandom, family, and finding your place in the world!

Cat and Alex are excited to be at the world’s most popular comics convention — and they’re even more excited to compete in the Quest, a huge scavenger hunt run by their favorite nerdy celebrity. The big prize: a chance to meet him!

(18) REALLY FAUX GAIMAN. “Neil Gaiman–Bad Gaiman Challenge–Wits” on YouTube is an excerpt from a 2014 episode of the public radio show Wits where Gaiman read the winners of the show’s “Bad Gaiman challenge.”

We asked you guys to submit their worst versions of a Neil Gaiman-style short story. Hundreds responded to the call. Here, read by Neil Gaiman himself, are the worst of the worst.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, in that spirit…

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

George is also preparing to participate in the virtual Worldcon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I guess that’s frank enough!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant recipient Avi Loeb of Harvard is quoted as saying:

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

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

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

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

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

What will the rover do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/20/20 Let The Filed Rumpus Begin

(1) ARISIA’S LATEST REFORMS. Boston’s Arisia conrunning group is taking steps to create “A More Welcoming Arisia”. The post begins:

Black Lives Matter. While we don’t have a time machine to prevent the injustices of the past, we certainly have the power and the duty to correct present injustices and prevent future injustices in the spaces we are responsible for creating. Actions speak louder than words, and we are determined that our actions will reflect our resolve to make Arisia a more diverse, more welcoming space.

Changes have been made to the Arisia Code of Conduct:

  • We have replaced some language that has been weaponized against BIPoC or used to police their behavior. In particular, we strive to avoid coded words like “intimidating” and “civilized”. We can and will continue to clarify our expectations of Arisia attendees, but we will do it in ways that do not alienate fans of color.
  • We have added “display of hateful iconography” to the list of behavior the Code of Conduct explicitly forbids, with reference to the iconography listed on the SPLC and ADL websites.
  • In light of our knowledge of endemic police racism and brutality in interactions with BIPoC, we have removed suggestions that Arisia would involve the police, either reactively in response to prohibited behavior, or proactively by encouraging a police presence. In the past, we have sometimes paid for Boston Police Department details during the convention, but we commit to ending this practice.
  • We have clarified the protected classes, including race, to which our harassment policy pertains.

They have retired the “Lens” logo.

This artwork too closely resembles a modern police badge, which has become a symbol of oppression.

It is being replaced with Lee Moyer’s winged-A logo designed for Arisia 2017.

They have formed an Anti-Racism Committee “dedicated to educating ourselves about the injustices suffered by BIPoC and how to become actively anti-racist.” They also are “re-committing to supporting the convention’s Diversity Committee, which exists to make the Arisia convention a safer, more welcoming space for fans of color.”

(2) PROGRESS REPORT. Good news from DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis: “We have achieved a proper glass door! Now we even look open. Noon-6, Monday-Saturday.”

And on June 17, publisher Catherine Lundoff spoke at DreamHaven Books about owning and operating a small press. The title of the the talk was “The Return of Running a Small Press: It’s an Adventure” and it also featured a live Q&A on Facebook.

(3) FREE READS FROM SOMTOW. Somtow Sucharitkul is giving away three free ebooks on Amazon THIS WEEKEND ONLY — from now till 23:59 Sunday night.

Somtow in a mask.

The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter • A book for young adults, this was a Junior Literary Guild selection as well as a Science Fiction Book Club selection. It’s about a half Jewish, half Lakota boy with some cultural identity issues who befriends a girl in school whose problem leaves his in the dust: she’s half human and half vampire. And she has to pick a side before she turns sixteen.…

Light on the Sound • the first volume of a series set in a galactic empire of incredible beauty and brutality. Of this series, reviewers said:

“He can create a world with less apparent effort than some writers devote to creating a small room … yet these tales are intricately wrought as those handcarved oriental balls within balls” — The Washington Post

“His multicultural viewpoint may yet give us the best SF novel of all time” — Analog

After a twenty year silence, I’ve added a fifth book to the series, and am working on a sixth, so this book is by way of introduction.

The final free book is Sounding Brass. It is an autobiographical memoir about the time I spent as a student ghost-writing music that was presented as the work of a cabinet minister during the Vietnam War. It’s definitely a worm’s eye view of “the swamp” with major political figures making cameo appearances, but although it’s definitely a funny book it also asks some questions about what “being an artist” really means.

To get these books for free, please make sure you order them from Amazon during the window of Saturday the 20th – Sunday the 21st, Pacific Standard Time.

Please enjoy the books and, if you so desire, visit my website  (www.somtow.com) and sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll receive news and the occasional free ebook.

(4) IN PRAISE OF VIRTUAL CONS. Polish fan Marcin Klak discusses “Online Conventions and Where to Find Them” at Fandom Rover. His post is a great window on what’s been done in this line in Europe.

… All in all, I found the conventing online is really rewarding. The feeling is different than the one at the in-person cons but it has also some similarities. The most important aspect is that it allows me to socialize with fellow fans. I do hope that sooner rather than later in-person cons will be possible, but even then I think I would like to find some time for the online events. They have their own certain value not only as a “replacement” but also as events worth spending time on even in the “regular” times.

(5) UFO #8. Alex Shvartsman has released the Unidentified Funny Objects 8 table of contents. He expects the book to be released by early October.

  • Foreword by Alex Shvartsman
  • “The 10:40 Appointment at the NYC Department of Superhero Registration” by Chris Hepler
  • “Soul Trade” by Galen Westlake
  • “A.I., M.D.” by Kurt Pankau
  • “The Fellowship of the Mangled Scepter” by James Wesley Rogers
  • “When the “Martians” Return” by David Gerrold
  • “Welcome Home” by Simon R. Green
  • “The Unwelcome Mat” by J. J. Litke
  • “Get Me to the Firg-<click><cough>-xulb On Time” by Laura Resnick
  • “Black Note, in His Transition to a Supreme State of Wokeness” by James Beamon
  • “The Other Ted” by Wendy Mass and Rob Dircks
  • “C.A.T. Squad” by Gini Koch
  • “Ambrose Starkisser” by Jordan Chase-Young
  • “Gommy” Amy Lynwander
  • “Journey to Perfection” by Larry Hodges
  • “Fifteen Minutes” by Mike Morgan
  • “Zaznar the Great’s Fifty-Sixth Proposal to the Council for Urban Investment” by Jared Oliver Adams
  • “Terribly and Terrifyingly Normal” by Illimani Ferreira
  • “Couch Quest” by Eric D. Leavitt
  • “Pet Care for the Modern Mad Scientist” by Michael M. Jones
  • “The Punctuation Factory” by Beth Goder
  • “One Born Every Minute” by C. Flynt
  • “Shy and Retiring” by Esther Friesner
  • “Suburban Deer” by Jamie Lackey
  • “Body Double” by Jody Lynn Nye

(6) PAWS FOR ENJOYMENT. I’ve learned you can support George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe by accessing the “Quarantine Cat Film Festival” (mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll) with a virtual ticket purchased through their site. The link will take you there.

…Jean Cocteau Cinema presents Quarantine Cat Film Festival. Amateur filmmakers from around the world filmed their beloved cats during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. This compilation reel brings together the cutest, funniest, brave stand most loving of these videos, exclusively filmed during the pandemic.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1997 — Will Shetterly’s Dogland was published by Tor Books. The Chopping Block was listed as the cover artist. Shetterly has said it’s the novel that he’s most proud of. The story is based on his own childhood and a business that his parents owned called Dog Land. In 2007 Shetterly published a sequel, The Gospel of the Knife. Reviewers including Faren Miller, Ellen Kushner, Gahan Wilson and Peter Crowther praised both the characters and the setting. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 20, 1897 Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s ShadowThe Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born June 20, 1913 Lilian Jackson Braun. Author of The Cat Who… series which really may or may not be genre. The two cats in it are delightful and one, Koko, certainly has a sixth sense, but the author never suggests this is psychic. The first, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, was published in 1966. She’d publish twenty-nine more novels plus three collections of The Cat Who… shorter tales over the next forty years.  Good popcorn reading. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1919 – Kees Kelfkens.  A dozen covers for Dutch translations.  Here is The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym.  Here is The Two Towers.  Here is Nineteen Eighty-Four.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1920 – Lloyd Eshbach.  Fan, pro, church publisher and Evangelical Congregational minister.  First sold SF 1930 to Scientific Detective Monthly; thirty more short stories.  Founded Fantasy Press and helped other small presses; edited Of Worlds Beyond about pro writing.  Pro Guest of Honor at Cinvention the 7th Worldcon (Cincinnati); reminiscences of the 1st, 6th, 7th, 10th, 39th, 41st, for the 47th (Noreascon III Program Book).  Last novel 1990, The Scroll of Lucifer.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1941 – Pamela Zoline.  Illustrated several stories for New Worlds, see e.g. this for “Camp Concentration”.  Her most famous story “The Heat Death of the Universe” has been translated into Croatian, German, Japanese, Polish; five more.  You can read “Heat Death” here [PDF].  In 1984, with husband John Lifton and five others, founded the Telluride Institute at Telluride, Colorado; in 2006, she and JL founded the Centre for the Future at Slavonice, Czech Republic.  [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1950 – Bruce Dane.  Attended L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon; first President of the Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society; after Los Angeles and Phoenix, Colorado Springs.  A filker; at his death Bill Mills sang “Don’t Bury Me in the Cold Cold Ground” to which you could once and might still get access here [PDF]; the File 770 report is here.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1951 Tress MacNeille, 69. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1947 Candy Clark, 73. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye, and The Blob in the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon because it’s not the Whedon Buffy. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1962 – David Clink.  As he says, poet, poker player, punster (e.g. “The Valet of the Shadow of Death”).  Fourteen dozen poems, e.g. in the 2019 Rhysling Anthology; four collections, recently The Role of Lightning in Evolution.  A poetry editor for Amazing.  His Website is here; it has his 2013 biography here.  [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1967 Nicole Kidman, 53. Batman Forever was her first foray into the genre but she has done a number of genre films down the years: Practical MagicThe Stepford WivesBewitched (I liked it), The Invasion (never heard of it), The Golden Compass (not nearly as good as the novel was), the splendid Paddington and her latest was as Queen Atlanna in the rather good Aquaman. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1968 Robert Rodriguez, 52. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1971 – Wu Ming-yi, Ph.D.  Professor of Chinese at Nat’l Dong Hwa University, Taiwan.  Two novels for us, The Man with the Compound Eyes and The Stolen Bicycle; six others, short stories, essays; known for nature writing, or as some would have it, ecological literature; translated into Czech, English, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Turkish.  Designed and illustrated his non-fiction Book of Lost Butterflies and The Dao of Butterflies.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • All glory is fleeting: Wondermark,”In which a Visitor proves a Nuisance, Part 2.”

(10) LIVE LONG. Gothamist ran this Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock image of Dr. Fauci street art on the Lower East Side. Andrew Porter adds, “Note The Pigeon of Truth on his shoulder!”

(11) MARTIAN HOP. The art students at Liverpool John Moores University couldn’t have their senior exhibits because of the pandemic. So they used NASA’s 3D Scans to hold a “Degree Show on Mars”.

The planet is currently broken. We are doing our degree show on Mars.

The trajectory of the LJMU Fine Art Degree show has been charted. We proceed at full-throttle and we are on schedule. This final journey into the unknown for our graduating students is not a pared back simulation of what might have been, it is a voyage that seeks to collectively establish new relevance and understanding for their individual endeavours, amid the stasis the world is currently experiencing. 

Artists respond to the world as they find it, they reflect it and help to build an understanding of what we are experiencing. The Degree Show on Mars is not simply showcasing the extraordinary originality and resilience of our graduating artists. It is a means by which we can document and understand the crisis through the eyes of artists who are emerging into a world very different to that which they had anticipated. 

(12) FACING UP. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova invites you to enjoy a gallery of homemade masks — “As an Antidote to Fear of Death, I Eat the Stars: Vintage Science Face Masks” – now licensed for sale.

A small, coruscating delight: I have made a series of face masks featuring wondrous centuries-old astronomical art and natural history illustrations I have restored and digitized from various archival sources over the years….

(13) ABOUT POE. At CrimeReads, Sarah Weinman asks “Can You Really Separate Edgar Allan Poe’s Work From His Life?” Weinman wrote the introduction for a reissue of Julian Symons’ Poe biography The Tell-Tale Heart, originally published in 1978, which has been out of print for decades.

…But the audacity of Symons’ project makes more than a bit of sense: because, he rightly argues in The Tell-Tale Heart, so much of what we think we know about Edgar Allan Poe is rooted in grudges, hearsay, rumor, and mystery, and of intuiting too much personal meaning from his successful, written-for-the-money mystery stories and from the poems that were closer to Poe’s heart and spirit.

(14) LAST AT BATS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Holy Bat-feuds! Revisiting the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding ‘Batman Forever’ 25 years later”, Ethan Alter argues that Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever “might arguably be worse” than Schumacher’s widely reviled Batman & Robin, and lists the many feuds surrounding the film, including Michael Keaton turning down $15 million to get in the bat-suit because the script for the film “sucked,” Val Kilmer regretting he replaced Keaton in the bat-suit, and villians Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey wanting to stick knives in each other.

…Schumacher and Kilmer were all smiles during the Batman Forever publicity tour, but it turns out that was just really good acting. Interviewed by Entertainment Weekly in 1996 — one year removed from the film’s release — the director described a tense on-set relationship that culminated in an actual pushing match. “He was being irrational and ballistic with the first AD, the cameraman, the costume people,” Schumacher said. “He was badly behaved, he was rude and inappropriate. I was forced to tell him that this would not be tolerated for one more second. Then we had two weeks where he did not speak to me, but it was bliss.” Speaking with Vulture in 2019, Schumacher was even more pointed: “I didn’t say Val [Kilmer] was difficult to work with on Batman Forever. I said he was psychotic.” 

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Neil Gaiman–Is Writing For Children Tougher Than Writing for Adults?” on YouTube is a 2013 video by Bloomsbury Publishing where Gaiman explains that when writing for children, he has to be more precise than writing for adults.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/18/20 On And On They Filed Until They Reached The Sea Of Pixelbilities, Where They Could Scroll No Further

(1) GLORIOUS. Benford and Niven’s third and final book in their Bowl of Heaven series is out, and they’ll be doing a Powell’s Books Zoom event on June 30, 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

Written by acclaimed, multi-award-winning authors, Gregory Benford (Timescape) and Larry Niven’s (Ringworld), GLORIOUS (Tor Books) concludes the Bowl of Heaven series praised by Booklist as “a solid adventure and entertaining speculation on the lives of alien creatures.”

In the journey that began with the New York Times bestseller, Bowl of Heaven and its sequel, Shipstar, audacious astronauts encounter bizarre, sometimes deadly life forms, and strange, exotic, cosmic phenomena, including miniature black holes, dense fields of interstellar plasma, powerful gravity-emitters, and spectacularly massive space-based, alien-built labyrinths. The alien civilization is far more advanced than our own, and difficult for our astronauts to comprehend. The astronauts must explore and document this brave, new, highly dangerous world, while also dealing with their own personal triumphs and conflicts — their loves and jealousies, joys and disappointments.

Benford and Niven are masters of the science fiction genre and a sci-fi power duo. Together they have combined their talents and expertise to create an unforgettable series for science-fiction fans everywhere.

(2) MY PRECIOUS. Michael Dirda’s resolve to get rid of some of his books has been sorely tried — as happens to so many of us — “By day, I’ve been trying to cull my book collection. But at night, eBay beckons” in the Washington Post.

… Alas, my plan to sort and cull my thousands of books — described last week in my Zippy Shell column — failed to make allowance for human nature. For even as I was straining my back by carrying boxes up the stairs to donate or sell to the noble used book dealers of Washington, come bedtime I would go online to take a quick peek at the current offerings from L.W. Currey, John W. Knott, Richard Dalby’s Library, Type Punch Matrix, Wonder Book and Video or Capitol Hill Books. It didn’t matter that I ached like a stevedore at the end of a double shift. During daylight hours, the world applauded a crusading Dr. Jekyll energetically focused on discarding and recycling printed matter, but once night fell Mr. Hyde would emerge and, while fiendishly cackling, type arcane titles into the search engines of viaLibri, eBay and Addall. Typically, when a friend recently recommended H.B. Marriott Watson’s “The Adventurers” (1898), there was suddenly nothing I wanted more in the world than a copy of this forgotten piece of swashbuckling Victoriana….

(3) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. UK publication Infinity Magazine subsequently deleted the public post screencapped below.

(4) GENESIS. Although Mark Lawrence takes J.K. Rowling and Ursula Le Guin as texts, more than anything his post “Influence” is a warning to readers who want to infer the source of a writer’s ideas based on similarities to other works.

One of the questions I’m most often asked in the gazillion blog interviews I’ve done is (second only to “Where do you get your ideas?“):

What are your influences?

It’s a question I’ve always had difficulty answering and am saved from mainly by being able to point at two very clear influences for my first two trilogies.

Let’s note that influence comes in many forms, not least: writing style, characters, ideas/topics, and book structure.

(5) COMING IN 2021. HBO Max dropped this sneak peek at Zack Snyder’s Justice League today.

(6) WE WON? The BBC reports “Six movies resuming production after coronavirus”; 5 are genre.

While lockdown may have provided us with the chance to catch up on some old movies, there’s only so many you can watch before you crave something new.

Agreed? Agreed.

Well, fear not, because around the world some of the big-hitters are starting to re-commence production – which was of course halted by Covid-19 – in a variety of socially-distanced ways.

Here are just six of the films to keep your fingers crossed for then in 2021, when the cinemas are hopefully back in business.

Avatar 2

The long-awaited sequel to James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi blockbuster was able to re-start filming in New Zealand this week, because the country is almost coronavirus free.

Cameron and producer Jon Landau told the press Down Under that part two of the planned five-part film series; rumoured to be called The Way of Water (oh yeah, it’s set under water this time, by the way) would bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars back into the country following the pandemic.

Landau shared a photo on Instagram earlier this week as the production got under way.

It will also bring some more big names including Kate Winslet and Vin Diesel to add to returning original stars Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington.

Avatar 2, which is intended to work as a standalone feature (you won’t need to have seen the first one, in other words), will focus on the children of Sully and Neytiri, who are by now leaders of their clan.

The film is now slated for a December 2021 release, with film five in the diary already for 2027 – for those of you who like to plan ahead.

(7) CLOCKING IN. The Root spreads the word: “Tick Tock: Watchmen Will Be Free on HBO for a Few Days Starting on Juneteenth—You Must Watch It”.

…But, you only have a limited time—This offer will only be available Friday June 19 through Sunday June 21. You have 3 days to watch the debut season, which is a total of 9 episodes. Since everyone should be binging experts by now, that’s light work!

…In addition to its groundbreaking portrayal of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Watchmen is a must-watch due to its timely thesis on white supremacy. In fact, it’s worth a revisit or two to truly reflect on its themes in a critical way. I certainly plan to revisit it.

So go ahead and watch Watchmen and discuss the episodes thoroughly. View the show for free online via HBO.com and via On Demand.

(8) HEAR FROM HUGO FINALISTS. Saturday’s episode of Essence of Wonder will have the “Hugo finalists for Short Story and Editors”. June 20 at 3p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

Nibedita Sen, Fran Wilde, Alix E. Harrow, SL Huang, and Shiv Ramdas will join Karen Castelletti to discuss their nominations for Best Short Story.

That panel will be followed by “A Mini Show With Lior Manor, Mentalist.”

Then, at 4:40p.m. Eastern will follow a “Panel Discussion With Hugo Awards Finalists in the Best Editor Short Form Category” —

Ellen Datlow, Lynne Thomas, Neil Clarke, Lynne M Thomas, and Michael Thomas will join Gadi to discuss their nomination and work.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1971 — Larry Niven’s All the Myriad Ways, his third collection, was published by Ballantine Books. Costing $.95 and having 181 pages, it included a number of stories of interest such as the first Gil the ARM story, “The Jigsaw Man”, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” and “What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?“. It is currently available from all the usual digital suspects. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 18, 1862 – Carolyn Wells.  A hundred seventy books, many for children, many more mystery fiction, also poetry, plays.For us, Folly in Fairyland – reprinted 2016 – no, not that, “Folly” is a nickname for Florinda; anyway, see here.  And here is A-L of her Animal Alphabet; when you look at the rest of this Ink-Slinger’s Profile you’ll recognize Mark Twain, but you should know Skippy was a popular 1923-1945 comic strip.  There’s more, but I’ll stop now.  (Died 1942) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1889 – Elisabeth Holding.  More mystery fiction; no less than Tony Boucher applauded its “subtlety, realistic conviction, incredible economy”.  For us, he praised Miss Kelly too, about a cat who learns to speak with humans: “one of those too-rare juvenile fantasies with delightful appeal to the adult connoisseur.”  We can also claim three shorter stories, translated into Dutch, French, Italian.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1908 Bud Collyer. So far as genre is concerned, he’s best-remembered from radio, starring in the dual role of Clark Kent and Superman beginning in early 1940 on The Adventures of Superman on the Mutual Broadcasting System, a role he also would do in the later Superman and other cartoons such as Aquaman and the Batman/Superman Hour. He was posthumously named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. (Died 1969.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1917 Richard Boone. He did only two genre roles, one of which — playing Maston Thrust Jr. in The Last Dinosaur — I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen. The other however is one that nearly everyone here has heard, yes, heard, as he voiced Smaug in the Rankin/Bass animated The Hobbit. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1926 – Allan Sandage, Ph.D.  Important next-door neighbor: an astronomer, possibly a great one.  Regarded for thirty years as the pre-eminent observational cosmologist.  Published two atlases of galaxies; five hundred papers.  Warner, Crafoord, Gruber Prizes; Eddington, Cresson, Bruce Medals; Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.  See here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1931 Dick Spelman. A fan and a legendary book dealer who was active at SF conventions from the late Seventies  through the early Nineties. He chaired Windycon IX in 1982. He was a member of the board of directors of Chicon IV, and ran the Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons. In 1991 he sold his book business to Larry Smith and retired to Orlando, where he was active in local fannish affairs. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1942 Roger Ebert. He got his start as a fanzine writer while in high school, publishing the Stymie zine and having his writing appear in Xero, Yandro and many other zines such as KippleParsection and Psi-Phi. In university, he was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association. His fannish autobiography is How Propellor-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors and Kids in Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System. Mike has much to say about him here. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1942 – Redmond Simonsen.  Game designer; indeed credited with coining that phrase, and “physical system design”.  Founding editor of Ares magazine.  Charles Roberts Awards Hall of Fame.  King of Clubs in Flying Buffalo’s 2008 Origins Poker Deck.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1947 Linda Thorson, 73. Though Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was John Steed’s best-known partner on The Avengers, she was not his first nor his last. His last one would be Tara King played by this actress. She was the only one to be a real spy. Interesting that other than an appearance on Tales from The Darkside, her only other genre performance was on The Next Gen as Gul Ocett in “The Chase” episode”. (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1949 Chris Van Allsburg, 71. For some twenty years now, the local Narrow Gauge Railroad has ran a Polar Express every Christmas season compete with cars decorated in high Victorian fashion and steaming cups of hot chocolate. It always sells out for the entire month. Allsburg‘s Polar Express book is just magical for me and I enjoy his Jumanji every bit as much. He illustrated A City in Winter which was written by Mark Helprin — highly recommended. (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1951 – Vivian Vande Velde 69.  Fiction for children and young adults.  Two dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories.  Edgar Award for Never Trust a Dead Man, also School Library Journal Book of the Year.  Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize.  Paterson Prize. “When our daughter was born, I quit my job….  Since I was home all day, I had to either take housework more seriously or come up with a good excuse why I couldn’t…. Writing turned out to be harder work than I thought…. getting published was even harder…. 32 different publishers … before number 33 said yes.”  [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1971 – Sarah Hines Stephens 49.  Two Wonder Woman stories, here’s one; two about a girl (I mean really a girl, she’s in 6th Grade) whose study of insects grosses out her friends, but then invaders invade and she develops insectile powers (not all insects are bugs, but I can’t help that, the title wouldn’t have been as cool if it had been Bugged Girl); four dozen in all, some with co-authors, some re-tellings, some non-fiction.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TERRAN PRIZE. George R.R. Martin announced that Maurice Haeems will receive the scholarship he funds to bring a writer to the Taos Toolbox:  “Haeems Wins Terran Prize”.

…With that in mind, back in 2018 I established THE TERRAN PRIZE,  to bring an aspiring SF writer from abroad to the Taos Toolbox, the graduate level writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams runs every summer in the mountains of northern New Mexico.  The Prize is given annually and covers all tuition and fees to the Toolbox (but not travel).

…Maurice was born in Mumbai and has a bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the University of Mumbai and an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Over the last 30 years, he has lived in Mumbai, London, Hong Kong, Taipei, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dubai while pursuing professional careers in mechanical engineering, investment banking, and software entrepreneurship.

(13) WILL THIS CHOPPER GET IN THE AIR? In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport discusses the Mars mission to be launched in July and how the Mars rover Perseverance has a helicopter attached, nicknamed “Ingenuity,” which will be the first aircraft to flit on another planet. “NASA rushing to complete Mars launch before planet moves out of range. Mission to include first-ever helicopter exploration.”

… In addition to probing for signs of ancient life on and below the Martian surface, the Perseverance mission would also take to the skies. The Ingenuity helicopter would attempt to fly — an exceedingly difficult task given that the “atmosphere on Mars is only one percent the density that we have here on Earth,” Wallace said. “Trying to control a system like this under those conditions is not easy.”

NASA said it hopes to get at least three flights from the helicopter, but it stressed that it was purely a technology demonstration mission and that it would take each one as they come.

(14) DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT. Count on Jon Del Arroz to bring you yesterday’s 770 content today!

(15) HALLOWEEN TREE. But here’s today’s Bradbury news, via Deadline:“Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Halloween Tree’ In The Works As Movie At Warner Bros With Will Dunn Adapting”.

We have learned that Will Dunn has been tapped by Warner Bros to adapt Ray Bradbury’s 1972 fantasy novel The Halloween Tree

…Bradbury wrote and narrated Hanna-Barbera’s 1993 feature-length animated version of the novel for television, for which he won the 1994 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.

(16) NOT-QUITE-THE-NEXT-GENERATION. On the other hand, here’s some much older Roddenberry news — JDA might like that even better! From TrekMovie in 2018: “Unearthed: Pre-Roddenberry ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Pitch Was A Wildly Different Show”.

…The 8-page concept pitch, entitled “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” was conceived by producer Greg Strangis (War of the Worlds, Falcon Crest) over the summer of 1986 and is set during a 10-year war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It tells the story of the U.S.S. Odyssey, a ship ferrying a group of cadets on their first deep space assignment and tasked with delivering a document to Organia that could ultimately change the course of the war.

While some of the ideas in this concept can be seen in what ultimately became Star Trek: The Next Generation (such as a young Klingon officer as part of the crew), this original pitch bears little resemblance to the show that went on to have seven successful seasons. One of the more creative ideas was how the original captain dies in the pilot, but “continues to ‘live’ in the ship’s computer” as a hologram who can be summoned for advice….

So would this character have turned into the Emergency Holographic Captain?

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/20 Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Pixels How Do You Measure, Measure A Scroll?

(1) THE SANTA FE. Now he’ll really be George Railroad Martin: “George R. R. Martin Buys Part of Historic Santa Fe Railroad”.

George R. R. Martin, who wrote the book series that was adapted into the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” and two co-investors have bought an abandoned, 18-mile spur railroad line from Santa Fe to Lamy, New Mexico, with the intent of restoring it to its former glory as a tourist attraction, The Business Insider reported on Monday.

No price was mentioned for the purchase, which also includes 10 antique rail cars, two vintage locomotives, and a station house at Lamy currently leased by Amtrak that is part of its twice daily line from Chicago to Los Angeles.

“There are a lot of opportunities for a new tourist attraction,” Martin told the Albuquerque Journal. “COVID has thrown a monkey wrench into our plan. We had hoped to get things up and running in 2021, but now it won’t be until 2022.”

I’ve caught a train at the Lamy station, after visiting my sister in Santa Fe. It’s miles out of town — despite the city’s iconic railroad name, the Amtrak line doesn’t run through the city.

Martin explains his plans in more detail in his blog post “All Aboard for Lamy” which concludes:

…It is going to take a lot of work, more than a few bucks, and a fair amount of time to get the railroad running again.   There are tracks and trestles to inspect and repair, old historic coaches to restore to their former splendor, a dead locomotive to bring back to life.   And the coronavirus has slowed the process way down.   But sooner or later, we do hope to have the old Lamy Line chuffing and puffing once again, and we have all sorts of fun ideas for the future, live music and murder mysteries and train robberies and escape rooms and… well, we shall see.

And best of all, we won’t need to pull up the tracks when Christmas is over.

(2) CON CANCELLATION. Pulpfest, planned for August, has been cancelled, too. They made the announcement today: “There is Nothing Wrong with Your Television Set . . .”

…We regret to announce that PulpFest is being postponed until August 2021.

Although it is likely that businesses and events in the region where PulpFest is staged will be allowed to resume operations in June, they will have to follow guidelines issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

…Given the substantial risks involved and our desire to maintain the health and well-being of our many supporters, the PulpFest organizing committee voted unanimously to postpone this year’s convention until early August 2021.

(3) LEAP, BUT NOT QUANTUM. Chancellor Agard, in “Watch Legends of Tomorrow jump from Friends to Downton Abbey in exclusive sneak peek” on Entertainment Weekly discusses tomorrow’s episode, where the Legends jump from the world of a show like Friends to one like Downton Abbey to one like Star Trek.

(4) A HORSE, OF COURSE. Yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of the debut of the third Back to the Future movie. Yahoo! Entertaiment put together a quiz — “‘Back to the Future Part III’ turns 30: Take this quiz to test your knowledge”. I really blew this one – only 6 out of 14. And one of my right answers was about how special effects manure was made – am I supposed to be proud of that?

… On May 24, 1990, the final film in Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s Back to the Future trilogy premiered in theaters. Directly picking up from the cliffhanger of 1989’s Back to the Future Part II, where Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and the DeLorean time machine accidentally being struck by lightning, sending him back to the Old West. Part III picks up with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) traveling to 1885 to rescue Doc and return him to the present. 

(5) SPACE FORCE REDUX. Netflix dropped a second trailer for Space Force, which they have cleverly called Space Force Trailer 2.

Steve Carell was also on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday  promoting Space Force but he doesn’t talk about the show until 5-1/2 minutes into the segment.

(6) STILES REMEMBERED. Balticon 54’s website includes a tribute to the late fanartist: “In Memoriam: Steve Stiles (1943-2020)”. Includes lots of photos and art.

Steve Stiles became a science fiction fan in 1957; he’d been illustrating fanzines from then until his death, earning him the first Rotsler Fan Artist Award in 1998, and a Fan Artist Hugo in 2016. Professionally, he worked in numerous comic book genres since 1973 (horror, super hero, science fiction, humor), including the award-winning Xenozoic Tales and perhaps the first steampunk graphic novel, The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle, with author Richard Lupoff.

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

May 25Towel Day which is celebrated by fans every year on May 25 as a tribute to the author Douglas Adams. Fans carry a towel with them as described in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The commemoration was first held May 25, 2001 two weeks after Douglas Adams’ death. [Via Rocketmail.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 25, 1977 Star Wars premiered. Later retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, it was written and directed by George Lucas. You know who the cast is so we’ll not list all of them here. Lucas envisioned the film as being in the tradition of Buck Rodgers which he originally intended to remake but couldn’t get the rights to.  Reception by critics and fans alike was fantastic with IguanaCon II voting it the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo over Close Encounters of The Third Kind. It holds a stellar 96% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • May 25, 1983 Return of the Jedi, the last of the original trilogy, premiered. Later retitled Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, it came out six years after Star Wars. It is directed not by Lucas this time but by Richard Marquand from a screenplay by Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan who co-wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The principal cast is the same as the first film. Critics were ever so slightly less pleased with this concluding film of the trilogy but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an equally stellar 94% rating as the first film. It would win The Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at L.A. con II beating Right Stuff and WarGames. Box office wise, it sold more tickets for most of its first eight week American run than any other film.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 25, 1915 – DeeDee Lavender.  Four decades an active fan with her husband Roy.  Together they were Secretary-Treasurer of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n in 1950.  They were at Aussiecon I the 33rd World Science Fiction Convention (I wasn’t), and Noreascon II the 38th (I was).  They’re in Harlan Ellison’s forewords to his collections I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Angry Candy; they knew Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton, and were guests at the B&H homes in Ohio and California.  They were part of a Southern California fannish social group called the Petards, named by one of Rick Sneary’s famous misspellings, hoist for host.  Here she is with Roy at a Petards meeting in 1983 (Dik Daniels photo), and thirty years earlier in New York (L to R, Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, DeeDee, Roy, Stan Skirvin; Mike Resnick collection).  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1916 – Charles Hornig.  Publishing his fanzine The Fantasy Fan in 1933, thus First Fandom (i.e. active by at least the first Worldcon, 1939), and hired, age 17, by Hugo Gernsback to edit Wonder Stories.  Founded the Science Fiction League with HG, 1934; later edited Fantasy; also Future and Science Fiction (they eventually combined); SF Quarterly.  See his notes on Nycon I, the first Worldcon, here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1926 – Phyllis Gotlieb.  Prix Aurora for A Judgement of Dragons (note spelling; she was Canadian).  The Sunburst Award is named for her first novel.  Thirteen SF novels, twenty shorter stories, eight poetry collections (the first being Who Knows One?).  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian.  Among her husband’s Physics students was Cory Doctorow’s father.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1946 Frank Oz, 74. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1946 Janet Morris, 74. Hey I get to mention Thieves’ World! Yea! In that universe, she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She has three series, both listed as SF though I’d call one of them fantasy,  the Silistra quartet, the Kerrion Space trilogy and the Threshold series. And let’s not over overlook her Heroes in Hell series she wrote,most co-authorEd with her husband Chris Morris, some with C J Cherryh and David Drake. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1950 – Kathryn Daugherty.  Engineer.  Married four decades to James Stanley Daugherty.  Back when FORTRAN wasn’t even Two-tran she fed punch-cards to a Control Data CDC 6400.  For ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon, Official Editor of the con committee’s APA (Amateur Press Ass’n, a collection of fanzines) The Never-Ending Meeting.  At Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon, headed Contents of Tables; a typo made it “Contests of Tables”: in each newsletter I announced “Today’s winner is the Picnic”, “Today’s winner is the Periodic”.  Chaired Westercon LIII, a hard one: it was at Honolulu, see my report here [PDF; p. 11].  Luckily not exhausted; she and JSD were Fan Guests of Honor at Baycon in 2001, and Loscon XXXI (2004).  Joined me in liking Mission of Gravity.  Obituary by OGH here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1952 Al Sarrantonio, 68. His horror short stories are brilliant and they‘ve earned him a Stoker for 999: New Tales of Horror and Suspense and a Jackson for Stories: All-New Tales, the latter co-edited with Gaiman. His Masters of Mars series is SF and he’s written a Babylon 5 novel as well, Personal Agendas. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1953 – Stan Sakai.  Lettered Groo the Wanderer comics; since 1984, author of Usagi Yojimbo comics about samurai rabbit Miyamoto Usagi, who has (wouldn’t you know it) crossed paths with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The rônin lifeis hard.  During the most recent Year of the Rabbit (2011), the Japanese-American Nat’l Museum in Los Angeles had an Usagi Yojimbo exhibit.  Sakai has won a Parents’ Choice award, an Inkpot, six Eisners, an Inkwell, two Harveys, two Haxturs (Spain), a Plumilla de Plata (Mexico), a Cultural Ambassador award, and a Nat’l Cartoonists Society award.  [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1960 Eric Brown, 60. Well-deserved winner of two BSFA awards for his short stories, “Hunting the Slarqye” and “The Children of The Winter”.  He’s very prolific, averaging a novel a year over the past three decades and countless novellas and short stories. As far as SF goes, I’d start with his Binary System and Bengal Station series, both of which are superb. And I’m going to single out his Sherlock Holmes metaverse novel, The Martian Menace, in which The Great Detective meets and defeats those Invaders. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 54. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tanith Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1982 – Bertrand Bonnet.  Six dozen reviews in Bifrost (French-language prozine; European SF Society award for Best Magazine, 2016), of Blish, Le Guin, Pohl (with and without Kornbluth), Resnick, Tolkien (including the Letters, yay).  [JH] 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur’s birds learn about their ancestors.
  • Non Sequitur sells foresight.
  • Non Sequitur has an SJWC intervention.
  • Mikey Heller drew a comic about a cat café. It’s got sjw credentials, sf, everything!

(11) LID OVERFLOW. In The Full Lid 22nd May 2020 Alasdair Stuart takes a look “at how now is very much the time for Strange New Worlds and what the Short Treks set on Pike’s Enterprise can teach us about the show’s tone.”

I also take a look at excellent, furious and overlooked movie Assassination Nation and Bog Bodies, a superb crime graphic novel out this week. Signal Boost is big this week but the YA/MG Author spotlight that follows it is much bigger and full of amazing books.

This week Stuart also launched The Full Lid Plus! A monthly supplement covering Disney Plus.

It’s first issue covers what we learn in the first for episodes of The Mandalorian and looks at award winning free-climbing documentary Free Solo. Oh and Will Smith sings.

The Full Lid Plus is published monthly and run off a paid subscription model, Details at the link.

Stuart’s Hugo Voting Packet for 2020 is also available at his website. “It touches on all my non-fiction work, has links to every piece and a consolidated PDF of everything too.”

(12) NO GO. It barely got out of California:“Virgin Orbit rocket fails on debut flight”

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company has tried unsuccessfully to launch a rocket over the Pacific Ocean.

The booster was released from under the wing of one of the UK entrepreneur’s old jumbos which had been specially converted for the task.

The rocket should have ignited its engine seconds later but engineers had to terminate the flight.

Virgin Orbit’s goal is to try to capture a share of the emerging market for the launch of small satellites.

It’s not clear at this stage what went wrong but the firm had warned beforehand that the chances of success might be in the region of 50:50.

The history of rocketry shows that maiden outings very often encounter technical problems.

The firm is sure to be back for another attempt pretty soon – depending on the outcome of the post-mission analysis.

(13) FLOCKING OFF. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] I just noticed this monologue from the May 18th Late Night with Seth Meyers. There was no genre-related sketch that night. However!

When Seth Meyers first started broadcasting from home, he apparently (to my eyes, at least) ordered several feet of cheap respectable-looking trade paper and hardcover books from a local used book store. One that caught my eye was Shardik, which has a lot of whitespace on the spine and that weird symbol. The two copies of a book about Thessalonica were the big tip-off to me these were surplus and not garage detritus.

And then there was The Thorn Birds. No one seemed to believe Seth Meyers was a Thorn Birds fan.

Soon Meyers moved out of his garage and into his attic, where he has a plain backdrop…and an end table with a small stack of books. I’ve seen two dust-jacketed books claiming to be The Thorn Birds and one unjacketed copy between them. The Janelle Monae clip has a stack of Thorn Birds, Thorn Birds II: More Thorns, and Thorn Birds III: Something written in script too fine for me to read.

But the best one yet you can see in this clip, in the lower left-hand corner:

(14) JUST WHEN THE PREZ LEARNED HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT. BBC reports “WHO halts trials of hydroxychloroquine over safety fears”.

Testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus has been halted because of safety fears, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Trials in several countries are being “temporarily” suspended as a precaution, the agency said on Monday.

It comes after a recent medical study suggested the drug could increase the risk of patients dying from Covid-19.

(15) DON’T KNOW HOW GOOD YOU’VE GOT IT. And we close with this benediction from The Onion: “Nation’s Politicians, Law Enforcement, Corporate Executives Marvel At Futuristic Utopia They’re Living In”.

“To think that I have all this at my fingertips, whether it’s automated high-volume stock trading or unlimited surveillance footage of my employees, it’s like something out of a science fiction paradise,” said pharmaceutical executive Ron Pollard, who claimed previous generations of police officers, elected officials, and business leaders could never comprehend the world of unlimited possibilities that has been created for them, where they are free to do whatever they want all the time.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, Alasdair Stuart, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]