Pixel Scroll 10/15/21 I Know What Pixel You Scrolled Last Summer

(1) ORAL HISTORY OF SMALLVILLE. “‘We Had Freedom to Change the Mythology:’ An Oral History of ‘Smallville’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Here, the key players look back, with those sharing memories including Welling and the creators, as well as Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Kreuk, John Schneider, Annette O’Toole, John Glover and Erica Durance.

GOUGH There weren’t any comics on [Clark Kent’s teen years]. It was a blank slate. Jenette Kahn, who was the publisher of DC Comics at the time, said, “Clark is who he is because of his parents. If he had landed in a different cornfield and been raised by different people, he would have been a different person.” That was something that really struck us.

MILLAR We had the freedom to change the mythology, to really make it our own, with Lex losing his hair in the meteor shower — even the meteor shower itself, which was a new development. Anyone approaching that similar story today would not be allowed the freedom that we had, because at that point no one cared….

ROSENBAUM  [Lex Luthor] The casting director is like, “Sit here,” and I go, “Naw, Lex wouldn’t do that.” And she’s like, “Well I have to relight,” and I go, “Would you mind?” And she relit the room and I had to wait outside. I came back in and kind of just took over the room. I go, “What are 700 other guys doing wrong that you are auditioning?” And they said, “Well, we want a sense of charisma, we want a sense of danger, we want a sense of comedic timing.” I only had three pages to work with. I circled, “I’ll be dangerous here, I’ll be funny here, I’ll be charming here.”

GOUGH Lex was the last role we cast. It was a week before we started shooting. Miles was in Vancouver with David Nutter and I was still in Los Angeles with some of the other producers. Michael came in in Los Angeles. We videotaped it and he was just fantastic. He literally hit all the right notes and he was perfect. I remember we somehow got it up to Miles and David in Vancouver.

ROSENBAUM My agent called. “They want to screen test you.” I said, “I’ll never have an audition as good as I just had. Tell them to rewind the tape.” So he goes, “You’re going to lose this role. You know that.” I don’t recommend this to any other actor, and I would never do it again, but I said, “Rewind the tape.”

WELLING “Lex Luthor does not come back for a second audition, OK?”

ROSENBAUM Exactly. He just wouldn’t do it. It’s out of character….

(2) WATCH THE AURORA AWARDS CEREMONY. The winners of the Aurora Awards will be revealed on Saturday, October 16 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern (4:00 p.m. Pacific.) Can*Con will be present awards in a virtual ceremony accessible via their YouTube channel here.

(3) INDIGENOUS FUTURISTS. On October 5 Apex Magazine released its Indigenous Futurists issue, a bonus issue featuring the work of Indigenous genre creators. The issue, guest-edited by Allison Mills, features the work of Pamela Rentz, Kevin Wabaunsee, Tiffany Morris, Sloane Leong, Rebecca Roanhorse, Norris Black, and Theodore Van Alst, Jr. Cover art by Megan Feheley. Read it at the link.

(4) THREE HEARTS. The Poul Anderson Facebook page posted a photo from the Anderson family motorcycle trip in Europe in the Fifties. See it at the link.

We’re going through an album of photos that Poul made in the late 1940s and into the late 1950s, and we’ll be sharing some images from it. For starters, here’s a picture of Poul’s brother, John Anderson, his mother, Astrid Anderson, and Poul, with the motorcycle and sidecar they toured Europe with in 1953. This was taken somewhere in Holland.

(5) NZ FIRE OFFICIAL WIZARD. [Item by Tom Whitmore.] I don’t recall seeing anything about this character around CoNZealand — how did we miss that the country had an official wizard? And doesn’t firing the wizard usually result in bad things for the kingdom? The Guardian reports “New Zealand council ends contract with wizard after two decades of service”.

… The Wizard is a well-known face to Christchurch residents, but in recent years, his presence has diminished, and sightings have become rare. He says that is because the council has made him invisible and would not respond to his suggestions to improve tourism.

“But when they cancelled this honorarium, everyone got furious, they have awakened a hornet’s nest here, it’s hilarious. The next few months are going to be real fun.”

The Wizard said he would keep up his regular appearances at Christchurch’s Arts Centre, chatting to tourists and locals. The centre is hosting an exhibition of his life this month, which is supported by the council.

When asked if he would curse the council over its decision, he said he preferred to give blessings.

“I give children happy dreams, general good health, and I want to make bureaucrats become more human.”

(6) AFRICAN LITERARY PRIZE SHORTLIST. South African author Mandisi Nkomo’s Should have Listened to Mother, a work of genre interest, is one of six shortlisted for the Toyin Falola Prize 2021.

The Toyin Fálolá Prize is an award from Nigerian-based Lunaris aimed at honouring distinguished African scholar and foremost historian, Prof Toyin Fálolá, whose contributions to the field of African history and culture have continued to place Africa on the map and accord it its deserved recognition. The prize honours his endeavours and contributions to the advancement of African cultures, peoples, myths, and histories. The first winner of the award set up in 2020 was Fayssal Bensalah.

The award organizers announced the 11-story longlist from the 495 eligible submissions, 11 stories on September 20.

(7) JUST ARRIVED.  [Item by Daniel Dern.] As seen in the updates from Bud Plant. I haven’t looked at this, I plan to see about getting it through my library. It’s a 2021 Locus Award winner.  The Art Of Nasa: The Illustrations That Sold the Missions.

By Piers Bizony. Art by Robert McCall, Ron Miller, Robert Watts, Paul Calle, David Hardy et al. From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations….

From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations.

Ultra-rare artworks illustrate a unique history of NASA hardware and missions from 1958 to today, giving readers an unprecedented look at how spacecraft, equipment, and missions evolved — and how they might have evolved. Formed in 1958, NASA has long maintained a department of visual artists to depict the concepts and technologies created in humankind’s quest to explore the final frontier. Culled from a carefully chosen reserve of approximately 3,000 files deep in the NASA archives, the 200 artworks presented in this large-format edition provide a glimpse of NASA history like no other.

(8) CONTRARY TO WHAT SCOTTY SAYS. James Davis Nicoll touts “Five Stories in Which Changing the Laws of Physics Leads to Bigger Problems” at Tor.com.

The laws of physics are forever confounding perfectly reasonable schemes. Whether riding gracefully on the running board of a racing car, adroitly handling semi-molten glass, or gliding lightly down from a roof to the embrace of the sidewalk whilst borne up by what intuition said was a sufficiently large bath towel, the laws of physics are forever barging in to insist that, no, things do not work that way.

What if the laws of physics were altered? …

One of James’ examples is —

A Wizard’s Henchman by Matthew Hughes (2016)

Troubleshooter Erm Kaslo specializes in solving the problems of the rich and powerful. There are enough of those, spread across the Spray’s ten thousand worlds, to keep Kaslo busy and affluent. All he asks of his clients is that they pay his fees promptly. If their demands are immoral or insane? No problem.

One of his rich clients believes that the world is about to transition from an era of technology and enlightenment to one of magic and chaos. Kaslo is willing to do as the client asks, even while he believes that the client is nuts. It’s a surprise when the client turns out to be right.

But a change in the basis of power, from technology and commerce to dark magical arts, means that there will still be powerful folks with problems. Problems Kaslo is happy to handle. The universe may have been upended, but Kaslo will prevail.

(9) SABLE REVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Sable, a new video game featuring nomads on a desert planet, which Faber says “Is drawn in a thrillingly unique style.”

‘Drawn’ is really the word. Playing Sable is like living in a graphic novel by Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, the influential artist who pioneered a surrealistic sci-fi style.  From the opening vista we see scrap metal villages and wind-sculpted mesas drawn in fine black lines, their flat textures and minimal shading drawing attention to a stunning pastel colour palette–one of the most artful I’ve ever seen in a game–of tawny desert, powder-blue sky and distant mountains a muted lilac…

…The fable-like qualities of the narrative are lent depth and fragrance by Meg Jayanth, the writer behind the superb interactive novel 80 Days.  Language here bears the plain-spoken profiundity of myth.  A machinist asking you to repair a malfunctioning wind tower says, ‘Go there, mend what is broken or sooth what is hurt, and I will give you what you seek…a direction.’  This abstraction is undercut by precise character writing, particularly in Sable herself, who is far from a blank slate — she is anxious, spunky, and completely relatable.  Conversations with other nomads offer spare but evocative fragments to explain the history of the world, allowing players to fill in the gaps themselves.

(10) A SCARY PROFESSION. CrimeReads’ Celia Mattison looks at horror films about books: “Publishing Is a Nightmare: 31 Horror Films about Writing, Reading, and the Book Business”.

The business of writing and reading pops up all the time in horror films. Maybe it’s that screenwriters understand better than anyone the terror of creation. Maybe it’s that long, late hours spent alone in an office juxtaposes nicely on screen against glamorous events hosted by the literati. Or perhaps we’ve all just had a traumatic childhood experience in a library. Either way, here are 31 films guaranteed to give you an October that’s equal parts eerie and erudite….

(11) TAPPING INTO MEMORY. Strange Horizons presents an interview with Chandler Davis by Gautam Bhatia, “Across fracture lines”.

…Science fiction is not a monolith: even as racism, colonialism, and sexism played a dominant role in SF-production through the long 20th century, there were always writers and texts that questions, challenged, and subverted that dominant paradigm. The contrapuntal canon, or the hidden transcript, as it were.

At Strange Horizons, we see ourselves as committed to a plural and diverse vision of SFF, and therefore, as a continuation of this older – and sometimes submerged – tradition of against-the-grain writing. To know – and understand – more about our forebears, for this Fund Drive Special Issue, we decided to interview Chandler “Chan” Davis, one of the most outstanding exponents of the contrapuntal canon, at a time at which the dominant, regressive tendencies of science fiction were at their apogee: the 1940s and the 1950s.

…CD: One striking example of my writing responding to the preoccupations of the time is my responding to the threat of nuclear weapons. All of us in the science-fiction gang who learned of the Manhattan Project only in August 1945 felt at least a momentary joy of vindication: we had been saying this might happen, the general population didn’t know, and lo! we were in the right. But most of us soon realized, “Hey! this is a calamity, an atrocity” (and to think it was done in the name of the American people). Some of the authors sounded the alarm. I cite especially [Theodore] Sturgeon’s “Memorial”, my “The Nightmare”, and Sturgeon’s “Thunder and Roses”, but there were several others. We put it before our audience a rather large and international audience– that if your country is the target of nuclear attack, then it is up to you not to strike back but to do everything to RESTRAIN your country from striking back. We were right, but our message didn’t stick, in the USA or anywhere….

(12) AAHZ MARUCH (1967-2021). [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] Python programmer, whose fannish activities date back at least as far as classic USENET (alt.poly and other groups), died October 14 following several years of ill health. Survived by partner Steph Maruch.

Editor’s postscript: Alan Prince Winston earlier this year described him as “an unstoppable-seeming guy” who “became a contra and square dance caller and choreographer despite really severe hearing impairment.”

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1954 – Sixty-seven years ago this day, the first Flash Gordon television series as distributed by the DuMont Television Network premiered in syndication.  Its cast was Steve Holland as Flash Gordon, Irene Champlin as Dale Arden and Joseph Nash as Hans Zarkov. It immediately ran into criticism from some reviewers and fans as, well, how dare they cast a Flash Gordon who wasn’t Buster Crabbe. However it was very popular with almost everyone else and continued to run in syndication into the Sixties despite running for only one season of thirty-nine episodes. Only fourteen episodes survive and are all in the public domain, so here’s the pilot.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction in a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. His “Lion Loose” was nominated for a Short Fiction Hugo at Chicon III, and The Witches of Karres was nominated for Best Novel at NyCon 3. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections and novels are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least one hundred forty novels and two hundred twenty short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long-running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. Somewhat surprisingly he’s never been nominated for or won any awards. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock in the Trek franchise, showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”.  (The role got reprised in the animated series, as well as three films and two episodes of The Next Generation.) Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an earlier episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleWild Wild West, Otherworld, The Secret EmpireThe Increible Hulk, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He had a recurring role on the Planet of The Apes as Urko. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 15, 1923 Italo Calvino. Writer and Journalist who was born in Cuba, but grew up in Italy. His works range widely across the literary spectrum, across realism, surrealism, and absurdism. As a genre writer he is best known for his “cosmicomics”, linked stories which explore fantastical speculations about subjects such as mathematics, evolution, and human perception. At the time of his death in 1985, he was the most-translated Italian author, and he was recognized with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1985.)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 15, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 68. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend, but Fleet Elements is in my TBR list.  I also like his Metropolitan novels, be they SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few awards that he’s won, just three with two being Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  Damn it, where is his Hugo? 
  • Born October 15, 1955 Tanya Roberts. Stacey Sutton in the fourteenth Bond film, A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s not forget her in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West, 52. Jigsaw in that most dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on the rather excellent John Carter. One of his recent latest SFF roles was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot.

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) MOVIE MEMORABILIA. Heritage Auction’s Hollywood & Entertainment Memorabilia Auction runs November 4-7. Some of the monster-themed items are on this page. The publicity poster is arresting, to say the least.

(17) MANIFESTATIONS. The Paris Review on what life might be like as a ghost: “All You Have to Do Is Die” by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.

…I’ve never seen a soul move through the air. I am not sure that we are anything more than a skin-bag of electrical impulses. But ghosts are different from the other uncanny citizens. They are only one step away from the known. To become a ghost, you don’t have to be bitten by a vampire or receive a curse or encounter a mad scientist or fall under the spell of a full moon. All you have to do is die.

Still, I imagine the first days of ghosthood would be tricky. There are so many different hauntings, so many ways to do it. In a way, it reminds me of puberty. The unpredictable shifts….

(18) SIGN OF THE TIMES. “Portland removes ‘Merge Simpson’ sign from NW Portland freeway ramp” says The Oregonian.

Many Portlanders just thought it was neat, but city officials didn’t feel the same way about a “Merge Simpson” sign that appeared in Northwest Portland earlier this week. Transportation workers took the “Simpsons”-inspired sign down Thursday afternoon, citing driving safety concerns.

An anonymous artist put up a homemade sign near an on-ramp to Interstate 405 North. The artist covered up a pedestrian crosswalk sign with a sign reading “Merge Simpson,” and drew a portrait of TV cartoon mom Marge Simpson. The artist painted her face strategically below a tall, round column of foliage in place of her iconic beehive hairstyle….

(19) COOL STAR WARS PAINTINGS. For your viewing pleasure, Naci Caba’s Star Wars Paintings at the link.

The artist also does other genre subjects  (click “Paintings” on the sidebar).

(20) HOW SAFE WAS IT TO SQUASH SHATNER? CNN answers the question “How space researchers knew that 90-year-old William Shatner didn’t have to worry about his age”.

…A series of studies in the 2010s sought to answer such question. Researchers put people with pre-existing medical conditions, including elderly men with heart conditions, into a spinning centrifuge to simulate the g-forces the body is subjected to during a trip to space.

Subjects were strapped into a small capsule attached to a massive metal arm that can swing the capsule around in a circle. That faster it spins, the higher the g-forces pressing into the passenger grow, much like the carnival rides that pin passengers to the wall of a spinning circle by rotating the circle at high speeds. When the centrifuge is stopped, passengers inside could be said to be experiencing 1G, or normal gravity on Earth.

At 2G, they feel like they weigh twice their body weight. At 5G, a 200-pound person feels like they weigh 1,000 pounds.

Donoviel pointed to three specific studies that saw people — with a broad range of ages, physical conditions and ailments — endure up to 6G.

“They were fine, they were perfectly fine,” Donoviel said. “The only thing… that was of concern when they did those studies was really anxiety and definitely claustrophobia.”

… For its part, Blue Origin does put some limitations on who can fly aboard New Shepard, its suborbital space tourism rocket, including an age requirement that tourists be 18 years or older, be between 5’0″ and 6’4″ and 110 pounds and 223 pounds, and be in good enough physical shape to climb seven flights of stairs in a minute and a half.

The stair climb is no joke: Blue Origin passengers must rapidly climb what’s called the gantry, a tower that allows the crew to access their capsule as the 60-foot-tall rocket sits on the launch pad, brimming with fuel and ready to blast off.

Shatner quipped about scaling the tower after his flight, saying “good lord, just getting up the bloody gantry.”

(21) COSMIC HOME DELIVERY. “Meteorite Crashes Through Ceiling and Lands on Woman’s Bed” – the New York Times has the story.

Ruth Hamilton was fast asleep in her home in British Columbia when she awoke to the sound of her dog barking, followed by “an explosion.” She jumped up and turned on the light, only to see a hole in the ceiling. Her clock said 11:35 p.m.

At first, Ms. Hamilton, 66, thought that a tree had fallen on her house. But, no, all the trees were there. She called 911 and, while on the phone with an operator, noticed a large charcoal gray object between her two floral pillows.

“Oh, my gosh,” she recalled telling the operator, “there’s a rock in my bed.”

A meteorite, she later learned.

The 2.8-pound rock the size of a large man’s fist had barely missed Ms. Hamilton’s head, leaving “drywall debris all over my face,” she said. Her close encounter on the night of Oct. 3 left her rattled, but it captivated the internet and handed scientists an unusual chance to study a space rock that had crashed to Earth….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Bohemian Catsody” a parody song of the Queen classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this time, all about SJW credentials!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, Lise Andresen, Annalee Newitz, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

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

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

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

Thread starts here.

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

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

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

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

Then come the five things:

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

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

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

Category: Literary settings.

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

Wrong question: “Who is Tarzan?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

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