Pixel Scroll 10/4/20 This Space Intentionally Left Blank

I was at my brother’s retirement party all day, so this will be a bit short!

(1) TAKE IT WITH A GRAIN. Inverse is proud to say: “There Are No Aliens In Dune. Here’s Why.”

……But the Third Stage Guild navigator is not an alien. That’s a human who has been mutated by longterm exposure to the Spice. Outside of extraterrestrial animal life, there are precisely zero space aliens in Dune. Arguably, this fact is part of what makes Dune so successful. Common science fiction ideas don’t really drive the story of Dune, mostly because alien life is totally left out of the equation. Here’s how that works, and why Dune’s world-building is super-reliant on a lack of aliens.

(2) FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. [Item by Dann.] Grimdark Magazine’s issue #24 dropped a few days ago.  There were a couple of non-fiction pieces that might be of interest.

FICTION

  • A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian
  • Berzerker by Matthew X. Gomez
  • How Not to Invade a Country by Anna Stephens
  • The Hunt by Matthew Ward

NON-FICTION

  • An Interview with Richard K. Morgan by Beth Tabler
  • Review: Persephone Station by Stina Leicht
  • Robert E. Howard: Godfather of Grimdark? by Matthew John
  • An Interview with David Wong by Beth Tabler

(3) STAR TREK SHORTS. Ranker reveals “Wardrobe Secrets From Behind The Scenes Of ‘Star Trek'”.

The ‘TNG’ Uniforms Nearly Caused Permanent Damage To The Cast

To an observer, spandex may seem like the world’s easiest garment to wear. Super stretchy, light, and form-fitting, it looks like it should be comfortable. But looks can be deceiving, according to designer Robert Blackman:

Jumbo, or Super Spandex, whatever you want to call that heavier weight stretch, will stretch from side to side or top to bottom, depending on how you cut the garment. So the costume would dig into the actors’ shoulders, wearing them 12 or 15 hours a day.

Blackman explained that pressure from the spandex led to back problems among the cast. Patrick Stewart, who starred as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, was told by his chiropractor that he should sue Paramount for the “lasting damage done to [his] spine.”

(4) SPACE ANNIVERSARY.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 4, 1904 – Earl Binder.  First half of Eando Binder (second being E’s brother Otto 1911-1974), credited author of a dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories.  Pioneering stories of robot Adam Link.  Collection Anton York, Immortal about protagonist attaining immortality and then what?  E quit about 1940; O developed a solo career.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born October 4, 1908 – Al Ashley.  During the 1940s, among the top two dozen active fans.  Fanzines En GardeNova, sometimes with wife Abby Lu.  The Ashleys made their house in Battle Creek, Michigan, a co-operative dwelling for fellow fans; those were the days of Van Vogt’s Slan and the self-depreciative joke “Fans are slans” (as in “Wassamatta you, you think fans are –?”), so the house was the Slan Shack.  Later, lived in Los Angeles.  I assume Al has gone to After-Fandom, but I have not learned when he left.  [JH]
  • Born October 4, 1917 – Donn Brazier.  Charter member of N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n).  Army Air Corps during World War II, mustered out as a Major, his remains buried in Jefferson Barracks Nat’l Cemetery.  Leading fanzine Title; later Farrago.  Guest of Honor at AutoClave 1, first SF con devoted to fanzinery (1976).  Early adopter of photocopy.  See two appreciations of him in File 770 142 pp. 12-13 (PDF).  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born October 4, 1923 Charlton Heston. Without doubt, best remembered for playing astronaut George Taylor in the Planet of the Apes. He retuned to the role in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He’s also Neville in The Omega Man based off of I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. By the way, he once at the LA Music Center played Sherlock Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood, opposite Richard Johnson as Dr. Watson. His IMDB credits show him as being on SeaQuest DSV in the “Abalon” episode. ((Died 2008.) CE) 
  • Born October 4, 1928 Alvin Toffler. Author of Future Shock and a number of other works that almost no one will recall now. John Brunner named a most excellent novel, The Shockwave Rider, after the premise of Future Shock. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born October 4, 1946 Susan Sarandon, 74. She makes the Birthday list just for being Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but she’s also been in Enchanted as Queen Narissa, The Witches of Eastwick as Jane Spofford, The Lovely Bones as Grandma Lynn and The Hunger as Sarah Roberts. An impressive genre list indeed! (CE) 
  • Born October 4, 1946 – Val Ontell, 74.  Chaired Lunacon 29 & 32, Conjecture 2010, World Fantasy Con 2011.  Fan Guest of Honor (with husband Ron Ontell) at Lunacon 45, Westercon 70.  The Ontells have conducted fannish travel expeditions on the occasion of Worldcons: Britain (1987), Scotland & Ireland (1995, 2005), Melbourne (1999, 2010), Yokohama (2007), London (2014), Helsinki (2017), Dublin (2019); see their Website.  [JH]
  • Born October 4, 1975 Saladin Ahmed, 45. His Black Bolt series, with Christian Ward as the artist, won an Eisner Award for Best New Series and  the graphic novel collection, Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, was a finalist at Worldcon 76 for Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. His first novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, won a Locus Award for Best First novel. (CE)
  • Born October 4, 1979 Caitriona Balfe, 41. She is best remembered  for her lead role as Claire Fraser on Outlander. Her first genre role was as Elizabeth Lamb in Super 8, and she has two other genre credits, one voicing Tavra in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and the other playing Breena Sheehan in the H+: The Digital Series in which the singularity has come and gone. (CE) 
  • Born October 4, 1984 – Sara Bickley, 36.  Poetry, some ours, in Red Sky (anthology); Best of Every Day PoetsHaiku JournalPunchnel’sThe SameThree Line PoetryTrinacria.  Poetry editor of The Germ awhile.  Short stories in Cover of DarknessDrabblecast B-SidesNot One of UsTales of the Talisman.  [JH]
  • Born October 4, 1988 Melissa Benoist, 32. Kara Danvers / Supergirl In the Arrowverse. It was recently announced that the Supergirl series is ending with the next season. She also voiced Overgirl in the animated Freedom Fighters: The Ray series. (CE) 
  • Born October 4, 1990 – Carlyn Worthy, 30.  Photographer, cook, author, Afrofuturist.  One story for us I’ve found published so far; and see this interview.  Other work, see this article about her University’s centennial.  [JH]

(6) HORROR FOR YOUR EARS. Podcast Review calls these “9 Terrific Horror Podcasts That Should Not Be Overlooked”. First on their list:

Nightlight

This podcast is now in its third season, but it just doesn’t get the credit it deserves. The series is curated by writer Tonia Ransom, who intended Nightlight to highlight Black authors telling Black stories, and in doing so the show is releasing some of the very best horror stories out there. Some tales veer into romance, some into sci-fi, and some are more standard horror fare, but each story is haunting and unforgettable. Genre faves like reluctant werewolves and murderous mermaids embrace tropes while turning them on their head to give us something new. Each episode runs about half an hour, making it a great lunchtime listen.

(7) HARRYHAUSEN 100. Coming soon at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: “Ray Harryhausen | Titan of Cinema” – October 24, 2020-September 5, 2021. Highlights include the Medusa model from Clash of the Titans.

Film special effects superstar Ray Harryhausen elevated stop motion animation to an art. His innovative and inspiring films, from the 1950s onwards, changed the face of modern movie making forever. For the first time, highlights chosen from the whole of Ray’s collection will be showcased, which will be the largest and widest-ranging exhibition of his work ever seen, with newly restored and previously unseen material from his incredible archive.

Ray Harryhausen’s work included the films Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad films of the 1950s and 1970s, One Million Years B.C. and Mighty Joe Young, and a wider portfolio including children’s fairy tales and commercials. He also inspired a generation of filmmakers such as Peter Jackson, Aardman Animation, Tim Burton, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, and his influence on blockbuster cinema can be felt to this day.

This exhibition is in collaboration with the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday year. 

 (8) EAU THAT MAN! Is this product’s message: Who doesn’t want to smell like Captain Kirk? “Star Trek Tiberius Cologne”.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Jeffrey Smith, Dann. and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH, who cannot guarantee it hasn’t been used before.]

Pixel Scroll 7/17/20 Who Will Buy This Wonderful Pixel

(1) TALK AMONG YOURSELVES. N.K. Jemisin has some great news. This is as much of it as she can share.

(2) BEST OF THE FIRST HALF. Grimdark Magazine presents its list of “Best Sff Books Of 2020 So Far: Picked By The GDM Team”. Includes –

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

(PICKED BY MIKE MYERS)

Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

(3) BEATTS UPDATE. Sponsors of Borderlands Books are among those who have signed “An Open Letter to the Borderlands Books Ownership, Staff, and Community” calling for Alan Beatts to give up ownership of the store.

We, the undersigned, have been sponsors and supporters of Borderlands Books. Alan Beatts asked for community support to keep his business operational; in exchange, we expect him to be accountable to that community.

In light of the accusations that Alan has committed acts of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, we are withdrawing our sponsorship and support for Borderlands Books. We believe the survivors. We want to support them and any others Alan has harmed, whether or not they publicly come forward.

We cannot support Borderlands while Alan might use his position as owner to do and conceal harm. We demand that he relinquish ownership of the store and divest financially from it….

(4) SFF WINS CHINESE AWARD. Congratulations to Regina Kanyu Wang, whose story “The Language Sheath” has been awarded the 2019 Annual Award by Shanghai Writers’ Association. The English version, published by Clarkesworld, is here.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel encounters Kit Reed:

Dry witted and lethally incisive, Kit Reed (1932 – 2017), was prolific in a variety of genres: speculative fiction, literary fiction, and (as Kit Craig) psychological thrillers. Selecting a particular work out of all the short SFF Reed published over her long career must have been challenging. Nevertheless, editor Marcus assures us 

“To Lift a Ship” is my favorite story from this era, and I think you’ll like it, too.

Did my Young People, in fact, enjoy it?

(6) ONE OF THE BIGGER IDEAS. “The Big Idea: Madeline Ashby” at Whatever begins:

“It’s a rape revenge story? Is that what you said?”

It was October of 2016. It was a rainy morning in London just days from Halloween, and I was mind-shatteringly jetlagged, getting ready to give a talk at MozFest, the festival put on each year by the Mozilla Foundation. I was answering questions put to me by a fact-checker from the Wall Street Journal, after Margaret Atwood said they should talk to me about robots, science fiction, and the future. The interviewer had asked about my series of novels called The Machine Dynasty, which started with a little book called vN. This was how Margaret and I met — we did an appearance together with Corey Redekop at the Kingston WritersFest back home in Canada. She had gently steered the interview in the way only she can, and said, “Now, Madeline, having read your book, I must ask: how old were you when you first saw The Wizard of Oz?”

Oh, I thought. She gets it. Of course she does. She’s Margaret Fucking Atwood.

This was my life in 2016. In a week or two, the world would fall apart. So would I. In both cases, it happened slowly, but faster than you might think. In both cases, it started years earlier. Collapse is not a binary state; damage occurs on a spectrum of possible repair. You might not recognize it, at first. You may not yet have the words with which to describe it….

(7) OTHER SNOW WHITES. The Harvard Gazette interviews a scholar about “Snow White and the darkness within us”.

Maria Tatar collects versions of the tale from around the world and explains how they give us a way to think about what we prefer not to

Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released as the first feature-length animated film in 1937, and decades later, the musical fantasy based on a Grimm Brothers fairy tale about the complications and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship is still a cultural touchstone. The story has virtually eclipsed every version of the many told the world over about beautiful girls and their older rivals, often a cruel biological mother or stepmother, but sometimes an aunt or a mother-in-law. In her new book, “The Fairest of Them All: Snow White and 21 Tales of Mothers and Daughters,” Maria Tatar, the John L. Loeb Research Professor of Folklore and Mythology and Germanic Languages and Literatures and a senior fellow in Harvard’s Society of Fellows, collected tales from a variety of nations, including Egypt, Japan, Switzerland, Armenia, and India. She spoke to the Gazette about her lifelong fascination with the saga and how we can look to fairy tales to navigate uncertain times.

GAZETTE: Why did you decide to take up the Snow White story?

TATAR: While working on my previous book with Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., “The Annotated African American Folktales,” I came across a South African story called “The Unnatural Mother and the Girl with a Star on Her Forehead.” It was basically what we call the Snow White story, but in it the “beautiful girl” falls into a catatonic trance after putting on slippers given to her by her jealous mother. That’s when I fell down the rabbit hole of wonder tales and discovered stories from all over the world in which a stunningly attractive young woman arouses the jealousy of a woman who is usually her biological mother. The Brothers Grimm, whose 1812 story inspired Walt Disney to create the animated film, had many vernacular tales available to them, but they chose to publish the one in which the rival is the stepmother, in part because they did not want to violate the sanctity of motherhood. Now, decades later, it is still our cultural story about the many complications and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship. It has eradicated almost every trace of the many tales told all over the world about beautiful girls and their rivals.

GAZETTE: Why does this particular story remain so resonant?

TATAR: All of the tales in this collection are cliffhangers. They begin with the counterfactual “What if?” then leave us asking “What’s next?” and finally challenge us to ask “Why?” These stories were originally told in communal settings, and they got people talking about all the conflicts, pressures, and injustices in real life. How do you create an ending that is not just happily ever after, but also “the fairest of them all”? What do you do when faced with worst-case possible scenarios? What do you need to survive cruelty, abandonment, and assault? In fairy tales, the answer often comes in the form of wits, intelligence, and resourcefulness on the one hand, and courage on the other. With their melodramatic mysteries, they arouse our curiosity and make us care about the characters. They tell us something about the value of seeking knowledge and feeling compassion under the worst of circumstances, and that’s a lesson that makes us pay attention today.

(8) REPLAY. Aidan Moher has an epic retro game review at Nerds of a Feather: “Beauty, Dragons, and Isometric Horror: Revisiting Breath of Fire IV”. Lots of analysis accompanied by eye-catching art from the game. At the end —

…Despite all that. I’m nine hours into this playthrough of Breath of Fire IV and it’s going to be the first time I complete it. Maybe it’s playing on a CRT monitor, which really allows those sprites to shine. Maybe it’s sheer grit and determination. Maybe it’s a growing understanding of how to appreciate games within their context, rather than expecting them to be something more modern. Nah. It’s the sprite art.

(9) HISTORY OF WATER? Maybe. The Planetary Society highlighted this NASA public domain image of “Curiosity’s View From The Top Of The Greenheugh Pediment”:

Stitched together from 28 images, this recent view from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was taken from the top of a steep slope, looking out over a sandstone cap and a more distant “clay-bearing unit,” a region which scientists think contains evidence of the history of water in the area.

(10) COLE OBIT. Joanna Cole, author of more than 250 books for children, including the Magic School Bus series, died July 12 at the age of 75. NPR paid tribute: “‘The Magic School Bus’ Series Author Joanna Cole Has Died”.

She originally created The Magic School Bus in 1986 with illustrator Bruce Degen. The core idea of a sweet and nerdy crew of schoolchildren taking field trips into scientific concepts, bodily parts, into space and back to the age of dinosaurs — and always led by their teacher, the intrepid Ms. Frizzle — eventually spun out into dozens of tie-ins and more than 93 million copies in print, plus a beloved television show that aired for 18 years in more than 100 countries.

In the U.S., the original Magic School Bus TV series was broadcast by PBS for 18 years; in 2017, an updated version launched in 2017 on Netflix, with the first of four specials on the way in August….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 17, 1987 Robocop premiered. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and produced by Arne Schmidt, it was written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. It starred Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer. It would lose out to The Princess Bride at Nolacon II for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. The movie was first given an X-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America due to its graphic violence, but Verhoeven toned it down and got an R. Most critics loved it and gave it high marks both as a SF film and as social commentary. Director Ken Russell said he thought it was the best SF film since Metropolis  It did very well at the Box Office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an 84% rating. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best-remembered for the Perry Mason detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. It is not available from the usual digital suspects but Amazon has copies of the original hardcover edition at reasonable prices. (Died 1970.) (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1907 – Humphry Ellis.  Double first in Classics at Magdalen (i.e. Oxford; not Magdalene, Cambridge), invited to teach at Marlborough, 1930; while there submitted to Punch, was accepted; hired there, 1933; deputy editor, 1949; resigned to protest new editor Malcolm Muggeridge, 1953; earned more selling to The New Yorker, 1954; a dozen collections.  For us “Trollope in Space”; “The Space-Crime Continuum” and one more in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1912 – Barbara Strachey.  Journeys of Frodo, an atlas; drew the maps herself.  See The Independent’s wonderful obituary, with a doll of Lytton Strachey, wine, Bertrand Russell, gardening.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1936 – John Spurling, 84.  Nairobi (not his fault this reminds me of Ernie Kovacs); Marlborough too late for H. Ellis; St John’s, Oxford; Royal Artillery; British Broadcasting Corp.; free lance.  Arcadian Nights re-imagining Greek myths; King Arthur in Avalon, play for a ladies’ college – is the Matter of Arthur fantasy?  Walter Scott Prize for The Ten Thousand Things, historical fiction about Wang Mêng (1308-1385); three more novels, nine more plays.  Franz Liszt Society.  [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1943 – Grania Davis.  Two novels (and three more outside our field) plus two with Avram Davidson; a dozen and half shorter stories plus four with him; translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian; her collection Tree of Life, Book of Death; AD collections The Boss in the WallThe AD Treasury with Robert Silverberg, Everybody Has Somebody in Heaven with Jack Dann, The Investigations of AD with Dick Lupoff, ¡Limekiller! and The Other 19th Century with Henry Wessells; anthology Speculative Japan with Gene van Troyer; essays, letters, on China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia (as it then was), Japan, M.Z. Bradley, C.N. Brown, AD, P.K. Dick, G.C. Edmondson, Judith Merril, Takumi Shibano, in LocusNY Review of SFet al.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1944 Thomas A. Easton, 76. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column for Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog. He appears frequently at Boston-area Cons. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 66. Best-known rather obviously for creating and writing most of  Babylon 5 and its all too short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the comics side, he’s written The Amazing Spider-ManThor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written SupermanWonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1956 Timothy D. Rose, 64. Puppeteer and actor. He was the Head Operator of Howard the Duck in that film, but was in The Dark Crystal, Return to EwokReturn of The JediReturn to OzThe Muppet Christmas CarolThe Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He voiced Admiral Ackbar in the latter two and in The Return of The Jedi as well. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1971 – Cory Doctorow, 49.  Ten novels, five dozen shorter stories.  Columnist for Locus, SF Age; anthologist; interviewed in SF Research Ass’n ReviewShimmerSteampunkStarShipSofaStrange Horizons.  Finding ourselves chatting about something or other at an SF convention we noticed that others stared; now, really, folks.  [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 44. Wow. Author of Ex Machina,  Pride of BaghdadRunawaysSagaY: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire Summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1988 —  Summer Bishil, 32. Best-known as Margo Hanson on The Magicians,  but she’s also been Azula in The Last Airbender, and Aneesa in Return to Halloweentown. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1989 – H.A. Titus, 31.  Two novels (Burnt Silver just released in February), ten shorter stories.  Paper Tigers proofreading service.  Loves legends, Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons,skiing, rock-climbing, her husband, their sons.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld captures the spirit of the moment.

(14) TIME FOR A REFILL. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 17th July 2020” takes a look at The Old Guard from the other side, exploring the important choices the movie adaptation makes and what that means for Western action/genre cinema. And after that, says Stuart —

I also take a look at Noelle Stevenson’s vastly impressive The Fire Never Goes Out, a graphic novel autobiography with clear eyes, a wicked sense of humor and incredible emotional honesty. Finally, there’s a look at Concrete Genie, a deeply lovely, and deceptively subtle PS4 game which maps personal and artistic growth onto the renovation of a small town, occasional parkour and adorable grobble monsters. Plus lots of apples.

The Full Lid is published weekly and is free. You can sign up at the top of the most recent issue and view an archive of the last six months. 

(15) TRAILER TIME. Here is the Superman Smashes the Klan Official Trailer for Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel from DC.

The year is 1946, and the Lee family has moved from Metropolis’ Chinatown to the center of the bustling city. While Dr. Lee is greeted warmly in his new position at the Metropolis Health Department, his two kids, Roberta and Tommy, are more excited about being closer to their famous hero, Superman! Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, The Terrifics, New Super-Man) brings us his personal retelling of the adventures of the Lee family as they team up with Superman to smash the Klan!

(16) LEARNING FROM THE CLARKE AWARD NUMBERS. “The Good News and the Bad: the Clarke Award submissions list under the lens”. Tagline: “Author and Clarke Award 2020 judge Stewart Hotston on representation and the state of contemporary SF publishing in the UK.”

…Now the bad news.

To be honest, I thought of writing something witty in place of that last sentence. Maybe ‘now the less good news’ but it’s not less good. It’s appalling and I want to be clear with my language here rather than covering over the situation with typical British understatement.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

121 submissions.

45 imprints

116 authors

14 authors of non-white descent (the specific definition of which we’ll discuss below)

3 British authors of non-white descent

Let me say that again.

3 British authors of non-white descent

Out of 116 authors.

In my view there were actually more books with problematic depictions of race than there are books by authors from those very communities (By my own count there were 9 books submitted from 7 imprints which featured unacceptable racial stereotypes or tropes).

(17) HOLD THE PHONE. “NASA Pushes Back Launch Date On Webb Space Telescope, Citing COVID-19”. NPR’s story includes video of packing the telescope for launch.

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the long-awaited — and long-delayed — successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, has been pushed back yet another seven months, NASA said Thursday citing, in part, delays from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nearly $10 billion project, which scientists hope will see back to the time when the first galaxies were formed following the Big Bang, had been scheduled to launch next March from French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket, but the space agency said it is now aiming for an Oct. 31, 2021, launch date.

“Webb is the world’s most complex space observatory, and our top science priority, and we’ve worked hard to keep progress moving during the pandemic,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. “The team continues to be focused on reaching milestones and arriving at the technical solutions that will see us through to this new launch date next year.”

(18) LIGHTS OUT. “Scientists shed light on how the blackest fish in the sea ‘disappear'”

An ocean mystery – how the blackest fish in the deep sea are so extremely black – has been solved in a study that began with a very bad photograph.

“I couldn’t get a good shot – just fish silhouettes,” said Dr Karen Osborn from the Smithsonian Institution.

Her detailed study of the animal’s “ultra-black” skin revealed that it traps light.

While it makes the animals difficult to photograph, marine scientists say it provides the ultimate camouflage.

There is, Dr Osborn explained, nowhere to hide from predators in the deep ocean, so this “ultra-blackness” renders creatures almost invisible.

(19) LITTLE TEENY EYES. “Beetle-mounted camera streams insect adventures” — the BBC’s straight-prose version. You can come up with your own filk accompaniment.

Researchers have developed a tiny wireless camera that is light enough to be carried by live beetles.

The team at the University of Washington in the US drew inspiration from the insects to create its low-powered camera system.

Its beetle-cam can stream up to five frames per second of low-resolution, black and white footage to a nearby smartphone.

The research was published in the Science Robotics journal.

The entire camera rig weighs just 250 milligrams, which is about a tenth of the weight of a playing card.

While the sensor itself is low resolution, capturing just 160 by 120 pixel images, it is mounted on a mechanical arm that can shift from side to side.

That allows the camera to look side to side and scan the environment, just like a beetle, and capture a higher-resolution panoramic image.

(20) CHANGING TIMES. BBC explains “Why Monty Python’s Life of Brian, once rated X, is now a 12A”.

In 1979, Monty Python’s Life of Brian was considered so controversial it was given an X certificate and banned from some British cinemas.

Last year, however, its rating was downgraded to a 12A by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

In its annual report, published this week, the BBFC said it now considered the film “permissible at a more junior category” under its current guidelines.

The film returned to cinemas in 2019 to mark its 40th anniversary.

It was rereleased in April last year with a 12A rating for “infrequent strong language, moderate sex references, nudity [and] comic violence”.

…When it was first released, the BBFC – then named the British Board of Film Censors – rated the film AA, which meant those under 14 were not allowed to see it.

Contemporary concerns that the film was blasphemous in nature led to more than 100 local authorities opting to view the film for themselves.

This led to 28 of them raising the classification to an X certificate, meaning no one under 18 could see it, and 11 banning the film altogether.

…It is not uncommon for the BBFC to revisit films that are being reissued theatrically and reappraise their original classification.

Earlier this year Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980 with a U certificate, was reclassified as a PG for its “moderate violence [and] mild threat”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “’The New World’ from RoGoPaG” on YouTube is Jean-Luc Godard’s contribution to a 1963 anthology film called RoGoPaG where he shows the subtle psychological consequences after an atomic bomb is exploded over Paris. Part I is below. Part II is here.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/28/20 A Scroll As Small As A Footnote Is Rising From The Pixels

(1) WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? “Majority of authors ‘hear’ their characters speak, finds study”. Details in The Guardian.

Some writers have always claimed they can hear their characters speaking, with Enid Blyton suggesting she could “watch and hear everything” and Alice Walker describing how her characters would “come for a visit … and talk”. But a new study has shown this uncanny experience is very widespread, with almost two-thirds of authors reporting that they hear their characters’ voices while they work.

Researchers at Durham University teamed up with the Guardian and the Edinburgh international book festival to survey 181 authors appearing at the 2014 and 2018 festivals. Sixty-three per cent said they heard their characters speak while writing, with 61% reporting characters were capable of acting independently….

(2) DISCOVERING ANIME. Mark Merlino, co-founder of the first furry con, has written “A brief history of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, America’s first anime fan club” at Dogpatch Press.

… At some point (in 1977), we had managed to add material to our screenings, thanks to Marc Kausler, an animator and film collector. People with contacts in Japan began trading tapes with other fans. By that time I had my own VCR (a Sanyo V-Cord II, because it had still frame and slow-motion features, which no other consumer VCR had), and I began making copies for our (my) own video library. In May (I believe) Wendall, Judy, Robin, Fred and I met in a park near Judy’s house and decided to become the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization. I remember the weird name was Fred’s idea (but he later denied it). The reason it was called “cartoon-fantasy” is because they (not me) believed that the term “animation” was too “insider” for typical fans, though everyone knew about “cartoons”. The “fantasy” part was because we were also getting live-action adventure shows from Japan (like Ultraman, Spiderman (Jp), Tiger Mask and many 5 member “transforming ninja” team shows), which were also popular at our screenings. 

(3) BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. The April 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Daffodil’s Baby,” by Alyssa Virker. Tagline: “What if you could have a baby using an egg from your favorite celebrity?”

It was published along with a response essay, “What’s Missing From Conversations About Designer Babies” by David Plotz, former CEO of Atlas Obscura and author of the book The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank.  

The modern eugenics movement was born when Francis Galton mapped the close genetic connections between the most “eminent” men of England for his 1869 book Hereditary Genius. Ever since then, eugenicists have been scheming up ways to save society by getting the “best” among us to have more children.

And ever since then, those same eugenicists have been fretting that the rest of us—the pig-brained masses—have the wrong idea of who the “best” people are. In the 1930s, one Nobel laureate was certain that mass artificial insemination could ensure that every baby would be a Newton or Leonardo, but worried that, left to their own whims, women would pick celebrities as their sperm donors, leaving us with a trivial society of “Valentinos, Jack Dempseys, Babe Ruths, and even Al Capones.” Hello, Daffodil and Breadbowl!

(4) THE MOUSE THAT ROARED. “Disney sparks backlash with #MayThe4th tweet” – the greedy rats!

Disney has been accused of trying to claim media ownership of popular hashtag “MayThe4th” on Twitter.

The company’s streaming service, Disney Plus, encouraged fans to share their favourite Star Wars memories using the hashtag on Monday.

It followed up with a legal warning suggesting any user who tweeted the hashtag was agreeing to Disney’s terms and letting it use their content.

It backtracked after a huge protest by fans and widespread mockery.

The hashtag – a play on the franchise’s phrase, “May the force be with you,” has been used for years to coincide with the made-up fan holiday.

“Reply with your favourite #Star Wars memory and you may see it somewhere special #MayThe4th,” the company said in a tweet.

“By sharing your message with us during #MayThe4th, you agree to our use of the message and your account name in all media and our terms of use.”

Many fans rushed to share their confusion over Disney’s tweet.

“You can’t just scream a terms of service agreement into the void and then assume anyone who does something falling in line has seen it and agreed,” replied one user.

(5) BOMBS AWAY. DoItYourselfRV takes you on a photo tour of the “Rocket Inspired Atomic Camper For The Astronaut In All Of Us”.

When you just have to get “back to the future” this retro inspired, steampunk-esque “Rocket Camper” may be just the inspiration you’re looking for. Exquisitely handcrafted by instructables user longwinters, this fine piece of machinery is built almost entirely of wood.

Here are two of the photos:

(6) LAST TIME. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 7, premieres May 27.

In the seventh and final season of the Marvel hit, Coulson and the Agents of SHIELD are thrust backward in time and stranded in 1931 New York City. With the all-new Zephyr set to time-jump at any moment, the team must hurry to find out exactly what happened. If they fail, it would mean disaster for the past, present and future of the world.

(7) SHAWL ON DIALECT AND REPRESENTATION. “Odyssey Podcast #128: Nisi Shawl on Dialect & Representation (Part 2)” from Odyssey Writing Workshop.

Nisi Shawl, the Jeff Pert Memorial Lecturer at Odyssey 2019, lectured on dialect and representation. In this excerpt, the second of two parts, Nisi explains techniques to reveal that a character speaks in dialect without using phoneticization. Word omission and word order (syntax) can show non-standard speech patterns and evoke the feeling of dialect while using standard spellings. Nisi discusses examples from her story “Black Betty.” Word choice is another technique that can reveal a person’s experience, cultural background, and expectations. It can also undercut stereotypes and reveal power differentials between characters. The rhythm of a word, sentence, or passage can also show non-standard speech patterns. Copying a poem or transcribing speech from someone native to the pattern you want to mimic can reveal rhythmic patterns. Cultural references can also help reveal a character’s non-standard speech. Nisi discusses several examples. But she wants writers to remember that difference is not monolithic.

(8) SEND ME IN COACH. Shannon Liao, in the CNN story “They lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Now they’re full-time video game coaches” profiles people who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus but have picked up additional income teaching video gamers how to improve their skills.

Trevor Andrews is a concert violist and music teacher who found his symphony performances canceled in late March as Covid-19 decimated the US economy. The private lessons he gave dried up as his clients cut back on their spending.

The 30-year-old resident of South Portland, Maine, is an avid gamer who considers himself an expert at the shooter game “Apex Legends,” in which squads of three battle to be the last team standing. So he decided to pivot from classical music to teaching online customers how to survive the virtual shoot-outs that have made the game an online hit.

“I’m good at explaining things,” he said. “Just like when I’m practicing the viola…You’re always self critiquing, and you’re always figuring out what you’re doing wrong and how to get better.”

Tech-savvy game enthusiasts are becoming full-time video game coaches as the ongoing pandemic has eradicated millions of jobs. While it may sound unusual, the job of teaching others how to improve their video game skills has been around for years and is now growing more popular as people shelter in place and spend more time online.

Like coaches in any endeavor, video game coaches teach players how to be more strategic and how to interact in team-based games like “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.” Some have their own awards for past gaming competitions and others simply have positive reputations bolstered by word of mouth….

(9) IF YOU’VE ACQUIRED THE TASTE. Grimdark Magazine’s CT Phipps provides “Ten Indie Grimdark Novel Recommendations”.

6. Seraphina’s Lament by Sarah Chorn

Mini-Review: Seraphina’s Lament is a truly dark and terrifying story based on the famines during the reign of Joseph Stalin. Taking place in a fantasy world where the old monarchy has been overthrown only to be replaced by something worse, starvation ravages the land. However, the population have more to deal with than their tyrannical overlord and his incompetence, the gods have decided to punish the land by unleashing a plague of hungry dead that will wipe the living from the face of the globe. The tight connections between the various characters sometimes stretches credulity but this is a solid piece of dark fantasy.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 28, 1946 The Shadow’s “Dreams of Death” episode first aired. It starred Lloyd Lamble (Quatermass 2) as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow with Lyndall Barbour as Margot Lane and Lloyd Berrill as The Announcer. The Shadow in the radio series was quite different from the printed version as he was given the power to “cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him”. This was at odds with the pulp novel character who relied solely on stealth and his guns to get the job done. Likewise Margo Lane was a radio creation that would later be added to the pulps. You can hear this episode here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 28, 1840 Palmer Cox. He was known for The Brownies, his series of humorous books and comic strips about the troublesome but generally well-meaning sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book for some forty years starting in the 1870s. Due to the immense popularity of his Brownies, one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. (Died 1924.)
  • Born April 28, 1910 Sam Merwin Jr. He was most influential in the Forties  and Fifties as the editor of Startling Stories,  Fantastic Story QuarterlyWonder Stories AnnualThrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Universe. He wrote a few stories for DC’s Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space but otherwise wasn’t known as a genre writer. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 28, 1911 Lee Falk. He’s best remembered for creating and scripting both Mandrake the Magician (first published June 11th, 1934) and The Phantom (first published February 17, 1936). He would be inducted into Will Eisner Hall of Fame for his work on these strips. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 28, 1917 Robert Cornthwaite. Actor in such Fifties films as The Thing From Another WorldThe War of the WorldsMen Into Space and Destination Space. He would be active throughout the late Twentieth Century in such productions as The Twilight ZoneVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaColossus: The Forbin Project The Six Million Dollar ManBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and White Dwarf. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. She had an uncredited role in the original The War of the Worlds, her first genre role, as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here as reviewed by Kage’s sister Kathleen. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for a night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 28, 1953 William Murray, 67. He’s been the literary executor for the estate of Lester Dent for the past forty years, and has written fifteen Doc Savage novels from Dent’s outlines using Dent’s pseudonym, Kenneth Robeson. His Doc Savage: Skull Island, teams him up with King Kong, and, I kid you not, he recently wrote Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars in which John Carter oF Mars was revived.
  • Born April 28, 1971 Chris Young, 49. Bryce Lynch in the Max Headroom series which I still hold is the best SF series ever done. The only other genre I think he’s in are two horror films, The Runestone and Warlock: The Armageddon. Unless you call voice roles in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue genre…
  • Born April 28, 1982 Samantha Lockwood, 38. Daughter of Gary Lockwood of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame. And she apparently was in yet another video Trek fanfic though this may not have ever gotten done before Paramount squashed them, Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time. There’s a trailer but no actual episode that I can find, so her role in Sci-Fighters which as Girlfriend that it is is her only genre role.

(12) TRUE VALUE. Emmett Asher-Perrin proclaims “The Character of the Doctor Is More Important to Me Than Doctor Who Will Ever Be” in an essay at Tor.com.

…But what I’m really trying to say is, it doesn’t matter if Doctor Who is good. It has never mattered if Doctor Who is good because the only thing that matters about Doctor Who is that it gave us the Doctor. If a piece of fiction is the beholden to what it leaves behind, then that is what the show bequeaths to us.

And what a beautiful inheritance that has become over the decades.

(13) NEW WORLDS, AT THE TIME ANYWAY. Galactic Journey’s Mark Yon reviews the latest issues – in 1965 – of British prozines: “[APRIL 28, 1965] Mermaids, Persian Gods And Time Travel New Worlds And Science Fantasy, April/May 1965″.

This month’s ‘arty’ cover is by the prolific Keith Roberts, who seems to be everywhere at the moment. His colour artwork was last seen on the cover of the January issue, this one to my mind is just as odd. Are British magazine covers meant to look like they are painted by a child? I despair, especially when I see the covers for the US magazines, which by comparison are so much more than what we get here. The best that can be said here though is that they reflect the changes in the magazines at the moment. They are determined to be different.

The Editorial this month mentions the up-coming British Worldcon later this year – now less than four months away! – and how to apply to attend. It also enquires about letters on the idea of genre and also mentions that there will be a letters page – soon! However, before readers get their hopes up that Science Fantasy will take on other New Worlds staples like the Ratings list – it’s not going to happen.

To the stories themselves….

(14) CURRENT EVENTS. Nicola Alter at Thoughts on Fantasy changes pace with a look back at the many people influenced by a 19th century scientist — “Idols, Friends and Mentors: Alexander von Humboldt’s Influence on Writing and Science”.

…First I should probably explain who Humboldt himself was: a scientist, explorer, mountaineer, nature writer and science writer who invented isobars and was the first to propose the idea of climate zones. He published the popular book series Cosmos along with many other volumes on science, nature and politics, and was at one point the most famous scientists of his time.

He also expressed very progressive ideas for a European in the early 1800s – he pointed out that human activity could damage the environment and change the climate; was vehemently anti-slavery, anti-colonialism and pro-democracy; and held positive views of indigenous people, even referring to the European colonists as the real “savages”. If you want to know more about him you can read my review on Goodreads… or better yet, read the book!

(15) FAVORITES OF FORTY-FOUR. Cora Buhlert continues working her way through the Retro Hugo finalists: “Retro Review: ‘Far Centaurus’ by A.E. van Vogt”. BEWARE SPOILERS beyond this introduction:

… “Far Centaurus”, a science fiction short story by A.E. van Vogt that was published in the January 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo Award. The story may be read online here

(16) TIME SINK. In Vice’s opinion “This 51,300-Piece Puzzle Will Either Chill You Out or Ruin Your Quarantine”.

The first wave of stimulus checks from the federal government’s coronavirus relief package have started to appear in some Americans’ bank accounts and, unsurprisingly, a not-insignificant percentage of that money has already been spent on groceries, gas, utility bills and video games, because eventually Tom Nook comes for all of us.

But if you happen to have an extra $599.95 that you aren’t blowing on black market sourdough starter, then Kodak would like you to buy its 51,300 piece jigsaw puzzle. The company says that this is the “world’s largest commercially available puzzle,” and it will arrive at your doorstep in one 40-pound box that contains 27 individually wrapped bags of anxiety….

Here’s a video of someone assembling a slightly smaller puzzle.

(17) LOST WORLD OF THE 21ST CENTURY. “Guillermo del Toro: What Allowed ‘Hellboy’ Films to Be Made No Longer Exists” – as he explains to Yahoo! Entertainment.

“What allowed the two films to exist, it’s gone,” del Toro wrote. “The Blu-ray DVD performance of the first ‘Hellboy’ was massive. So big that Ben Feingold, at Columbia, went full-on on the sequel development. Ben was so impressed by those numbers that he made ‘Hellboy’ one of the very first Blu-rays from Columbia Pictures. Far as I can recall, the number for home video surpassed theatrical.”

Del Toro had plans to direct a third “Hellboy,” but the box office performance of “The Golden Army” killed the franchise. The director pitched “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola on an idea to turn the third movie into a comic book, but the plan was rejected as to not mixup the different mediums and confuse fans.

(18) A LOST SATELLITE OF THE 20TH CENTURY. “Long-Lost U.S. Military Satellite Found By Amateur Radio Operator”NPR talked to him.

…In 2018, he found a signal from a NASA probe called IMAGE that the space agency had lost track of in 2005. With Tilley’s help, NASA was able to reestablish contact.

But he has tracked down zombies even older than IMAGE.

“The oldest one I’ve seen is Transit 5B-5. And it launched in 1965,” he says, referring to a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy navigation satellite that still circles the Earth in a polar orbit, long forgotten by all but a few amateurs interested in hearing it “sing” as it passes overhead.

Recently, Tilley got interested in a communications satellite he thought might still be alive — or at least among the living dead. LES-5, built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, was launched in 1967.

Tilley was inspired by another amateur who in 2016 had found LES-1, an earlier satellite built by the same lab. What was intriguing to him about LES-5 was that if it was still working, it might be the oldest functioning satellite still in geostationary orbit.

(19) THE SOOT(LER) DID IT. Smithsonian reports that “After the Dinosaur-Killing Impact, Soot Played a Remarkable Role in Extinction”. No shit, Sherlock.

The famous impact 66 million years ago kicked up soot into the atmosphere that played an even bigger role in blocking sunlight than experts had realized

…When the impactor plowed into the Earth and created the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, it vaporized the crust and created a planet-wide plume of debris that emitted radiation at a rate about 20 times stronger than the sun. It ignited plants and animals in its path. Later, lightning from impact-generated storms ignited more fires, maintaining an atmosphere rich in soot.

“Soot is very good at absorbing sunlight,” Tabor says. “As soot gets into the stratosphere, some of it heats the atmosphere and self-lofts higher, increasing its atmospheric residence time.”

…”Soot blocked sunlight, greatly reducing if not shutting down photosynthesis on both the land and in the sea,” says Chicxulub expert David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas. “Without photosynthesis, the base of the food chain would have collapsed. While fires may have demolished vegetation on land in large areas of the world, globally distributed soot may have ravaged vegetation elsewhere.”

…Tabor and his colleagues hoped to sort out the soot by modeling its impact separate from that of sulfates and dust. The new study started by modeling the topography, vegetation and greenhouse gases of the Cretaceous Period. The team also simulated the thermosphere and allowed the sizes of impact aerosols to change over time. Previous models had struggled to quantify these effects. “The impact and fire-generated pollutants were so voluminous that they caused previous computer models to crash,” Kring says. “The current study seems to have succeeded where past attempts failed.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “2001: A Space Odyssey: A Look Behind The Future” on YouTube is a 1967 promotional video, prepared by Look magazine for potential advertisers, for 2001: A Space Odyssey, that includes interviews with actor Keir Dullea, the film’s principal science advisor, Frederic I. Ordway III, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke visiting the lunar excursion module under construction at the time by Grumman in Long Island.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/7/18 Pixel Yourself On A Spinning Space Station, With Alien Porters With Arthropod Eyes

(1) HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF US. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about battling website and ISP) problems in “Business Musings: Website Issues”. The post begins —

It’s tough to write my blog when my website is down…for the second time in two weeks. Both times had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the website hosting service, which is so monumentally incompetent that I’m speechless.

I learned a lesson during this incident. A big important lesson.

And it ends —

…And as I (and the kind folks at WMG) rebuild, we will be doing so with an eye to a 2018 website, not a 2010 website. We’ll make information easy to find. The weekly features will remain as well.

It’s going to take a bit of time, but it was something I needed to do. Bluehost forced me into it.

They also taught me a valuable lesson. Every few years, I need to re-evaluate every service that I hire to help with my business, not just to see if the service is doing well, but also to make sure the service itself is the same company that I hired a few years before.

Things change quickly in this modern world, and I really need to incorporate that awareness of change into my own business planning…

In between, Rusch explains how she learned the lesson the hard way.

(2) ABOUT GRIMDARK. Paul Weimer analyzes “The Fugue of Fantasy and the Grimdark Interregnum” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In the history of epic fantasy, following this analogy and paradigm, there has always been a voice in a minor key, a strain of fantasy with antiheroes, shades of dark grey and darkness, worlds where hope and optimism are not valued or are even punished. Violence is the name of the game, dystopic amorality the norm and the worlds are often the successor states or the  ruins of another, brighter time. The classical Western European model of the first few centuries after Rome fell is the historical ur-model, and indeed, many novels use thinly disguised or even explicitly set in that time period. The latest iteration of this minor-key fantasy, which had in recent years become a dominant theme in epic fantasy, is what we call Grimdark….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to share a steak dinner with legendary comics creator Don McGregor in episode 76 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

I reached out to Dauntless Don — we all had nicknames back them; he was Dauntless, I was Sparkling — and said, hey, how about if when I’m on the way back to the airport at the end of Readercon, I swoop down, take you out for dinner, and we chew over the old times. And that’s exactly what we did, at the Safehouse in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, along with Dauntless Don’s wife, the Marvelous Marsha, whose voice you’ll occasionally hear in the background of this episode.

Don started out his career in comics by writing some of the best horror stories to appear in the pages of Creepy and Eerie — and I remember well reading the first of them in the early ’70s. When he moved on to Marvel Comics, he did groundbreaking work with such characters as Black Panther, Killraven, and Luke Cage. In fact, his two-year “Panther’s Rage” arc was ranked as the third most important Marvel Comics storyline of the ’70s by Comics Bulletin. In 2015, he was awarded the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing at San Diego Comic-Con International.

We discussed how meeting Jim Steranko led to him selling his first comics story, why when he was 13 years old, he wanted to be Efrem Zimbalist Jr., what he learned from Naked City creator Stirling Silliphant, how his first meeting with future Black Panther artist Billy Graham could have been disastrous, why the comics he wrote in the ’70s wouldn’t have been able to exist two years later, the reasons Archie Goodwin was such a great editor, how he convinced Stan Lee to allow the first interracial kiss in mainstream comics, what life lessons he took from Westerns in general and Hopalong Cassidy in particular, why he almost stopped writing Lady Rawhide, and much more.

(4) ALIEN ENCOUNTER NUMBER CRUNCHING. James Davis Nicoll discourages the idea that we’ll be meeting aliens in reality: “Doing the Math: Aliens and Advanced Tech in Science Fiction”. After reading Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem, maybe that’s a relief?

Everyone loves them some aliens. But …if the encounter is to work out to the satisfaction of all concerned, it is best if the aliens not be too advanced (because they could brush us aside like ants) or too primitive (we might brush them aside like ants). No, there’s a Goldilocks zone for aliens, in which they are close to the same tech level as humans … and can interact peaceably with us.

Which leads me to wonder: just how likely is it that two unconnected civilizations could reach the same technological level (roughly) at the same time?

Time for some large, round numbers….

(5) EXCEEDING THE READ LIMIT. Walter Mosley declares, “Enough with the Victors Writing History”, at LitHub.

I have studied the great powers that vie to control what they want us to believe about the past; but I don’t identify with them. I identify with the librarians who, when asked by GW Bush to report on their visitors’ reading habits, held up a hand and said, “First Amendment.” I identify with outsider artists and labor organizers and autodidacts who either refuse to or are unable to believe in the lies foisted upon us by the conquerors. I identify with the belief that there exists a history out there just beyond the reach of our powers of cognition. And I believe that a lie is a lie; that if you coexist with a population that helped to build your house, your culture, your music, a population that helped to raise your children and fine-tune your language, and you deny that culture’s impact on who you are… then your knowledge of history will fail you and the past will devour you and your children.

If you deny your past your future will be a detour around your fondest hopes and dreams…

Daniel Dern sent the link with a note, “While best known for his detective fiction, Mosley has written a handful of sf… and is a big sf fan… I’ve got a photo from Millennial PhilCon (Worldcon 2001) of him and Orson Scott Card, just after they met and near-simultaneously said to the other ‘I’m a huge fan.’”

(6) WOMBAT TO RETURN TO ALBUQUERQUE. Kevin Sonney boosts the signal –

(7) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Chabeli Herrera in the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Kennedy Space Center has opened up the Astronaut Training Experience, which simulates a trip to Mars by having visitors “strap onto a microgravity simulator: and then carry out a repair on the space station.  There’s also a simulation of Mars Base 1, where visitors can “work together to solve various technical problems” including “programming a team of robots to clean dust off the base’s solar panels.” — “Like real astronaut training, Kennedy Space Center’s new simulators let you work in zero gravity, drive Mars rover”.

Like a scene from “The Martian,” the botany lab in Mars Base 1 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex grows vegetables under the glow of fluorescent purple lights.

But it’s not all potatoes like in the 2015 film. This room can grow anything from cress to tomatoes, and all of the crops are planted and harvested by guests playing astronaut for the day.

The botany room is one of several new features at Kennedy Space Center’s Astronaut Training Experience Center, a two-year project designed to simulate astronaut training and work on Mars. The attraction opened in February, but officials gathered Thursday to officially kick off the opening of the ATX with representatives from its sponsor, aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

(8) SPEAK MEMORY. Hear the Harlan Ellison Memorial Panel at Worldcon 76:

(9) SHELLEY OBIT. Actress Carole Shelley (1939-2018), who appeared on stage in The Odd Couple and Wicked, and voiced characters in the Disney animated movies The Aristocats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973), died August 31 reports the New York Times:

A new generation of theatergoers knew Ms. Shelley for originating a less sympathetic character in the musical “Wicked,” a prequel of sorts to L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

The show opened in 2003 with Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, the putatively good witch, and Idina Menzel as Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. (“Wicked” was still running on Broadway, with a different cast, when Ms. Shelley died.)

Ms. Shelley played Madame Morrible, a college official who pairs Glinda and Elphaba as roommates. She later helps arrange a series of events that push Elphaba toward wickedness.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 7, 1958  — Queen of Outer Space premiered.
  • September 7, 2017 – Jerry Pournelle died. Cat Eldridge notes: “Author, The Mote in God’s Eye with Larry Niven, numerous other works including the Janissary series, and superb tech commentary writer as well. His Byte column was something I very much looked forward to reading every month.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7 – Karen Frenkel, 63. Author, Robots: Machines in Man’s Image (1985) with Isaac Asimov. Available on her website.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • A Hollywood in-joke you’ll all get – Long Story Short.
  • Scene from a comic con by Nigel Auchterlounie —

(13) HIGH CONCEPT. This December in Infinity Wars: Fallen Guardian #1.

(14) CATS IN THE VICINITY OF SFF. David D. Levine made a fan —

(15) ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Data from the Chandra X-ray telescope has been combined with optical data to image a distant galaxy that seems to be encircled by black holes and/or neutron stars (International Business Times: “Ring Made Of Black Holes? Massive Cosmic Structure Found Encircling Distant Galaxy”). Galaxy AM 0644-741 was involved in a recent (astronomically speaking) collision with another galaxy that boosted star formation. The most massive of those stars had a very short life and have since gone supernova, leaving behind black holes and neutron stars.

Out of the newborn baby stars, the most massive ones probably led a short life, spanning on the scale of millions of years. They lost their nuclear fuel with time and exploded as supernovae, where the majority of the stellar material is blown away, leaving black holes 5 to 20 times heavier than the sun or dense neutron stars carrying approximately same mass as the sun.

This indicates the ring is either made from stellar-mass black holes or neutron stars that are accompanied by close companion stars. The dense objects are drawing gas from their stellar counterparts, forming a super-hot spinning disk which acts as a detectable X-ray source for Chandra.

Though the researchers behind the discovery — a team from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Italy — couldn’t confirm the identity of individual sources making up the ring, they believe this could either be a case of all black holes or all neutron stars, or a mix of both.

The NASA website (“Cosmic Collision Forges Galactic One Ring—in X-rays”) that AM 0644-741 is only one of several galaxies with such X-ray rings and adds a link to the pre-print article on the arXiv service.

The paper describing the study of AM 0644 and its sister ring galaxies appeared in the August 10, 2018 issue of the Astrophysical Journal and is available online. The co-authors of the paper are Antonella Fruscione from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and Michela Mapelli from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Padova, Italy.

(16) PULPFEST DATES IN 2019. The dates for PulpFest 2019 are the same weekend at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon but that may not represent an actual conflict for more than a few fans.

PulpFest 2019 will take place from Thursday, August 15, through Sunday, August 18. We’ll be returning to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.” PulpFest will be joined by FarmerCon. Hopefully, they’re not too hung over from this year’s Philip José Farmer centennial.

Start making your plans for the 48th convening of PulpFest and its celebration of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and more. Join us for “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” at “Summer’s Great Pulp Con.” Please bring your friends!

(17) ALMOST. James Davis Nicoll credits John Varley for showing us “How to Make a Near-Utopia Interesting: John Varley’s Eight World Stories” at Tor.com.

Peace and prosperity sound like they’re good things, but perhaps not for authors. What kind of plots can be imagined if the standard plot drivers are off the table? How does one tell stories in a setting that, while not a utopia, can see utopia at a distance ? The premise seems unpromising, but thirteen stories and a novel argue that one can write absorbing narratives in just such a setting. So how did Varley square this particular circle?

(18) AN OSCAR ON HOLD. About that new “popular film” Oscar? Like the Magic Eight-Ball says – “Ask again later” — “Oscars postpone plans for new popular film category”.

…The award, which could have recognised films popular with audiences but not critics, was only announced last month.

In a statement, the Academy’s CEO said she had “recognised the need for further discussion” with its members about the proposal first.

…In previous years, films which have done well at the box office with audiences – including Mamma Mia, Avatar and the Mission Impossible franchise – have been snubbed by the Academy.

The Oscars’ organisers did not elaborate in their August announcement how eligibility for the new category would have been established.

Some Hollywood critics suggested the new category’s “popular” tag was confusing and could risk creating a two-tier system among films.

It was feared films praised by critics and audiences alike, such as Dunkirk and Get Out, would risk being relegated to the new category rather than standing a chance in the prestigious Best Film award category.

(19) MORE RUBY SLIPPER NEWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Smithsonian has a little more info, including how the recovered shoes were authenticated, as well as more info about the ownership of this pair and the others pairs still extant: “After 13-Year Chase, F.B.I. Nabs Pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers”.

…The slippers, it turns out, were not actually owned by the Judy Garland Museum. Instead, they were property of a collector named Michael Shaw, who purchased them in 1970 for a mere $2,000, reports Jennifer Medina for The New York Times. Shaw, who also owns one of Dorothy’s dresses, a witch’s hat and a munchkin outfit from the 1939 movie, was in the habit of loaning out the slippers to museums around the country, donating his display fee to children’s charities. The slippers were on display as part of a 10-week traveling tour when they were stolen on the night of August 28. According to a press release from the Grand Rapids police, a thief or thieves broke into the museum’s back door and smashed open the plexiglass case. There were no cameras on the premises and the museum’s alarm failed to sound.

…After the shoes were apprehended, the F.B.I. brought them to the Smithsonian, which owns another pair of slippers used in the filming, to confirm their ruby slippers were the real deal. For the last two years, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has been analyzing and conserving a different pair of slippers donated to the museum in the late 1970s as part of a Kickstarter campaign. The F.B.I. brought the purloined pair to objects conservator Dawn Wallace for a look.

“We were able to spend two days looking at them and doing close examination as well as some analysis,” Wallace tells Smithsonian.com. “Not only did we have a physical examination, but we were able to conduct some technical analysis of the material to confirm that they were in fact consistent.”

Wallace says two other details cinched the case: First, it’s difficult to fake 80 years of aging on a pair of shoes. Second, the pair in the Smithsonian’s collection is actually a mismatched pair of ruby slippers, with the left sized “5C” and the right sized “5BC.” The pair recovered by the F.B.I. turned out to be the mates of the museum’s shoes (which are set to go back on display in a climate-controlled case on October 19)….

Since Mr. Shaw had received an $800,000 insurance settlement quite some time ago, the shoes belong to the insurance company now.

(20) FOYLES SOLD:BBC reports “Waterstones buys Foyles to defend bookshops against Amazon” – the Foyles Charing Cross Road location hosted this year’s Clarke Award announcement.

Waterstones is buying the 115 year-old family-owned chain Foyles, saying the deal will help to “champion” real bookshops in the face of online rivals.

The sale includes Foyles’ well-known Charing Cross Road store in central London, which was relocated to larger premises in 2014.

Waterstones said the deal would help booksellers fight back against Amazon’s “siren call”.

The larger chain has 283 bookshops across the UK and northern Europe.

[Thanks to Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]