Pixel Scroll 10/17/20 The Eliot Ness Monster

(1) CARRYING OUT THEIR LAST WISHES. J. Michael Straczynski posted on Facebook today about his all-consuming role as executor for Harlan and Susan Ellison.

… “How do YOU know what the deal is, huh? My guy talked to the executor just yesterday, who told him this straight-up. How do YOU know better than HE does?”

How do I know better? How do I know these are just rumors?

Because I am the Executor of the Harlan and Susan Ellison Trust.

I’ve kept a low profile since accepting this position in order to focus on of the million-and-one details that have to be addressed. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been appointed an executor, but it is a massive undertaking. To be an executor is to inherit nothing but be responsible for everything, and to implement the last wishes of those who entrusted you with the totality of their life’s work.

Consequently, ever since Susan’s passing, 80% of my day, every day, has gone into establishing the Trust, dealing with tax issues, creditors, court documents, lawyers, accountants, affidavits, death certificates, corporate minutes…in simpler cases, the process only takes a few months, and usually ends by parceling out bequests or auctioning off the estate.

But that is not the case here, because there is the legacy of Harlan’s work that must be preserved and enhanced. Looking after all this, and seeing to Harlan and Susan’s wishes, is something I will likely be doing for the rest of my life.

Everything that Harlan ever owned, did or wrote will be fiercely protected. Steps are being taken to certify Ellison Wonderland as a cultural landmark, ensuring that it will remain just as it is long after I have gone to dust.

To revive interest in his prose, literary representation has been shifted to Janklow & Nesbit, one of the largest and most prestigious literary agencies in the world. Film and TV rights will be handled through A3, previously known as the Abrams Agency, also a leading and influential agency. I will be working hand in glove with them to get Harlan’s work back into print in a big way.

There is more to say on future plans – much more – but all of that will come in time….

(2) WORD MAGIC. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick promises that Alix E. Harrow’s “‘The Once And Future Witches’ Will Have You Spellbound”.

…Harrow likes a secret society in the best way, and Witches is riddled with secrets, honeycombed with groups working toward overlapping or opposing goals. The Sisters engage in imaginative skulduggery, scrounging plans from overlooked skills and ignored know-how. She also likes an uprising, and here, where witchery and sickness both run deep as water under a layer of oil, that’s heady stuff. We all (I hope) agree women getting the vote was long overdue. Framing the reclamation of magic and power against that real-world struggle, which we know turned out a certain way, feels particularly apt to themes of once and future, poignant to the powerlessness many feel this year.

I adored watching characters as their expectations were subverted, as their understanding of their world expanded. Harrow revels in many-layered mysteries, in a story of many acts, in wordplay….

(3) MAUS ARTIST. The Guardian’s Sam Leith interviews “Graphic artist Art Spiegelman on Maus, politics and ‘drawing badly'”.

…Spiegelman’s success had the disconcerting effect of placing an artist who had been happy in the comix-with-an-x underground – a lysergic disciple of R Crumb – very firmly in the literary establishment. He became a staple of Tina Brown’s New Yorker, a darling of academics, and came to be regarded by many, not without resentment, as a sort of capo of the US comics scene.

“I remember when I first got this Pulitzer prize I thought it was a prank call,” he says, “But immediately after I got back to New York, I got an urgent call from a wonderful cartoonist and friend, Jules Feiffer: ‘We have to meet immediately. Can you come out and have a coffee?’ And we met. He said: ‘You have to understand what you’ve just got. It’s either a licence to kill, or something that will kill you.’”

That comics are now considered “respectable” – thanks in part to Maus – is something Spiegelman never quite looked for. But he acknowledges it has its advantages. “I’m astounded by how things have changed. And I would say I might have been dishonest or disingenuous when I said I wasn’t interested in it being respectable. I love the medium. And I love what was done in it from the 19th century to now. But I know that on some level, I want it to be able to not have to make everything have a joke, or an escapist adventure story.”

His rocket launch into canonicity was both “liberating and also incredibly confining – trying to find places to go where I wouldn’t have to be the Elie Wiesel of comic books”. Even at the time, Spiegelman seems to have been conscious that Maus would be in danger of defining him. The next project he took on was illustrating Moncure March’s jazz-age poem The Wild Party for a small press: “This was going to be a kind of polar opposite [to Maus]: decorative, erotic, frivolous in many ways and involved with the pleasures of making; although it didn’t turn out to be so pleasurable in its third year. Every project I start turns into a coffin.”

(4) MAKE IT SO. “‘I Longed To See Something Different, So I Wrote It’: Questions For Rebecca Roanhorse” at NPR.

… In an email interview, Roanhorse tells me that’s something she’s always wanted to write about. “I have been reading epic fantasies inspired by European settings since I was a child, and while I’m still a fan of many of these works, I longed to see something different,” she says. “So I wrote it. I never made a conscious decision to go in that direction. That direction was simply the natural culmination of my love of the architecture, poetry, politics, and history of these places and people that I’ve been learning about forever.”

(5) IN MEMORY NOT GREEN. The actress says it ain’t so: “Tatiana Maslany Refutes She-Hulk Casting Report: Lead Role In Disney+ Series ‘Not Actually A Thing” at SYFY Wire.

Previous reports that Tatiana Maslany was getting ready to go green may have been premature. The Canadian-born Orphan Black star recently told an Ontario newspaper that she’s not been cast, after all, as the star of Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk series at Disney+.

Speaking with the The Sudbury Star this week, Maslany tapped the brakes on all the She-Hulk hype, saying she’s “unfortunately” not currently tied to the series. First reported by Variety in September, word quickly spread that Marvel had tapped Maslany to play Jennifer Walters (aka She-Hulk), the comics-based cousin of Bruce Banner.

(6) GAME FACE. Ty Schalter’s “Personal Canons: Ender’s Game” is the latest guest post in Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series.

…So why, then, am I putting on my cape and riding out for this book as one that Everyone Must Read?

It’s not just because it remains a beautiful piece of art. Neither is it just because many other great books Card wrote have been silenced by his own inability to let them speak for themselves. Nor is it just because Ender’s Game deserves to be snatched from the canonical pyre and preserved for future generations.

It’s because Ender’s Game is a warning.

It’s a warning to privileged kids like me, who believe they know better than everyone else, when they don’t know how to turn in their homework on time. It’s a warning to everyone who thinks the universe owes them anything, just because of the circumstances of their birth. It’s a warning to a society that will stop at nothing to put itself first, even if that means perverting everything it’s supposed to stand for. Most of all, it’s a warning to authors, to readers, to writers, to the SFF community.

Yes, it’s possible to build a future where everyone can thrive together. Where our stories and our lives are enriched by the diversity of our voices, experiences, myths, cultures, and canons. Where the stories we tell light the way for all of humanity.

But the moral arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice by default. It requires constant, collective work with hammer and tongs. It requires pain, exhaustion, sacrifice by those who are able on behalf of those who aren’t. It requires humble reflection on everything we’ve ever done and choosing to do the right thing now, again and again, no matter how badly (or how often) we’ve screwed up. It is the journey of a lifetime, or many lifetimes.

(7) THE LIGHTHEARTEDNESS OF OTHER DAYS. James Wallace Harris surveys the field in “Poking Fun at Science Fiction”, but confesses, “My problem is sarcasm, satire, and subtle jabs go right over my head (my lady friends take advantage of this).”

…Study that Emsh (Ed Emshwiller) painting above. At first I thought it a clever way to suggest action – a woman had been abducted from a space colony. But then I thought of something, and it became funny, But how could it possibly comic? Obviously a woman has been kidnapped by an alien on a colony world – that’s tragic. But if you know the history of science fiction magazines, and the cliches about covers with BEMs carrying off a scantily clad women, then you might think Emsh is playing around. In case you don’t know the lingo, BEM stands for bug eyed monster. Sex sells, even for science fiction magazines. Why did Emsh leave off the sexy woman and lower the sales of that issue? Because we expected a naked woman he thought might be funny to disappoint us. Sure, the painting is of a serious action scene, a man is running to rescue a woman. Maybe even the editor told him, “No babes.” But I like to think Emsh is also poking fun at science fiction (See the section below, Sex, Nudity, and Prudity in Science Fiction.)

(8) FLEMING OBIT. Actress Rhonda Fleming died October 14. The New York Times paid tribute: “Rhonda Fleming, 97, Movie Star Made for Technicolor, Is Dead”. Here’s a brief excerpt concerning her genre connections.

Rhonda Fleming, the red-haired actress who became a popular sex symbol in Hollywood westerns, film noir and adventure movies of the 1940s and ’50s, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 97.

Ms. Fleming’s roles included those of a beautiful Arthurian princess in the Bing Crosby musical version of Mark Twain’s novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (1949).

… Ms. Fleming’s … last film was “The Nude Bomb,” a 1980 spy comedy based on the 1960s sitcom “Get Smart,” in which she played Edith Von Secondberg, an international fashion designer.

In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star, relaxing at her California home with Mr. Mann, she said, “My husband recently asked me if I’d seen any movie I wanted to appear in.” She went straight for a specific role. “I said yes, the dinosaur in ‘Jurassic Park.’”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago at Noreascon Two, Alien would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Ridley Scott from the screenplay by Dan O’Bannon off the story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. This would the second Hugo nomination form O’Bannon who was nominated earlier at MidAmeriCon for Dark Star. He’d would win his second Hugo several years later for Aliens at Conspiracy ’87, and be later nominated at Chicon V for Total Recall and Alien 3 at ConFrancisco. A half million audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a horrifyingly great ninety-four percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 17, 1856 – Jane Barlow.  Knew French & German; classical scholar; pianist.  D.Litt. from Univ. Dublin.  A score of books; Irish Idylls went into nine editions.  For us The End of Elfintown book-length poem; translation of The Battle of Frogs and Mice, title page here; under another name, A Strange Land.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1917 Marsha Hunt, 103. Performer who appeared in both the original versions of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, also appeared in Star Trek: The Next GenerationShadow Chasers and Fear No Evil. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1934 Alan Garner, 86. His best book? That’d be Boneland which technically is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath but really isn’t. Oh, and The Owl Service is amazingly superb! There’s a BBC video series of the latter but I’ve not seen it.  (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1942 – John Sapienza, Jr., 78.  Gamer (six years in Alarums & Excursions), WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) stalwart, helpful con-runner (he was at SMOFcon 7; SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” being as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better; SMOFcon 37 was in 2019), and lawyer, who found himself marrying Peggy Rae Pavlat, which had an effect like Atomic Mouse’s U-235 pills.  He was and is quite worthy; I said the only way Peggy Rae could have got more sapience was by marrying him.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1948 – Robert Jordan.  Best known for the Wheel of Time series, finished by Brandon Sanderson at RJ’s death.  Also Conan the Barbarian books.  Under other names, historical fiction, a Western, dance criticism.  In the Army earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with oak-leaf cluster, Bronze Star with “V” and oak-leaf cluster, two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm.  His widow continues as an editor.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1950 – Michael J. Walsh, F.N., 70.  Another WSFA stalwart, he chaired ConStellation the 41st Worldcon, three Disclaves including one he couldn’t attend, two Capclaves, Balticon 15, three World Fantasy Conventions.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 29, Lunacon 40, Armadillocon 36, World Fantasy Con 2018.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Publisher, Old Earth Books.  Occasional Filer.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1951 – Geraldine Harris, 69.  Five novels, two shorter stories; see her Website here.  Also children’s books on ancient Egypt.  Married name Geraldine Pinch identifies her academic work in Egyptology, from which she says she has retired.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1958 Jo Fletcher, 62. British editor who, after working for Gollancz for 16 years, founded Jo Fletcher Books in 2011. Interestingly ISFDB says she’s done two World Fantasy Convention souvenir books, Gaslight & Ghosts and Secret City: Strange Tales of London, both with Stephen Jones. She also wrote with him the British Report aka The London Report for Science Fiction Chronicle. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1968 Mark Gatiss, 52. English actor, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. Writer for Doctor Who; with Steven Moffat, whom Gatiss worked with on Doctor Who and Jekyll, he also co-created and co-produced Sherlock. As an actor, I’ll noted he does Vogon voices in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1971 Patrick Ness, 49. Best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls. He’s also the creator and writer of the Doctor Who spin-off Class series. And he’s written a Doctor Who story, “Tip of the Tongue”, a Fifth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1983 Felicity Jones,  37. She played Ethel Hallow for one series of The Worst Witch and its sequel Weirdsister College. She’d later be in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Felicia Hardy and in Rogue One as Jyn Erso. I’d say her role as balloon pilot Amelia Wren in The Aeronauts is genre adjacent. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1984 – Randall Munroe, 36.  Stick-figure cartoons can degenerate into word gags, and the endlessly sour can tire like the sweet, but speaking of endlessness, “Time” in RM’s xkcd won the Best-Graphic-Story Hugo having been updated every thirty minutes 25-30 Mar 2013, then every hour until 26 Jul, in total 3,099 images; he evidently learned Time must have a stopHuxley did.  A teacher of mine said “There’s a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • October 17, 1937 — Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald Duck’s nephews) first appeared in a comic strip.
  • Bliss suggests the next Harry Potter title.
  • A mega-dose of secret history at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

(12) GRAB AND GO. October 20 will be the day NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex snatches a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Planetary Society has a briefing: “Your Guide to the OSIRIS-REx sample collection”. Click on planetary.org/live for NASA TV coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET / 21:00 UTC.

…Collecting a sample from Bennu is no small challenge. The asteroid, which measures 500 meters (a third of a mile) wide, ended up being much rockier than mission designers expected. The sample site is just 16 meters in diameter and surrounded by boulders bigger than OSIRIS-REx itself. The spacecraft must collect its sample without guidance from Earth, since it currently takes nearly 20 minutes for signals to travel between our planet and Bennu at the speed of light.

The entire process takes almost 5 hours. OSIRIS-REx will match Bennu’s 4-hour rotation rate and slowly descend to the surface. To give the spacecraft more room to maneuver, it adjusts itself into a Y-shape, extending its sample arm 3 meters and tilting back its two solar panels. Eventually OSIRIS-REx must turn its high-gain antenna away from Earth, restricting the volume of information ground controllers can receive. The spacecraft figures out where it is by comparing surface views from prior flyovers with real-time camera images. It will back away immediately if it thinks it’s going to crash.

Bennu barely has any gravity, so OSIRIS-REx can’t land. Instead, the spacecraft will high-five Bennu with a cylindrical dinner plate-sized device at the end of its arm called TAGSAM, the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism. TAGSAM blasts nitrogen gas into the surface, kicking dust and small rocks into a collection chamber that runs around the inside of the device.

OSIRIS-REx won’t overstay its welcome, immediately backing a safe distance away from Bennu. The mission team will take pictures of TAGSAM to verify they got a sample, and later spin the spacecraft to weigh it. If for some reason things go awry, the spacecraft carries enough nitrogen for two more collection attempts. But if everything goes according to plan, OSIRIS-REx will store the sample in a capsule and depart for Earth next year. In September 2023, the capsule will parachute to a landing in Utah.

(13) POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH WITH BRAIN INSPIRED COMPUTING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A core trope of science fiction has been ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) from Arthur Clarke’s HAL 9000 to Philip K. Dick’s replicants.  In real life, computer scientists have over-used the term, applying it to things like facial recognition, and so for what SF folk would call AI they call it General Artificial Intelligence (GAI).  In addition to the rod to GAI, there is also the problem of Moore’s Law by which computing power of a chip doubles every couple of years: this cannot go on indefinitely and we may reach the limit in a decade or so’s time.  Chinese computer scientists from the Centre for Brain-Inspired Computing Research, Tsinghua University, Beijing, have just had a breakthrough that is likely to help address both issues.  Their work is rather technical but in essence they have developed a new approach using neural networks. Instead of getting the network to work like a normal computer, they have developed a new computer system hierarchy.  In essence, while normal computers have an algorithm described in software which is accurately compiled into an exact equivalent intermediate representation of hardware — a set of instructions that is then run on the hardware, what the computer scientists have done is develop an inexact, approximate way to do this.  This overcomes the difficulty of producing exact representations in neural networks. One advantage of this is that their programs can be run on a number of different types of neural network.  Another is that while exactness is lost, processing speeds and power greatly increases.

All this sounds very fine, but will it work? Well, they have tried it out with three experiments done both their new way and on a traditional computer as well as a platform, based on devices called memristors, that accelerate neural network function. One, was to simulate the flight of a flock of birds. The second was to simulate riding a bike, and the third performing a linear algebra analysis called QR decomposition.  All worked.  However the degree of accuracy presented by the new architecture depended on the degree of approximation used. For example, with 10% error no bird, in the flock of birds simulation, matched the standard computer simulation. But with 0.1% error nearly all the birds were plotted either overlapping or immediately adjacent to those plotted with the standard traditional computer simulation.  It may well be that in a couple of decade’s time, when you are locked out of your home by your house AI and arguing with it to be let in, you may reflect that the key stepping stone to creating such GAIs was this research.  (See the review article as well as the primary research abstract and the full paper (available only to subscribers and at subscribing academic libraries’ computer terminals.)

Meanwhile you can see a summary of last season’s science over at ;SF² Concatenation.

(14) REPEATEDLY FRAMED. Not Pulp Covers gives Ray Harryhausen a taste of his own stop-motion:

Special effects master, Ray Harryhausen, demonstrates animating a skeleton warrior from 1963’s ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.

(15) VOLUMES OF MONEY. Learn “Why first edition books can attract obsessive collectors and sell for eye-watering sums” at Inews.

Sales of first editions have made headlines around the world this week after fetching eye-watering price tags.

A copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of his plays, from 1623 – was sold by Christie’s at auction in New York for a record $9.98m (£7.6m), hot on the heels of the sale of a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for £75,000 on Tuesday.

But beyond the big hitters, there are collectors all around the world quietly seeking out first editions. They can amass important collections that would be nigh-on impossible to achieve if it was art, and not books, they were buying.

… Beyond that, collectors love first editions because they can show how the author wanted the book to look and can be a joint collaboration between author and publisher.

F Scott Fitzgerald, for example, was shown the original artwork for the dust jacket of The Great Gatsby and it influenced his thoughts on the novel. He wrote to his publisher in August 1924, begging them to keep the jacket for him as he had “written it into the book”.

Arthur Ransome so disliked the drawings produced for his book Swallows and Amazons that only the dust wrapper, endpaper and frontispiece designs were retained. He would eventually go on to illustrate it himself.

The Hobbit’s famous first edition cover – featuring a mountainous landscape – was designed by JRR Tolkien himself and is loved by collectors and fans alike.

And Lewis Carroll withdrew the initial print run of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland over the quality of the images. There are thought to be only 22 of them in existence; with such scarcity comes a willingness from collectors to pay huge sums.

(16) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, so it’s actually a plasma torch, but it does look (and somewhat act) like the “real” thing. “Lightsaber technology has improved in the real world with the help of this retractable plasma sword” at SYFY Wire.

Lightsaber technology has come a long way since Star Wars‘ George Lucas painted some wooden dowel rods for Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Now people in the real world have actually created the ancient and respected blade of the Jedi — and it’s getting closer and closer to the legit canon construction. The latest evolution involves a retractable flaming beam that offers up 4000° of Darth Maul-halving power.

The latest step in The Hacksmith‘s grand quest for a real-life lightsaber (the YouTuber has been advancing his constructions over many different iterations) involves a retractable “blade” that replaces the super-hot metal rod from previous editions like the protosaber. Now it really looks like the lightsaber blade is extending and retracting, along with all the fiery damage it brings.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Every now and then.]

A Bradbury Centennial-and-a-Half

A roundup of Ray Bradbury links.

(1) PUBLIC RADIO. Morning Edition has clips from last month’s Read-A-Thon in “Marking The Centennial Of Author Ray Bradbury’s Birth”.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. Oh, I remember reading “The Illustrated Man” when I was a kid in school. NPR’s Petra Mayer reports on his legacy.

PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: Ray Bradbury is sometimes called the poet of science fiction. His words demand to be read aloud.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARJORIE LIU: (Reading) He opened the bedroom door. It was like coming into the cold marble room of the mausoleum after the moon has set.

MAYER: That’s author and comics creator Marjorie Liu taking part in a massive online read-a-thon of Bradbury’s classic “Fahrenheit 451,” held to mark his hundredth birthday. This is the moment where Montag, the hero, finds his wife overdosed on sleeping pills.

(2) A HALF-CENTENNIAL. At the Soho Photo Gallery — “Elizabeth Nahum-Albright – I Saw it at Ray’s House”.  

I Saw it at Ray’s House is a photographic journey through more than 70 images that captures moments of magic and gentle decline in the house of Science Fiction giant, Ray Bradbury (1920-2012). Many of the photos were taken the year after he passed away, as books and objects that defined his seventy-year career were staged and packed for preservation. Some were taken while he still lived and wrote in the house; I had a unique and deeply personal connection to the author, allowing me unique access to the space where he lived for more than half a century. These photographs have become a study of a person who was deeply engaged in many aspects of American culture. They are the last photos of the house as it was when Bradbury occupied it, and together they offer points for reflection on the themes of collection, as well as what a person’s possessions say about who they were and what they valued. The project is a study in how we touch everyone we’re close to–– when we pass on we leave something behind, whether it be physical objects or memories that continue to live with those we cared about. 

(3) FEARSOME COMICS. “Seasons Of Terror Brings Stephen King and Ray Bradbury Comics”Bleeding Cool has the lowdown.

Seasons of Terror is a graphic anthology that features four stories adapted to comic books by Richard Chizmar. The stories are by Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, and Robert McCammon. Each story is illustrated by a different artist, Dennis Calero, Ray Fawkes, Francois Vaillancourt and Steve Wands.

(4) DON’T EXPECT TO READ IT. The new issue of The American Scholar has an unpublished Ray Bradbury story, “The Joke” – which you have to be a subscriber to read (so why am I linking to it?)

Although best known for his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury was also a prolific writer of short stories, having published his first while still a teenager. This previously unpublished story likely dates to 1950, the year The Martian Chronicles appeared. Bradbury brought a fertile imagination to bear on his works of fantasy, horror, and science fiction—some of the most popular of the last century. As his close friend and bibliographer Donn Albright remembers, that imagination kept firing even while the writer was asleep. “Ray woke in middle of the night,” Albright recalls, “and would write dreams down, then later go back and ‘finish’ them. It’s the case here and in many of his stories.” Bradbury, however, never quite finished “The Joke.” According to the scholar Jonathan Eller, the writer meant to compose one additional scene, in which the protagonist, a young writer named Charlie, meets his friend Hank at a bar, on the night of his 30th birthday. Bradbury sketched the scene out in three sentences, which we include here in italics. —Ed.

(5) DOGGING IT. Episode 6 of Jeffrey Kahan’s Mentors and Role Models Podcast has a Bradbury angle: “Phil Nichols and I talk Bradbury, Bloch, and Pink’s Hotdogs!”

Along the way they reference this video of Harlan Ellison reading.

(6) BRADBURY IN THE PULPS. The latest issue of The Pulpster features coverage of the Ray Bradbury centennial.

…It won’t be a regular edition. Think of it as THE PULPSTER ANNUAL. While not Sears Roebuck catalog thick like an AMAZING STORIES ANNUAL, number 29 of THE PULPSTER will be almost twice as large as last year’s edition, coming in at 84 pages plus covers.

And a lot of great content will be filling those pages!

THE PULPSTER has two major themes this year: the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Bradbury, and the 100th anniversary of the debut of BLACK MASK.

(7) TRILOGY COMPLETED. Steven Paul Leiva reviews the third and final book in Jonathan R. Eller’s Bradbury biography: “With Bradbury Beyond Apollo A Clear-Eyed And Penetrating Bio Is Concluded”.

With the publication of Bradbury Beyond Apollo (University of Illinois Press), Jonathan R. Eller has completed his three-volume self-designated “biography of a mind” of the author of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine, and hundreds of published short stories. Eller began with Becoming Ray Bradbury in 2011, followed that up with Ray Bradbury Unbound in 2014, and it has been six long years for this conclusion to reach us. Although the book’s publication date of August 22, 2020, the centenary of Bradbury’s birth, is so appropriate, it is easy to forgive Eller. 

The obvious question then is, was it worth the wait? I suppose each reader must answer that for themselves, but it was for me.

… I have a particular affection for this third volume, as it includes the years I knew Bradbury as a colleague and friend from 1977 to the end of his life. Indeed, I come in as a minor character in Bradbury’s story when Eller writes about our work together on a film project (unfulfilled and unsatisfactory for us both) in 1982-83. And my organizing of a series of city-wide events celebrating Bradbury’s 90th birthday in 2010, Ray Bradbury Week in Los Angeles. But affection is not assessment, and in assessing this volume, I was struck not only by Eller’s compassionate if still objective eye on Bradbury but by just how fine a writer Eller is himself.

(8) LYRICAL BRADBURY TRIBUTE. Today’s roundup concludes with a Filer’s verse left as a comment in 2018.


By Peer

Now I feelpressure inside the mountain
I feel pressure, burning the peers
And I feel pressure, hollowing souls
And I feel pressure, filing the peer
And I hope you remember thee

Oh, should my pixels scroll
Then surely I’ll do the same
Confined in ticked boxes
We got too close to the Baen
Calling out Ray hold fast and we will
Watch the books burn on and on the martian side
Dandelion comes upon the wine

(With pressure from Ed Sheeran)


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Dennis Howard, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories.]

Pixel Scroll 8/26/20 Down To Starseeds And STEM Again

(1) ROFCON 2020. Eric Flint and Ring of Fire Press will host the inaugural Ring of Fire Con (RoFCon I), a virtual convention, from September 11-13, with panels, guests, and signing opportunities. Attendance is free – register at the link.

Among the guests attending will be: Steven Barnes, David Brin, DJ Butler, Eric Flint, Charles Gannon, Cecelia Holland, Tom Kidd, Mercedes Lackey, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher Ruocchio, Tom Smith, David Weber, and Toni Weisskopf.

Walt Boyes, Editor, Grantville Gazette and Ring of Fire Press adds:

Not only do we have a great guest list, but we are also teaching marketing for authors, how to get published, and recruiting new authors. We have dealt with issues of race, sex, gender, and nationality and prejudice around the world. We are looking for authors to write in the 1632 Universe who are non-traditional. We encourage women, LGBTQ+, and Persons of Color to look at writing for us. We publish bimonthly, The Grantville Gazette, which is a SFWA approved venue that pays SFWA professional rates.

(2) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL RECORDING STILL PLAYING. You can hear last Saturday’s Ray Bradbury Read-A-Thon of Fahrenheit 451 anytime through September 5.

Readers from across the United States will join William Shatner (actor), Neil Gaiman (author), Marlon James (author), Marjorie Liu (author), P. Djèlí Clark (author), Dr. Brenda Greene (author), Alley Mills Bean (actress), James Reynolds (actor), Tananarive Due (author), and Steven Barnes (author) to bring this relevant work to social media. Susan Orlean (author) provides an afterword. 

(3) ONLINE BRADBURY EXHIBIT. The South Pasadena Public Library provides a virtual tour of its Bradbury holdings in “Ray Bradbury: Celebrating 100 Years”.

…Bradbury, in his later years, was a frequent visitor to South Pasadena. In fact, Bradbury chose the South Pasadena Public Library as the location of his 90th Birthday Celebration. In 2010 South Pasadena City Council declared August 22nd Ray Bradbury Day….

In 2013 the South Pasadena Public Library named the conference room in honor of the late Ray Bradbury, for his work as lifelong advocate for public libraries. The Ray Bradbury Conference Room currently hosts a collection of Bradbury books and artifacts, including ephemera, photographs, artwork, and first edition prints. On the walls of the Conference Room hang a brick from Ray Bradbury’s home in Los Angeles (now demolished) and a portion of drywall from Bradbury’s home office, where much of his writing was conducted….

(4) 2020 HINDSIGHT. Few fans really expect science fiction writers to predict the future. But what about mainstream authors who can’t even predict the present? Consider this Amazon customer review of Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor.

This novel is set in Virginia during two time periods: the early 1940’s, and the summer of 2020. Chapters alternate between the two time periods. The story was enjoyable, but every time I came to a chapter set in 2020, I asked myself, “when is the author going to say something about Covid-19?” The answer is — never. I found that very disturbing and distracting. The author apparently wrote the book before the pandemic, and made the assumption that summer 2020 would be just like other summers, with large wedding parties, no social distancing, etc. Bad assumption.

(5) WORLDCON PUBLICATION ARCHIVE. Fanac.org is making the move to a different interface for accessing Worldcon Publications. (And it looks very good!)

If you’ve been paying attention to recent newsletters and flashes, Mark Olson has put together a new, easier-to-love format for Worldcon pubs. All the worldcon pubs are searchable PDFs and you’ll also find bidding material, and even ephemera. You can find it all at http://fanac.org/conpubs/Worldcon/.

The format and the link for photos and audio stay the same for now, and over the next few days (or maybe weeks) we will migrate completely to the new approach. For a little while, worldcon pubs may be available the old way as well, but one by one those will be cleared out. If you have any worldcon pubs bookmarked, then please be aware that those bookmarks will not be valid for too much longer. All hail Mark Olson, king of the Worldcon pubs! And most seriously, a heartfelt thanks to Mark from a webmaster who really didn’t want to start coding again. (Aug 22)

(6) EVERMORE ASKS FOR HELP. Yesterday’s Scroll reported Utah’s Evermore Park is in financial straits. The owners have launched a GoFundMe appeal: “Helping Evermore Park Through COVID-19”. It’s raised $13,693 of the $100,000 goal in the first 24 hours.

Evermore Park is small business in Pleasant Grove, Utah that creates an immersive experience that exists purely to allow everyone who enters to discover their own imagination. We aim to tell unique stories that inspire, educate, and allow guests to escape–even just for a little while–to a world that allows you to be the hero. We need your help to keep this project going during COVID-19.

We opened our doors in September of 2018. From the moment the doors were officially opened, we have been creating magic and allowing guests to interact with our characters and park in ways that few other businesses have even come close to attempting…. 

(7) POST-APOCALYPTIC HOLLYWOOD. “A World Like This Deserves Contempt: Adapting Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog in Bright Lights Film Journal is Stephen Harris’ fine-grained and thoroughly disturbing study of the story’s evolution to a film by L.Q. Jones.

…Alternately humorous, disturbing, satiric, violent, tender, vicious, somber, fantastic, and familiar, A Boy and His Dog and its adaptations have become the most referenced and influential landmarks of a sub-genre that has often been disregarded as escapist, clichéd, and one-dimensional. In order to understand how the text became so important, the history of Ellison’s original story and its film adaptation must be traced and explicated. In this article, I will compare and contrast Ellison’s definitive novella, L. Q. Jones’s early screenplay draft, and his final film adaptation and its promotional campaign to show how content is transformed, often radically, once it leaves the hands of its creator, and how certain differences in these texts come to exist. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 26, 1953 War of The Worlds premiered. It was produced by George Pal, and directed by Byron Haskin. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson with narration by Sir Cedric Hardwicke. The Martian war machines were designed by Al Nozaki, and the sizzling sound effect would be used again as the first Trek phaser sound. (You know what novel it was adapted from.) The film was both a critical and box office success with its earnings making it the top SF film of the year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 71% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 26, 1901 – Earle Bergey.  A hundred sixty covers for us, a handful of interiors; much more, thousands all told, adventure, aviation, detective, sports, Western.  He was a prominent – hmm – “pin-up” artist; but look at this cover for Zane Grey’s Spirit of the Border.  This famous cover for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes may arouse – ahem – indignation now, but is very funny if you’ve actually read the book, and if I may, suggests – sorry – the question “Who’s exploiting whom?” and the realization that we heterosexual men have more to be ashamed of than we thought.  He could also do this.  (Died 1952) [JH]
  • Born August 26, 1904 Christopher Isherwood. I’ll first note, though not genre, that he wrote Goodbye to Berlin, the semi-autobiographical novel which was the inspiration for Cabaret. Genre wise, he co-wrote Frankenstein: The True Story with Don Bachardy, The Mortmere Stories with Edward Upward, and one short story in the Thirties, “I am Waiting”. (Died 1986.) (CE) 
  • Born August 26, 1904 Peter Lorre. I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in Americanized version of Casino Royale which an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series as Le Chiffre. (James Bond was called Jimmy. Shudder!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.) (CE)
  • Born August 26, 1911 Otto Oscar Binder. He’s  best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of the series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.) (CE)
  • Born August 26, 1911 – Gerald Kersh.  He has been described as “hammering out twenty novels, twenty collections of short stories and thousands of articles”.  Harlan Ellison wrote, “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.”  The Secret Masters is ours, as are a hundred seventy shorter stories.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born August 26, 1926 – Thomas Clareson, Ph.D.  Edited Extrapolation 1960-1987; essayist, correspondent, there and elsewhere, AnalogThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionNY Rev SFRiverside Quarterly.  Bibliographic studies, critical anthologies.  First President of the SF Research Ass’n; its Clareson Award, named for him, began 1995.  Pilgrim Award.  Robert Silverberg’s Many Trapdoors may be the title of the year for 1992.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born August 26, 1949 – Fred Levy Haskell, 71.  Involved at the start, therefore a Floundering Father of Minn-stf (stf from Hugo Gernsback’s word scientifiction, pronounced “stef” or “stiff”, the latter funnier since false) though he later said he was out getting a sandwich at the time.  Fanziner, chaired Corflu 6 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable).  Fan Guest of Honor at LepreCon 4, Archon7 (which for years I’ve been saying should be pronounced Arch on, but what do I know?), Minicon 22.  Note his two-part unhyphenated surname.  Recently, see here.  [JH]
  • Born August 26, 1949 Sheila E Gilbert, 71. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and has received Hugos by herself for Best Professional Editor (Long Form). (CE)
  • Born August 26, 1958 Wanda De Jesus, 62. She’s Estevez in Robocop 2, a film that had its moments but rarely, and she has two other film genre roles, Lexie Moore in Captain Nuke and the Bomber Boys, and Akooshay in Ghosts of Mars. Series wise, she has a number of one-offs including Babylon 5Tales from The DarksideSeaQuest DSVHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and voicing a character on one of the Spider-Man series. (CE) 
  • Born August 26, 1965 – Elizabeth Isaacs, 55.  Four novels for us.  Runs an authors’ group Writers, Etc. going between writers and motion pictures.  Master’s degree magna cum laude (and Phi Beta Kappa) from Austin Peay State U., studied classical opera.  Ranks Great Expectations about the same as The Time Machine, both below Nineteen Eighty-Four; fear not, all three below Blueberries for Sal.  [JH]
  • Born August 26, 1970 Melissa McCarthy, 50. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. Fanboys across the net are still wetting their pants about that film. I’m much more interested in Super Intelligence in which she is playing a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Naomi Kritzer’s Hugo Award winning “Cat Pictures Please” premise.  (And we are not talking about The Happytime Murders in which she was involved.) (CE) 
  • Born August 26, 1993 – Nancy Yi Fan, 27.  First novel at age 12, NY Times Best Seller.  Oprah Winfrey said this showed NYF was smart, which misses the point, but Errors in the direction of the enemy are to be lightly judged.  A prequel and sequel followed.  Her pets, suitably, are birds.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) MUSIC FOR THE SPHERES. Pitchfork invites readers to “Meet the Man Who Used Kraftwerk, Fela Kuti, and Other Fascinating Music to Try to Lure Aliens to Earth”.

When NASA launched the Voyager spacecrafts to explore the cosmos in 1977, they sent along the Golden Record—and with it, music from around the world—as a snapshot of humanity, should intelligent lifeforms ever find it. But what if the aliens tuned in to the radio instead?

From 1971 to 1998, a man named John Shepherd probed that hypothetical question with astonishing dedication. Aiming for interstellar contact, he beamed everything from reggae to Steve Reich straight from his grandparents’ living room in rural Michigan, broadcasting between six to eight hours every day. He then expanded his operation—called Project STRAT—into a separate building on his grandparents’ property, complete with scientific equipment of his own design. Though Shepherd eventually ended the radio arm of Project STRAT due to the high cost of maintenance, he is now the subject of a touching new short film, John Was Trying to Contact Aliens, which recently arrived on Netflix

(12) CANON CAN NOT. Aidan Moher seeks to obliterate the very idea — “Personal Canons: There Is No Universal Canon”.

I am not the same person I was yesterday, and tomorrow I will be a new me.

Over time, my personal SFF canon has changed and evolved as I’ve grown older, discovered new writers, and pushed myself into corners of the genre that I would never have experienced if not for my involvement in the broad and diverse SFF community. As time flows, we’re changed by our experiences, our values adapt to encompass new thoughts and emotions, and so canon is always evolving to envelop who we are becoming….

Even canon lists generally accepted at the time they’re published become defunct just a few years later, and, as the genre adapts, new works draw on new influences. Just go look at some old lists of “SFF canon” from earlier decades, or even 11 years ago on the web. I haven’t even heard of half those books, let alone read them. If SFF canon looks like a reading list for a History of Science Fiction 101 course, it’s missing the point of how the genre is a conversation with itself and the outside world of politics, sociology, and humanity.

As DongWon Song said, “The idea of the canon is outdated, colonialist, racist, sexist, and anti-queer. It’s easy to say that this is only true because old stuff is colonialist, racist, sexist, and anti-queer, but that’s a bullshit cop out.”

There is no universal SFF canon.

(13) SOUTH ASIAN SFF. “What South Asian sci-fi can tell us about our world” is an unsigned 2019 article attributed to the Asian News Network.

My first encounter with a work of desi science fiction was very much by accident.

During my undergraduate studies at the English department at Karachi University, while idly browsing through a professor’s personal collection on her desk, I came across Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s Sultana’s Dream, a English-language short story set in a feminist utopian world written by a Bengali Muslim woman in 20th century colonial India.

Up until then, my study of literature had been mostly white, mostly male authors, an unsurprising fact when we take into account the (Western) literary canon’s inherent whiteness and maleness, as well as the institutional history of English departments as tools of the colonial project — teaching works of English literature in the British Empire’s overseas colonies was originally part of the overarching goal of “civilising the natives.” In the words of 19th century British politician Thomas Macaulay, “a single shelf of a good European library is worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia” (gotta love that British sense of entitlement and arrogance).

… This dismissal of the genres of science fiction and fantasy (SFF) as low-brow, trashy or pulp or, at the very least, unimportant, is not just a desi stance, although it might be a bit more pronounced here. The snobbish attitude towards SFF has historically been prevalent in academic and literary circles (although things seem to be changing in the West now), even as popular culture is filled with beloved works of science fiction and fantasy films and television shows.

But the dismissal of the SFF genre, or the broader umbrella of speculative fiction, has excluded from the South Asian literary discourse a rich tradition of desi works of science fiction and fantasy, as well as the fascinating speculative fiction words being written by contemporary South Asian writers today. This makes conversations about South Asian literature woefully homogenous and, frankly, much more uninteresting than they might otherwise be.

(14) LUCRATIVE FAILURES. Sarah A. Hoyt, who often has bad things to say about traditional publishing, added some more today in “Docking Author’s Tails” at Mad Genius Club.

…But why would publishers want properties that aren’t selling that well? Why not just give the IP back, after they set the book up to fail? Why set the book up to fail at all?

Ah.  Because of the long tail.  In the era of ebooks, which you don’t need to store in warehouses, and which you can have out in unlimited numbers with no additional cost, the more books you have in your catalogue, no matter how little each of them sells, the more money you make.

Say you have 50k books in your catalogue, some of them so old you’re interpreting ebook rights from penumbras and emanations, and each sells two copies a month, and makes you $4 apiece….  You’re getting a very healthy income.

Heck, it’s better than having a mega bestseller.  Because a mega bestseller might get uppity and sue. But if each of those books is making under $5 a month, chances are you don’t even need to send out a statement.

Honestly, ponzi scheme architects go in awe of traditional publishers in the era of ebooks.

And, you know, when I realized that, everything fell into place: why careers keep getting shorter and shorter. Why, even with indie competition, writers are treated worse and worse.  Why some publishers are buying the things they are (well, you know, if you don’t mean each book to make a lot of money, you might as well promote your comrades. Besides, they need publishing credits, so they can get teaching jobs.)

Is my insight necessarily true?  I don’t know. It fits my experience and that of other midlisters. And — if the older authors I heard are right — it explains why bother setting books up to fail.

(15) THIS SCOTTISH DINOSAUR DID NOT HAVE A KILT. “Dinosaur fossil dating back 166 million years found by academic on remote Scottish island”Yahoo! News has the story.

A stegosaurian fossil dating back 166 million years was stumbled upon by an academic as she ran along a remote island beach, proving dinosaurs roamed further in Scotland than first thought.

Scientists say the 19-inch fossil found on the Isle of Eigg is “hugely significant” as it is the first unearthed outside the Isle of Skye, a neighbouring island in the Inner Hebrides.

The object is believed to be the limb bone of a stegosaurian dinosaur, such as a stegosaurus, which are known for their plate-backed appearance and herbivore diet…

(16) WON’T WALK AWAY FROM THIS ONE. “Tenet:  Behind The Scenes” on YouTube is a promotional feature that lets people know that when a 747 crashes into a building in the film, it’s an actual 747.

John David Washington is the new Protagonist in Christopher Nolan’s original sci-fi action spectacle “Tenet.”

Armed with only one word—Tenet—and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time. Not time travel. Inversion.

[Thank to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Dan’l Danehy-Oakes, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Walt Boyes, rcade, David Doering, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/19/20 The Fandom Raspberry Blower Of Old
Pixel Town

(1) MARVEL’S VOICES EXPANDS. This November, Marvel celebrates Indigenous history with a landmark special, Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices #1, written and drawn by some of the industry’s most renowned Indigenous talent along with talents making their Marvel Comics debut.  

Celebrated writer and artist Jeffrey Veregge, who just wrapped up his exhibition Jeffrey Veregge: Of Gods and Heroes at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, is leading this book alongside a team of acclaimed creators to explore the legacy and experiences of Marvel’s incredible cast of Indigenous characters.

Hugo, Nebula, and Locus-award winning Black/Ohkay Owingeh writer Rebecca Roanhorse and Tongva artist Weshoyot Alvitre tell an Echotale like none before as she is set to play a critical role in Marvel Comics. Geoscientist and Lipan Apache writer Darcie Little Badger joins acclaimed Whitefish Lake First Nation artist Kyle Charles for a Dani Moonstarstory where she will face the crucial question of what her Indigenous heritage means in the new era of mutantkind. And Bram Stoker-winning horror writer Stephen Graham Jones of the Blackfeet Nation teams up with Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation artist David Cutler to revisit one of the darkest spots of X-Men history!

(2) BRIAN KEENE SPOTLIGHTS HAYWARD ALLEGATIONS. Soon after Brian Keene posted “Behind Closed Doors” supplementing his podcast’s report of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct within the industry, he and Mary SanGiovanni were alerted to yet another situation involving allegations that author Matt Hayward sent inappropriate communications to several women.  

Since then Keene has written three posts on the subject, beginning with “Statement Regarding Matt Hayward & Poltergeist Press” (June 26) which emphasizes:

…We believe the women. We believe writer and book reviewer Cassie ‘Lets Get Galactic’, who has stepped forward. And we believe those who have not stepped forward. 

We have known Matt for several years. He and his wife Anna have been guests in our home. Anna’s publishing company, Poltergeist Press, has published books by both of us. We consider them dear friends.

Approximately one year ago, Matt sent a series of inappropriate messages to Mary. Matt has acknowledged this and apologized for it. Mary accepted the apology because Matt was inebriated when the messages were sent, and he was going through a rough time emotionally, having just experienced the death of his best friend. Brian followed Mary’s lead, and in the time since, Mary has received no further inappropriate messages from Matt. Cassie’s account tells a similar story, as do the accounts of those women who have not shared their experience publicly. There is a pattern of behavior.

Again, we believe the women. And we apologize for the hurt that someone we are close to has caused you….

In a follow-up statement, “Update on Russian Translations and Poltergeist Press”, Keene said:

Since that time, several of us have spoke with Anna Mulbach, wife of Matt Hayward. She wishes to continue publishing Russian language translations. The financial stability of that line impacts the livelihood of many Russian citizens, including translators and investors. The success the line has had so far is a testimony to Anna. I wish to encourage that. Further, the fact that this successful foreign-language publisher is run and operated by a woman is something else I wish to encourage, because it’s something our industry desperately needs more of.

Anna has assured me that Matt will not be involved in any aspect of the Russian-language operation, including production or design.

With all that in mind, I have decided to continue working with Anna for Russian-language translations….

On August 18, Keene summarized everything in a “Final Statement on Poltergeist Press, et all”.

…After that was announced. Rights for Dissonant Harmonies were reverted, and Bev Vincent and I sold it elsewhere. Geoff Cooper wanted some time to consider the reversion clause for Shades, since he is not plugged in to the business and wanted to talk to people and determine the facts before signing it. Then Anna Hayward of Poltergeist press announced that she was shutting down the company.

A few weeks later, Anna contacted several of us and indicated that she would like to keep the Russian language imprint open. It was her company — not Matt’s. She assured us that Matt would not be involved in any way with the production.

And so Jeff Strand, myself, and Mary SanGiovanni released a third statement last month, which can be read here.

This will be my final statement, because quite frankly, I am sick of talking about this.

This statement is my own. I do not speak for Mary SanGiovanni (whose own final statement can be read here). I do not speak for Robert Ford, Bev Vincent, Jeff Strand, Wrath James White, Edward Lee, John Boden, Wesley Southard, Tim Meyer, Ronald Kelly or anyone else who has been impacted by this clusterfuck.

This statement will include foul language. It will include my personal opinions.

My personal opinions follow:

1. I support the victims. I have always supported the victims. Anyone who has listened to The Horror Show for the last 6 years knows that I support the victims. Anybody who has been following my career since 1996 knows that I support the victims. I was the first person to report on the then-whispered allegations involving Ed Kramer. I had my then budding-career threatened for doing so. I gave zero fucks then and I give zero fucks now. I will always support the victims. I myself am a victim, and several of the people most important in my life have been victims.

If you do not believe that I support the victims, then I respect your decision. Stop buying my books and listening to my podcasts.

2. I support and believe the victims in this case. I have seen people intimating online that the most vocal victim, Cassie, “made this all up” and others saying that she and the other victims “just want their 15 minutes of fame”. I don’t believe that. But I’ll tell you what, motherfuckers…lets buy into your conspiracy theory for a minute. Let’s say Cassie made it all up for 15 minutes of fame.

Mary SanGiovanni didn’t make it up. I know. I’ve seen the evidence. And Mary’s got an accomplished 20-year career. She doesn’t need fifteen minutes of fame. I believe Mary SanGiovanni. I believe Cassie. And I believe the other women who came forward.

If my belief in these women bothers you, then I respect your decision. Stop buying my books and listening to my podcasts.

(And to the fat fuck who looks like a dropout from Juggalo college and keeps repeating this “15 minutes of fame” bullshit, I’m not going to name you here, because you don’t deserve even a second of fame)….

Four more points follow.

(3) DO THE MONSTER MASK. Secret Los Angeles assures locals they will still have a haunted house to visit this year, in a new socially-distant way: “Urban Legends of Southern California are rolling in to save Halloween!”

Halloween is inevitably going to look a bit different this year with a number of highly-anticipated events canceled already, including Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, and Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure.

But fear not, the spooky holiday traditions will still be upheld in Costa Mesa thanks to this drive-through haunted house experience. Urban Legends of Southern California will conjure up all SoCal’s most terrifying urban legends, cursed souls and monsters that have haunted residents for generations. Whether it’s the mysterious winds that howl through the streets or the unnatural presences that make your hairs stand up, familiar stories will be brought to life through a series thrills.

Once you’ve purchased your ticket, you’ll arrive in your vehicle at your allocated timeslot. From there, you’ll be guided through a journey of immersive scenes, dazzling special effects, and live performances. It’s bound to get your pulse racing as you scramble to lock your car door. You won’t have to worry about monsters getting to close though, they’ll be wearing masks and social-distancing at all times…

(4) IT’S A BREATH MINT; LESS FILLING. James Davis Nicoll tells me “the file name was something like ‘how to start arguments’” — “SF or Fantasy? — Six Works That Defy Easy Classification” at Tor.com.

…See, for example, discussions about where to place The Fifth Season and Gideon the Ninth. Both works have elements generally associated with science fiction, as well as elements traditionally associated with fantasy. Hard classification will fail because the assumption that things are only one thing at a time is wrong. Utterly wrong.

[sarcasm] I am certain that having explained this so clearly, there will never be another argument on such matters. [/sarcasm]

(5) DYSTOPIAN LIFE IMITATES DYSTOPIAN ART. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In 2019, UK high school student Jessica Johnson won the Orwell Youth Prize for writing a short story depicting computer systems that undermine lower-income students by adjusting grades downwards. This spring, in response to COVID-shortened school years, the government of the UK implemented a computer system that “projected” students’ grades forward based on assumptions on how they were doing — and it adjusted the grades of low-income students downwards. Jessica Johnson was one of the students adversely affected by the computer error. “Student who wrote story about biased algorithm has results downgraded” in The Guardian.

She says: “I based [the story] on the educational inequality I already saw. I just exaggerated that inequality and added the algorithm. But I really didn’t think it would come true as quick as it did!”

(6) IF YOU COULD TALK TO THE ANIMALS. NPR’s “Morning Edition” reminds listeners that “Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm,’ Around For Decades, Almost Wasn’t Published”.

DAVID GREENE, HOST: George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” turns 75 this week. The book is now considered a classic, but NPR’s Petra Mayer reminds us that it almost wasn’t published at all.

…MAYER: Orwell biographer D.J. Taylor says the 6-year-old nephew of one of Orwell’s friends read it…

D J TAYLOR: …And reported back via his uncle that he loved it because it didn’t contain any difficult words.

MAYER: But “Animal Farm” is a dark, upsetting book. The pigs take over, and bit by bit, they grow more cruel and murderous, masking each new outrage in revolutionary rhetoric. By the end, drinking liquor, snapping whips and gambling with the neighborhood farmers, they’re indistinguishable from the humans they originally overthrew.

Broadly, “Animal Farm” is a fable about tyranny, but specifically, it’s a satire on the Soviet revolution and how it led to Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror. So why tell such a painful story in such a childish manner? D.J. Taylor says that Orwell was influenced by “Gulliver’s Travels” and French fables. But also, at the time he was writing “Animal Farm,” he and his first wife, Eileen, were adopting a child. So not only did he have kids on his mind…

TAYLOR: The era in which he wrote for the 10 years previous, cinema screens had been full of cartoon animals. You know, it was the great age of the Disney cartoon.

MAYER: It was, in fact, turned into a cartoon a few years after he died, but it almost wasn’t a book at all. Orwell was shopping “Animal Farm” to publishers in 1944 when the Allied victory in World War II was far from assured. Again, D.J. Taylor.

TAYLOR: So this is effectively a satire of Stalin, who was then – even America regarded as avuncular Uncle Joe, you know, our great ally in the fight against Nazism.

MAYER: No one wanted to take a potshot at Uncle Joe. It took more than a year and multiple publishers, but “Animal Farm” finally came out in the U.K. in 1945, and it was a massive hit. Its success enabled Orwell to write his masterwork, “1984.” When people use the adjective Orwellian today, they’re almost invariably talking about “1984.”

(7) HOOKED ON A FEELING. “Stephen Graham Jones on How Horror is the Puppet of Your Own Terror” at LitHub.

Brad Listi: That’s interesting. It’s interesting to think of it that way. I feel like when we go to read something, we’re trying to feel something, or hoping to at least. And if somebody can scare the shit out of you, that’s a feeling.

Stephen Graham Jones: It is. Horror can change your behavior. It can make you turn off the lights in your house in a different sequence at eleven o’clock at night. It can make you edge along the wall to get to your bed instead of just walking brazenly across the middle of your bedroom floor. I love that horror puts you on a string like that. It turns into a puppet, a puppet not necessarily of the the writer, but a puppet of your own terror and your own dread. I think that’s beautiful.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 19, 2007 Highlander: The Source premiered. The final film of the story that spanned both the film and television series, it saw the return of Adrian Paul reprising his character of Duncan MacLeod from Highlander: The Series and the fourth film, Highlander: Endgame. He also produced along with Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer while Brett Leonard directed. The screenplay was Mark Bradley and Steven Kelvin Watkins from the story by the former. Reception was universally negative if not downright hostile with it being the first film in the series not to get a widescreen distribution.  SciFi Channel instead aired it. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a richly deserved 19% rating. (CE)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 19, 1894 – H.W. Wesso.  After covers for Amazing, painted every Astounding cover under W. Clayton (Jan 30 – Mar 33; H. Bates ed.), then more, also AstonishingMarvelStrange TalesThrilling, five dozen in all; eight hundred interiors.  Here is the Jan 30 Amazing.  Here is the Jan 38 Astounding.  Here is an interior from a 1930s Astounding; I haven’t found the date more exactly, can you?  Here is an interior from the Jan 41 Thrilling.  Again I recommend Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds.  (Died 1948) [JH] 
  • Born August 19, 1921 Gene Roddenberry. Oh, you know who he is. But did you know he wrote a lot of scripts for Have Gun – Will Travel? Indeed, his script for the show, “Helen of Abajinian” would win the Writer’s Guild of America award for Best Teleplay in 1958. (Died 1991.) (CE) 
  • Born August 19, 1930 D.G. Compton, 90. SWFA Author Emeritus whose The Steel Crocodile was nominated for the Nebula Award. The Unsleeping EyeThe Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe in the U.K., was filmed as Death Watch which the Audience Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes actually like giving it a 60% rating. His two Alec Jordan near-future police stories are superb. Nearly everything he wrote of a genre nature is available from the usual digital suspects save Hot Wireless Sets, Aspirin Tablets, the Sandpaper Sides of Used Matchboxes, and Something That Might Have Been Castor Oil. (CE) 
  • Born August 19, 1938 Richard N. Farmer. Author of Islandia Revisited, a sequel to Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia. No idea it was if authorized but I’m betting it wasn’t as it’s not in print in either print or digital editions currently. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born August 19, 1938 –Diana Muldaur, 81.  Student of Stella Adler.  First woman President of the Acad. Television Arts & Sciences.  Two Star Trek appearances (original series), later Katherine Pulaski, M.D., in The Next Generation.  Voiced another physician in animated Batman (1992-1994).  One appearance in The Hulk (1979).  Don’t blame CE for omitting her, these things are hard.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1945 – Roseanne di Fate.  Teacher, mostly of nursery school, another hard thing; last position at Vassar, my grandmother’s college.  Andrew Porter did a biography of R & Vincent in Algol 21 (Tim Kirk artwork! Bester interview of Heinlein! Benford on knowledge! Brunner on the art & craft of SF! Lupoff book reviews!).  OGH’s appreciation here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born August 19, 1947 – Dwain Kaiser.  Active fan in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.  Used-book shop owner; had several, all called Magic Door; at his death he was operating his fourth, in Pomona (L.A area).  Founded a Las Vegas SF Society, thus repaying Arnie Katz, one of whose fanzines (with Lenny Bailes) let DK know there was such a thing as fandom.  Published many zines and took part in apas.  OGH’s appreciation here; you will want to know more, but this is the best I can do for now.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born August 19, 1950 Jill St. John, 70. She’s best remembered as Tiffany Case, the Bond girl in Diamonds Are Forever. She was the first American to play a Bond girl. She shows in The Batman in “Smack in the Middle” and “Hi Diddle Riddle” as Molly. And she played Jennifer Holmes in the 1960 film version of The Lost World. (CE)
  • Born August 19, 1952 Jonathan Frakes, 68. Best known for his portrayal of Commander William T. Riker in Next Gen though I’m fond of his voicing David Xanatos on the Gargoyles series which had at least five Trek actors doing voice work. Interesting bit of trivia: For a time in the Seventies, he worked for Marvel Comics at cons as Captain America. He has directed more than 70 television episodes, including episodes of five Trek series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.The Librarians and The Orville. (CE) 
  • Born August 19, 1961 – Randy Smith, 59.  Wrote up the Hugo Awards Ceremony for the ConJosé Souvenir Book (60th Worldcon).  Long helpful in the San Francisco area, currently a director of SFSFC (San Francisco SF Cons, the non-profit that hosted the 51st, 60th, 76th Worldcons; Westercon 53, 64, 66; and like that) and now tired but not exhausted having chaired its liaison committee for the 78th Worldcon we just virtually had.  Relations with John Blaker a model of ecumenism (which, should they read this, they will blushingly try to disclaim).  [JH]
  • Born August 19, 1988 – Veronica Roth, 32.  Six novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Divergent a NY Times Best Seller; it and first sequel sold five million copies before film version of Divergent released.  Her gaze upon the world, says John Clute, is cuttingly sharp; she is said to be reading the Bible; “cuttingly sharp” could be said of Isaiah, though he did not give us dystopias; beyond that is beyond my pay grade.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy shows that wile you can fool some of the people all of the time, you can’t fool the bird.

(11) FOLLOW THE MONEY. In “The Big Idea: Thomas Levenson” at Whatever, the author of Money for Nothing tells about the famous figure who unexpectedly had to learn the hard way that what goes up must come down.

…Then it happened again. Deep into that story, I came across this:  a stray mention that [Isaac] Newton had lost £20,000–roughly four million dollars in 21st century money–in a financial scam that happened exactly three centuries ago this year, an event called the South Sea Bubble.  Afterwards, he told his niece that he could “calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of the people.”

That’s where Money for Nothing got its start: wondering why the smartest man of his day, someone who could surely do the math to expose the flaw in the South Sea scheme, got it so badly and expensively wrong.  The book that’s finally here has traveled from that starting point to a much bigger and (I hope) more fascinating narrative: how the wild ferment in ideas and ambitions in Britain in the late seventeenth century that we now call the scientific revolution created a culture of number and measurement that mattered in the daily life of those who lived through it.  From there, and how, as the Bubble played out, that disaster produced something very new: the modern financial capitalism that still plays out in all our lives, with all its wealth and woe….

(12) GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE.

But wait!

Back in the Seventies there was a San Diego fan who had his van painted as the Enterprise’s shuttlecraft. The guy went by the name of “James T. Kirk” which I guarantee you doesn’t make it any easier for me to search for a photo.

(13) SEPARATED AT BIRTH. Gizmodo relays scientific speculation about the question: “Does Our Sun Have a Long-Lost Twin?”

…The Oort cloud is the most distant region in the solar system, residing much farther than the outer planets and the Kuiper Belt. Unlike the Kuiper Belt, which is shaped like a donut, the Oort cloud is a massive and thick spherical shell that envelopes the entire solar system. The inner Oort cloud starts at around 1,000 AU from the Sun (in which 1 AU is the average distance from Earth to the Sun), while its outer edge stops at around 100,000 AU.

This region of space is filled with billions, possibly trillions, of rocky and icy objects left over from the formation of the solar system. According to the new paper, the overabundance of material presumed to exist in the outer Oort cloud is the result of our Sun’s early stint as a binary system.

To date, computers trying to simulate the formation of the solar system have failed to reproduce the proportion of objects seen in the outer realms of the Oort cloud and the scattered disc—a specific population of trans-Neptunian objects outside of the Kuiper Belt. As a result, the origin of the outer Oort cloud is “an unsolved mystery,” according to the paper, authored by astronomers Avi Loeb and Amir Siraj from the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard & Smithsonian.

The new paper presents an elegant solution to the overpopulation problem: a second sun.

“A stellar companion to the Sun would increase the chance of trapping objects from the birth cluster of the Sun,” wrote Loeb in an email. “The Sun and its companion act as a fishing net that traps objects gravitationally as they pass near one of the two stars and lose energy by kicking it slightly.”

(14) EIGHTY-EIGHT KEY DATES. Delish charts “88 Food And Drink Holidays You Need To Mark On Your Calendars For Free Food”.

Besides the typical holidays that call for extravagant food spreads and homemade meals, there are tons of national food days that should be on your radar. They don’t all require a celebration but if you’re ever looking for an excuse to have a themed dinner or to drink a certain liquor by the truck load—you should keep some of these days in mind.

A pair of these fall on April 2 — National Burrito Day, National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day – which shouldn’t inconvenience exotic burrito connoisseur John Scalzi.

(15) CORDWAINER BIRD OF A DIFFERENT FEATHER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Burke’s Law S01E06 Who Killed Alex Debbs?” on YouTube is a 1963 episode of Burke’s Law written by Harlan Ellison.  Ellison fans recall that he used the name “Cordwainer Bird” for work he disowned.  Well, this episode is about the murder of Alex Debbs, founder of Debonair, a magazine vaguely like Playboy. The joke editor of the magazine is….Cordwainer Bird, and Bird is played by Sammy Davis Jr.!  Bird’s appearance begins after the 16-minute mark. Burgess Meredith also appears as a very nearsighted cartoonist.

(16) ORIGINS. “Where Did Penguins Come From? Scientists Say It’s Not Antarctica” reports NPR’s “All Things Considered.

The image of a penguin might bring to mind an endless march across windswept ice. The reality of penguins is a bit different, says Grant Ballard of Point Blue Conservation Science.

GRANT BALLARD: There’s actually only two species of penguin that really love ice.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Only two species. Many others live in warmer waters.

BALLARD: So an emperor penguin could conceivably be dealing with something like minus 70 degrees or even colder than that, especially with wind chill. But a Galapagos penguin is encountering temperatures that are around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

KELLY: So how did penguins evolve with such different lifestyles? A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has some answers.

RAURIE BOWIE: We’ve been able to resolve several long-standing questions about penguin evolution, in particular where penguins originated.

FADEL: Rauri Bowie of UC Berkeley is an author on that study. He says there’s been a long debate about where the first penguins evolved. Was it Antarctica or farther north in New Zealand, as others have suggested?

KELLY: Well, armed with genetic evidence from 18 species of modern-day penguins, his team has an answer.

BOWIE: Which turned out to be along the coast of Australia and New Zealand and nearby islands of the South Pacific.

KELLY: They say that happened around 22 million years ago.

FADEL: From there, the penguins surfed on a circular current at the bottom of the world.

…KELLY: If there is one thing the paper makes clear, it’s that the evolution of penguins is far from black and white.

(17) WASHED UP ON THE SHORES OF THE INTERNET. During my search for neglected Scroll titles today I rediscovered this gem by Will R. from 2015.

Just scroll right down and you’ll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from this vile hive,
aboard this tiny ship.

The Esk were mighty pixeled fen,
the Blogger brave and sure,
the Filers ticked the box that day,
for a three hour tour,
a three hour tour.

Discussion started getting rough,
the tiny ship was tossed.
If not for the filking of the fearless crew
the comments would be lost.
The comments would be lost.

The ship’s now lodged for good inside this
Highly trafficked file,
with Gilligan,
the Blogger too,
The reverend and the SMOFs,
the wombat red,
the dissenters and the grinning fan,
here in Gilligan’s File.

(Ending verse)
So this is the tale of our castaways,
they’ll be here for a long, long time.
They’ll have to make the best of things,
it’s an uphill climb.

The first Esk and the Blogger too
will do their very best,
to make the others comfortable
With their sordid rhetoric.

No threads, no lights, no time travel,
not a single luxury.
They’ll have to see what they can grow,
like NASA’s Mark Watney.

So join us here each day my friends,
you’re sure to get a smile,
from countless dumbstruck Trufen brave…
here in Gilligan’s File!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Stephen Colbert tells Late Show viewers, “You Owe Kevin Costner An Apology For ‘The Postman.’” The parting shot is a corker.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Brian Keene, James Davis Nicoll, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Danny Sichel, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Pixel Scroll 8/8/20 You Unlock This Scroll With The Key Of Pixelation

(1) JURY SUMMONS. Two groups are recruiting jurors for their annual awards.

The British Fantasy Society’s call is here.

If you are interested in being a juror for this year’s awards, please register your interest here We are especially interested in hearing from those historically under represented on juries; and you do not need to be a member of the BFS to fulfil this role.

Both forms will remain open until Wednesday 16th August.
Any questions, please get in touch at bfsawards@britishfantasysociety.org

A few days ago they were concerned about the balance of applicants:

The Aurealis Awards also are looking – “Aurealis Awards 2020 – Call for Judges”. Full requirements at the link.

We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2020 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category (good time management skills and an ability to work in a team in an online environment are also essential).

(2) ULTIMA RATIO REGUM. Camestros Felapton continues to work out what canon means to sff readers, and if it’s useful in “Types of canon/key texts”.

… I think within discussions of canon there is a sense of books whose role it is to edify the reader, the books that will make you (somehow) a better reader. I’m sceptical that any books really fit that criteria and even more sceptical that we can find a common set of such books. However, there are clearly books that themselves provoke further books and as such books that get referenced in later works and later works that can be seen as response to earlier works. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers being an obvious example of such a work. This is canon as a kind of feedback loop of significance — the books that are themselves critiques of Troopers lend significance to Troopers as a book. You don’t have to have read Starship Troopers to enjoy Kameron Hurley’s Light Brigade but having some familiarity with Heinlein’s book adds an element to Hurley’s book.

(3) HEATED WORDS. As someone wrote on Twitter: “The phrase ‘You couldn’t make Blazing Saddles today’ takes on an entirely new meaning.” CBR.com has the story: “Blazing Saddles Is Being Remade as an Animated Samurai Movie About Cats and Dogs” .

Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is considered a film classic, even though it’s stirred up some controversy over the years. Now the film is being retold in an entirely new medium, as well as an entirely new genre.

The Los Angeles film company Align is helping develop an animated film titled Blazing Samurai. The film takes the basic premise of Blazing Saddles and transplants it to the Samurai era. The story follows a dog named Hank who dreams of becoming a Samurai. When he becomes in charge of protecting Kakamucho, he learns that the town is populated entirely by cats.

(4) A GOLDEN AGE. Galactic Journey does a rundown on the 1964-1965 television season: “[AUGUST 8, 1965] NAVIGATING THE WASTELAND #2 (1964-65 IN (GOOD) TELEVISION)”. I was 12 around then so no wonder I remember this as the Golden Age of TV. The Traveler obviously has a later bedtime than I did that year, because I never got to watch his favorite, Burke’s Law —

Three years ago, I reported on the state of television in the wake of former FCC-chief Newton Minow’s pronouncement that television was a ‘vast wastelend.’  Since then, I have remained a devoted fan of the small screen, if not completely addicted to ‘the boob tube.’  Indeed, the Young Traveler and I have our weekly favorites we do not miss if we can at all help it.

And so, as we sail through the sea of summer reruns, gleefully anticipating the Fall line-up, I take delight in awarding the Galactic Stars of Television for the 1964-65 season.

Burke’s Law 1963-65

Amos Burke is what would have happened if Bruce Wayne’s parents had never been shot – he’s a Beverly Hills playboy millionaire who also happens to be the dapper Captain of Homicide for the L.A. Police Department.  In each episode, Amos, with the aide of grizzled Sergeant Hart and youthful Detective Tilson (and occasionally the doe-eyed Sergeant Ames), solves a murder mystery…..

If The Traveler hadn’t waxed rhapsodically about this show – and I’m not sure whether he thinks it fits the blog’s sff theme or just thinks it’s good – then it wouldn’t have seemed such a glaring oversight to end the post pointing out Harlan Ellison wrote a script for the lamentable Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, without mentioning Ellison also wrote four scripts for 1964 episodes of his beloved Burke’s Law series.

(5) SINCE 1984. Jane Johnson looks back on “A life in publishing”.

I realised this morning that it’s 36 years to the day when I started to work in publishing, as an editorial secretary at George Allen & Unwin Publishers, in Ruskin House on Museum Street. What follows really is the trajectory of modern publishing in microcosm.

My skillset was not ideal: I loved books, especially the works of JRR Tolkien and came with a first class English degree, a Masters in Scandinavian Studies (Old Icelandic) and absolutely no secretarial abilities at all. But I had worked for a year at Foyles and another as a boardmarker/cashier at Ladbrokes, and so had proved I could work hard and not be snooty about getting my hands dirty; and that I was numerate and understood the concept of gambling, which my new boss assured me was the essence of publishing. These were the times of Telex machines and manual typewriters, which were just giving way to electronic typewriters (my nightmare) but David was remarkably patient with my Tippexed letters, blackened carbon copies and non-existent shorthand, and within a year had promoted me away from my disaster zone to become an editor. Paperbacks were a fairly new concept: hardbacks were the prestige edition.

(6) IMPROVEMENT NOT NEEDED. In a post on Facebook, David Gerrold tells how a book is being unfairly belittled.

There is currently a backlash against The Giving Tree, and some people are circulating an alternate ending.

Hey! I have an idea. I have an alternate ending for Winnie The Pooh. Pooh is a bear. He decides he likes bacon. He eats Piglet. Much more realistic, right?

No, look. Shel Silverstein knew what he was doing when he wrote The Giving Tree.

It doesn’t need an alternate ending — specifically not one that’s preachy, badly written, doesn’t really fit, and is intended to cast the original in a bad light….

(7) TAKING THE MINUTES. In “Six Novels That Bring Together Mystery And Time Travel” on CrimeReads, Julia McElwain recommends novels by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Lauren Beukes as time travel novels mystery readers might like.

Depending upon how it’s done, it can add to the tension—a race against time as our characters try to return to their own era—or it can allow readers to explore the past through modern eyes. In my own In Time mystery series, I’ve enjoyed the fish-out-of-water sensation that my main character—a modern-day woman and brilliant FBI agent—experiences after being tossed back to the Regency period in England. As women then were second-class citizens without the ability to even vote, not only does she have to deal with personal obstacles, but she also cannot tap into her usual arsenal of forensic tools to solve crimes.

Whether time travel is being used to wrap a mystery in an extra, innovative layer or is allowing readers to view humanity and history through a different lens, the theme is brilliantly done in the books that I’ve listed below….

(8) ALLEN OBIT. A software pioneer has died: “Frances Allen, Who Helped Hardware Understand Software, Dies at 88” in the New York Times.

Frances Allen, a computer scientist and researcher who helped create the fundamental ideas that allow practically anyone to build fast, efficient and useful software for computers, smartphones and websites, died on Tuesday, her 88th birthday, in Schenectady, N.Y.

Her death, in a nursing home, was confirmed by her great-nephew Ryan McKee, who said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

In the mid-1960s, after developing software for an early supercomputer at the National Security Agency, Ms. Allen returned to her work at IBM, then the world’s leading computer company. At an IBM lab in the Hudson River Valley town of Yorktown Heights, just north of New York City, she and her fellow researchers spent the next four decades refining a key component of modern computing: the “compiler,” the software technology that takes in programs written by humans and turns them into something computers can understand.

For Ms. Allen, the aim was to do this as efficiently as possible, so programmers could build software in simple and intuitive ways and then have it run quickly and smoothly when deployed on real-world machines.

Together with the researcher John Cocke, she published a series of landmark papers in the late 1960s and ’70s describing this delicate balance between ease of creation and speed of execution. These ideas helped drive the evolution of computer programming — all the way to the present day, when even relative novices can easily build fast and efficient software apps for a world of computers, smartphones and other devices.

In 2006, on the strength of this work, Ms. Allen became the first woman to win the A.M. Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 8, 1956 X Minus One aired “The Last Martian.” This is the story of a reporter  seeing if a man’s claim that he is a Martian placed in a human’s body.  George Lefferts was the scriptwriter who adapted the story from the Fredric Brown’s “The Last Martian” short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1950.  Mandel Kramer, Elliot Reed, Santos Ortega, Ralph Bell, John McGovern, and Patricia Weil were in the radio cast.  You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 8, 1883 – Paul Stahr, Jr.  Forty covers for Argosy 1925-1934.  Also Collier’sJudgeLife, People’s Home JournalThe Saturday Evening Post; book covers, posters.  Here is the 10 Jan 31 Argosy.  Here is the 25 Aug 34.  Here is The Ship of Ishtar.  Here is a World War I poster.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1919 Dino De Laurentiis. Maker of Dune obviously but less obviously also a lot of other genre including Conan the BarbarianFlash GordonKing KongHalloween II and Halloween IIIDead Zone and The Last Legion. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best-known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for The Avengers, The Champions andMacGyver. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 85. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold MonkeyAirwolf and of course, that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. Ok, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 83. Ahhh, Captian Hook, the man who got swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah, I like that film a lot. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (not a film I love), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1950 – John D. Berry, 70.  Of New York (Fanoclasts), later Seattle.  “The Club House” 1969-1972 (fanzine reviews) for Amazing.  Pacific Northwest Review of Books (with Loren MacGregor).  Fan Guest of Honor, Norwescon 1, VCON 13, Westercon 63.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Designed the souvenir book for 15th World Fantasy Con.  I daren’t say a font of knowledge but indeed he is good with them.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1958 – David Egge, 62.  Thirty book and magazine covers, three dozen interiors.  Here is The End of Summer.  Here is The Dorsai Pacifist (in German).  Here is a 1986 cover for The Mote in God’s Eye (in fact Moties don’t have faces, a non-trivial point, but see this anyway).  Here is the Apr 01 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1961 – Tim Szczesuil, F.N., 59.  Chaired Boskones 33, 53.  Five terms as NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) President, four as Treasurer; various committees.  Contributed to APA:NESFA.  For NESFA Press, edited His Share of Glory (C.M. Kornbluth), Strange Days (Gardner Dozois; with Ann Broomhead).  Fellow of NESFA (service award).  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1971 – Phlippa Ballantine, 49.  First New Zealand author to podcast her novel (Weaver’s Web, 2006; three more; PB since moved to Virginia).  Three novels about the Order, five (with husband Tee Morris) about the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (Phoenix Rising was a top-10 SF book of the year on Goodreads, sequel The Janus Affair a Locus best-seller and Steampunk Chronicle readers’ choice for fiction), two about the Shifted World; a score of shorter stories.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1988 – Flavia Bujor, 32.  Children’s novel The Prophecy of the Stones (or “Gems”), written at age 13, translated into 23 languages.  A second is rumored.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows that the pandemic has reached mythic proportions.
  • Bizarro has a moral.

And Today In Comics History:

  • August 8, 1978: Garfield’s sidekick, Odie, made his comic strip debut.

(12) TUNING UP. CinemaBlend pays tribute to “10 Excellent John Williams Scores In A Steven Spielberg Movie”. On their list is:

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

The 1977 science-fiction epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind helped cement Steven Spielberg as a master of the genre, and the movie’s epic story of humans coming into contact with aliens was only made that more memorable thanks to soaring and sweeping score by John Williams. 

Throughout the entire movie, the score pushes the plot along to the point where the humans finally begin to communicate with the alien mothership, which is another way of inserting Williams’ composition into the picture. The “Play The Five Tones” scene is a miraculous piece of filmmaking and orchestration as it starts rather small and hushed before going into a back and forth between the two species before growing into a grand composition that ultimately ends with a chorus of strings growing in intensity as the aliens reveal themselves to the amazement of the humans.

(13) PRIVATE EYES. NPR tells how “From Desert Battlefields To Coral Reefs, Private Satellites Revolutionize The View”.

As the U.S. military and its allies attacked the last Islamic State holdouts last year, it wasn’t clear how many civilians were still in the besieged desert town of Baghouz, Syria.

So Human Rights Watch asked a private satellite company, Planet, for its regular daily photos and also made a special request for video.

“That live video actually was instrumental in convincing us that there were thousands of civilians trapped in this pocket,” said Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch. “Therefore the coalition forces absolutely had an obligation to stop, and to avoid bombardment of that pocket at that time.”

Which they did until the civilians fled.

Lyons, who’s based in Geneva, Switzerland, has a job title you wouldn’t expect at a human rights group: director of geospatial analysis. He says satellite imagery is increasingly a crucial component of human rights investigations, bolstering traditional eyewitness accounts, especially in areas where it’s too dangerous to send researchers

…They get those images from a handful of private, commercial satellite companies, like Planet and Maxar.

For the past three years, Planet has done something unprecedented. Its 150 satellites photograph the entire land mass of the earth every day — more than one million images every 24 hours. Pick any place on earth — from your house to the peak of Mt. Everest — and Planet is taking a photograph of it today.

“If you could visualize a string of pearls going around the poles, looking down and capturing imagery of the earth underneath it every single day,” said Rich Leshner, who runs Planet’s Washington office.

Scroll through Planet’s photo gallery and you get a bird’s eye view of the state of the world: idle cruise ships clustered off Coco Cay in the Bahamas, deserted streets around normally bustling sites like the Colosseum in Rome, and the smoke from the relentless fires set by farmers clearing land in the Amazon rainforest.

U.S. government satellites are the size of a bus. Planet’s satellites are the size of a loaf of bread. Planet is in business to make money, and its clients include the U.S. military and big corporations. But it also works with lots of non-profits and other groups it never anticipated.

(14) DAMMIT, BLANET! There is a thesis about a new type of planets, called “Blanets” (BLack Hole plANETS). “New Class of Planet Can Form Around Black Holes, Say Astronomers”Discover has the story.

Supermassive black holes are among the most exciting and puzzling objects in the universe. These are the giant, massive bodies that sit at the heart of most, perhaps all, galaxies. Indeed, they may be the seeds from which all galaxies grow.

Supermassive black holes are at least a hundred thousand times the mass of our sun. They are often surrounded by thick clouds of gas that radiate vast amounts of energy. When this happens, they are called active galactic nuclei. Discovering the properties of these clouds, and their curious central residents, is an ongoing exercise for astrophysicists.

Now researchers have a new phenomenon to consider — the idea that planets can form in the massive clouds of dust and gas around supermassive black holes. Last year, Keichi Wada at Kagoshima University in Japan, and a couple of colleagues showed that under certain conditions planets ought to form in these clouds. These black hole planets, or blanets as the team call them, would be quite unlike any conventional planet and raise the possibility of an entirely new class of objects for astronomers to dream about.

(15) DEAD OR ALIVE? In this 2019 article, WIRED considers the possibilities after “A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon”.

…Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

…The lunar library on the Beresheet lander consisted of 25 layers of nickel, each only a few microns thick. The first four layers contain roughly 60,000 high-resolution images of book pages, which include language primers, textbooks, and keys to decoding the other 21 layers. Those layers hold nearly all of the English Wikipedia, thousands of classic books, and even the secrets to David Copperfield’s magic tricks.

Spivack had planned to send DNA samples to the moon in future versions of the lunar library, not on this mission. But a few weeks before Spivack had to deliver the lunar library to the Israelis, however, he decided to include some DNA in the payload anyway. Ha and an engineer on Spivack’s team added a thin layer of epoxy resin between each layer of nickel, a synthetic equivalent of the fossilized tree resin that preserves ancient insects. Into the resin they tucked hair follicles and blood samples from Spivack and 24 others that he says represent a diverse genetic cross-section of human ancestry, in addition to some dehydrated tardigrades and samples from major holy sites, like the Bodhi tree in India. A few thousand extra dehydrated tardigrades were sprinkled onto tape that was attached to the lunar library.

(16) THE BARD’S SJW CREDENTIALS. Cats are the theme for Shakespeare & Beyond’s post: “Of the flattering, pampered, reviled, predatory, ‘harmless, necessary’ early modern cat”.

… While many of us today think of cats primarily as pampered pets and cherished internet weirdos, for early modern Europeans cats ran the gamut, from pests and carriers of disease, to indicators of witchcraft and other feminine misbehavior, to objects of affection and partners in play. Shakespeare’s own references to cats display such a variety. Trying to shake Hermia off in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander calls her “thou cat, thou burr! vile thing,” (3.2.270), and Macbeth’s First Witch calls out to Graymalkin, a common name for a cat that could also be applied to a “jealous or imperious old woman,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1.1.9). In other places, he references a cat’s behavior, as when Falstaff insists he is “as vigilant as a  cat to steal cream” (Henry IV, Part 1 4.2.59). The Oxford English Dictionary also credits Shakespeare with the first reference to a cat’s purr, in All’s Well That Ends Well (5.2.19)…

(17) IS THAT PAL OR HAL? Wil Wheaton devotes a blog post to his forthcoming movie: “Wil Wheaton is a very bad friend in trailer for horror-thriller Rent-A-Pal”.

Everything about this movie makes me happy. The cast is superb, the editing and photography and music are gorgeous, and the story is REALLY FUCKING CREEPY.

I can’t wait for y’all to see this when it comes out in September.

The short description of the movie on YouTube says:

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/3/20 Undeserved Loss And Inaccessible Healing

(1) MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM! The 2020 Hugo voting report, which begins with a short list of works that got enough votes to be finalists but were disqualified or withdrawn by the author, showed that Ann Leckie declined her nomination for The Raven Tower. In a blog entry today she explained why: “The Hugos and The Raven Tower”.

…I’ve had a taste of that cookie quite a few times now. It is, let me tell you, one delicious cookie. And when the email came telling me that The Raven Tower was a finalist for the Hugo Award, I thought of the books in that longlist, how often I’d had a bite of this cookie, and how many of the amazing books from 2019 were debuts, and/or were books that, when I’d read them, my first thought was, Oh, this should be on the Hugo ballot. More books than there were spots, for sure. And I realized that I could do something about that, at least in a small way.

And so I withdrew The Raven Tower from consideration.

Let me be perfectly clear–I was overwhelmed at the thought that so many readers felt The Raven Tower deserved to be a Hugo finalist. I have been treasuring that for months. And as I’m sure we all know, these have been months during which such treasures have become extremely important.

I also want to be clear that this is not any sort of permanent decision on my part. I make no promises about withdrawing anything in the future. If I am ever so fortunate as to have a work reach the shortlist again, and I see what seems to me a good reason to withdraw, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. It is, after all, one of the sweetest, most delicious cookies around!

(2) A WEE JOKE. From the August issue of Ansible:

The Retro Hugo Statistics reveal that a single Fan Writer nomination for 1944 work (it took three to get on the final ballot and no one had more than six) went to some chap called David Langford. Ho ho, very satirical….

(3) WHO BENEFITS. Much truth in this.

(4) NOW PLAYING. “The Ballad of Ursula K. Le Guin.”

(5) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. “John Boyne accidentally includes Zelda video game monsters in novel”The Guardian has his confession.

John Boyne, the award-winning author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, has acknowledged that a cursory Google led to him accidentally including monsters from the popular video game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in his new novel.

Boyne’s A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom opens in AD1 and ends 2,000 years later, following a narrator and his family. In one section, the narrator sets out to poison Attila the Hun, using ingredients including an “Octorok eyeball” and “the tail of the red lizalfos and four Hylian shrooms”….

Dana Schwartz rounded up some graphics to support the story. Thread starts here.

(6) HARD TO KEEP UP. David Gerrold concludes a Facebook post about sff awards with this sentiment:

…Personally, I am delighted that we are suffering from the challenges of success instead of the problems of failure. The level of mediocrity has risen and the level of excellence has truly surpassed the past. So the challenges in front of any author must look insurmountable, even to the long-time practitioners.

As difficult as all this may seem to anyone who writes, it’s still a good thing. Because it’s no longer about the awards — in fact, it never was about the awards. It has always been about the quality of the work.

That there is so much good work being created these days is a victory for the field, and especially for the readers.

I just wish I had enough time to keep up with it all.

(7) ONE MORE TAKE. Robert J. Sawyer has his own issue with George R.R. Martin’s choices while hosting the Hugo ceremony.

…But let me elucidate one category of Martin’s microaggressions that cut across the entire spectrum of humanity by subtly excluding anyone not part of his old guard: his use of nicknames for writers and editors whose prominence was in days gone by, signaling that no matter who you might be, if you weren’t part of the inner circle back in the day, you’ll never really be a true fan (or pro) now.

In Martin’s very, very long commentaries during yesterday’s Hugo Awards ceremony, Robert Silverberg was “Silverbob,” George Alec Effinger was “Piglet,” and the editor Robert A.W. Lowndes was “Doc.” I think Martin also called Isaac Asimov “Ike” during his trips down memory lane, although I’m not going to sift through the hour and forty-five minutes of his rambling again (fully half of the total running time of the Hugo ceremony) to be sure.

You see? Even someone like me — 40 years a selling author in this field, and now 60 years of age — was never part of that ancient, early prodom. I’ve known Robert Silverberg since 1989 and knew Asimov and Effinger, too, but was never close enough to call them by cutesy nicknames.

And if someone like me feels left out after all these decades in the field, imagine how the newer writers, or the writers whose literary background wasn’t the American SF magazines, felt during the Hugo ceremony.

… Yes, it’s a small thing — that’s why it’s called a MICROaggression — and it’s usually done without consciously intending to exclude or put down someone else, but microaggressions ARE pervasive and exclusionary in effect. We’d all do well to guard against committing them.

(8) JOIN THE BOB & DOUG SHOW. Back in their home theater after taking their show on a bit of a road trip, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their flight to the International Space Station and back aboard the inaugural crewed voyage of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon craft. This press release — “NASA Astronauts to Discuss Historic SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight” – tells how to access their news conference.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their recently completed SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission to the International Space Station during a news conference at 4:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 4.

The news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.

This will be a virtual event with no media present, due to the safety restrictions related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Reporters who wish to participate by telephone must call Johnson’s newsroom at 281-483-5111 to RSVP no later than 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4. Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using the hashtag #AskNASA.

(9) DRESSING UP PITTCON. The International Costumers Guild did a roundup of contemporary photos and reports about a Worldcon sixty years ago: “Convention Costuming History – 1960”.

The 1960 Worldcon, known as Pittcon (Pittsburgh, PA) promoted their masquerade as a “Costume Cabaret”. Following the show, there would be a glee club performance, a “minstrel show of science fiction flavor”, and then a dance (music provided by a “hi-fi”, rather than a live band like some past years)…

(10) ROBERTA POURNELLE OBIT. Roberta Pournelle, widow of Jerry, passed away last night at the age of 85. Her son Frank Pournelle announced services are planned in the coming week. The Chaos Manor page on Facebook saluted her:

An educator for 30 years at the Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce, Mother of 4, Grandmother, a friend to many; she made order out of Chaos.

Born Roberta Jane Isdell, she married Jerry Pournelle in 1959. ISFDB shows she wrote a nonfiction piece for Analog in 1988, “High-Tech for the Little Red Schoolhouse.”

(11) SUSAN ELLISON OBIT. HarlanEllisonBooks.com announced today that Susan Ellison (1960-2020) died over the weekend at home, the “Lost Aztec Temple of Mars.” No other details were given. Susan and Harlan married in 1986 and were together 32 years until his death in  2018.

(12) BUARD OBIT. It was recently learned that Patricia Anne Buard died in May 2017 reports the International Costumers Guild. Photos of her masquerade entries at the link.

Patricia Anne Buard. Patricia was a person of several interests, including theater and theology. In addition to having created works of both original fantasy and historical recreations, her short story “Devil’s Advocate” was published in the Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology book “Red Sun of Darkover”, released in 1987.

(13) IVEY OBIT. David Ivey succumbed to his battle with cancer on July 24. The International Costumers Guild describes one of his memorable entries.

David was a Michigan area costumer. His best known creations were Krakatoa, the Volcano God, and St. Helen. Krakatoa appeared at several venues, including Worldcon: Chicon V, in 1991 (photo below). It was quite innovative for its time, featuring several special effects.

(14) ENGLISH OBIT. “Bill English: Computer mouse co-creator dies at 91” – BBC pays tribute.

The co-creator of the computer mouse, William English, has died aged 91.

The engineer and inventor was born in 1929 in Kentucky and studied electrical engineering at university before joining the US Navy.

He built the first mouse in 1963, using an idea put forward by his colleague Doug Engelbart while the pair were working on early computing.

…Bill English became the first person to use a mouse when he built the prototype at Mr Engelbart’s research project at the Stanford Research Institute.

The idea was Mr Engelbart’s, which he described as only being “brief notes” – but the creation was down to Bill English.

His first version was a wooden block with a single button – and underneath, two rolling wheels at 90-degree angles that would record vertical and sideways movement.

“We were working on text editing – the goal was a device that would be able to select characters and words,” Mr English told the Computer History Museum in 1999.

(15) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 3, 1951 — The Tales of Tomorrow series premiered with “Verdict From Space”. The series was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953. There were eighty-five episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length. The series came about through the efforts of Theodore Sturgeon and Mort Abrahams, together with the membership of the Science Fiction League of America. The League who included Theodore Sturgeon, Anthony Boucher, and Isaac Asimov made their work available to the producers.  The screenplay was written by Sturgeon and is based on his own story “The Sky Was Full of Ships” first published in the June 1947 issue of Thrilling Wonder. You can watch it here.

(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 3, 1841 – Juliana Ewing.  Thirty short stories for us; a score of books with our and other stories, plays, book-length fiction, for children.  Roger G. Lancelyn Green (1918-1987), one of the Inklings, who suggested the name Chronicles of Narnia to C.S. Lewis, called JE’s the first outstanding child-novels in English literature.  Kipling said he knew her novels Jan of the Windmill and Six to Sixteen almost by heart; of Six “here was a history of real people and real things.”  From her novelette “The Brownies” (1865) the Baden-Powells got the idea and name for junior Girl Guides.  Here is a Caldecott cover for Jackanapes (1884).  (Died 1885) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which just won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror? (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1922 – Ron Turner.  Some sources say his birthday is the 22nd.  Twelve dozen covers (I’d say “one gross”, but look what trouble that made for Bilbo Baggins), more if you count posthumous uses.  Tit-Bits SF ComicsSpace AceRick RandomStingrayThe DaleksThunderbirds.  Here is Operation Venus.  Here is a John Russell Fearn collection.  Here is Rick Random and the Terror from Spacehere is its opening interior.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1926 —  John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 80. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1946 – John DeChancie, 74.  Best known for nine Castle Perilous and three Skyway books, he’s published ten besides, two dozen shorter stories; if you know he has written as Raul Cabeza de Vaca, and entitled a poem “The Refusal to Mourn the Rejection, by Printed Form, of a Hopeful Writer in Pittsburgh, February, 1992”, you’ll know he can read, and smile, and has been with SF a while.  Some fans become pros; some pros become fans, as he did; some are both, as he has been.  Plays piano, likes the American Songbook and Rachmaninoff; paints, including a portrait of Rachmaninoff.  See this, which includes portraits of Marty Cantor and Chip Hitchcock.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 70. He’d make this if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which was the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1953 – Margaret Bechard, 67.  Reed College woman (as an Antioch boy, I think of these things).  Children’s fiction, translated into French, Korean, Swedish.  Two novels, one shorter story for us; Star Hatchling about first contact won a Golden Duck.  Six other novels.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1971 – Yoshitoshi ABe, 49.  Graphic artist.  Usually writes his name in Roman letters, with capitalized for the sake of early works he signed “AB”.  Known to sketch with just his finger and an iPad.  Thirty self-published books; artbooks; covers; half a dozen each of animé and manga.  Here is his cover for Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill (A. Smith tr. 2009; hello, Pete Young).  Here is Walking the Dragon from YA’s artbook Gaisokyu (“Palace”; 2007).  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 48. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish redheaded colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly EditionAngel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and currently on Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1979 – Evangeline Lilly, 41.  Actress, author.  She was in LostReal Steel, two Peter Jackson hobbit films, three Marvel superhero films – to misquote Winston Churchill, who said a Wasp couldn’t sting thrice?  So far two Squickerwonker short stories for children have appeared, one translated into Portuguese.  [JH]

(17) A TOTAL SURPRISE. After Hastings author Steven H Silver tells Lawrence Shoen about eating reindeer steak in Stockholm as part of “Eating Authors: Steven H Silver”. However, the cuisine is overshadowed in this great anecdote about something that happened at dinner —

SHS: Honestly, there are a lot of things I don’t remember about my most memorable meal because it sticks out not because of the food or the company or even the location, but rather because of an incident that occurred during the meal….

(18) KAIJU KIA. Does ScreenRant have enough fingers and toes to answer the question? “How Many Times Godzilla Has Died (All Movies)”. (And I wonder if it’s more or less than the number of times John Wayne got killed?)

He’s starred in over 30 movies but how many of those has Godzilla actually died in? The first movie is a somber monster movie with the title creature is intended to be a walking metaphor for nuclear weapons. The movie’s huge success led to a franchise that is still running nearly 70 years later, with the monster appearing in sequels, reboots and remakes, in addition to comics, novels and video games where he’s battled against all sorts of creative monsters.

(19) MAD, I SAY. Could it be that Dave Freer’s message in “F-IW” at Mad Genius Club is “When you’re in your time machine on the way back to kill baby Hitler, don’t forget to stop off in the Sixties and take over traditional publishing”?

…Both of these [old] books had a huge effect on my young mind. Yes, I can see the Woke and modern left rubbing their hands (and other parts, never mentioned) in glee, saying ‘Yes! We were RIGHT that we had to capture publishing and exclude any badthink. Just think if we’d had the dominance we have now over traditional publishing, back in 1960, even evil people like Freer would have been won (Hi: I’m Dave the Divider. If it wasn’t for me, so we are told by the self-elected authorities,  sf/fantasy would be united and singing Kumbaya. See what a fate I saved you from!).

(20) CANON FIRED. Meg Elison says you’re excused from reading the SFF “canon.”

Thread starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(21) APOLLO POLITICS. At The Space Review, Dwayne Day discusses an interesting radio program about space history. “Sending Washington to the Moon: an interview with Richard Paul”.

The radio show “Washington Goes to the Moon” two decades ago shed new light on the political battles around the Apollo program, and provided a wealth of material for later historians. Dwayne Day interviews the man who wrote and produced the show.

(22) FANTASY NETWORK FREEBIES. Some of us encountered The Fantasy Network for the first time watching CoNZealand events. They also have lots of free content. For example, the 2017 movie Magellan:

When NASA picks up three signals of extraterrestrial origin coming from within our own solar system, the space agency expedites a mission to investigate the sources. As Earth’s lone emissary, they send Commander Roger Nelson, the test pilot for an experimental spacecraft call the Magellan, assisted by an onboard A.I. named Ferdinand.

(23) MORE, PLEASE. James Davis Nicoll is sure these are “Five Stories That Make You Wish For a Sequel”. But rest easy – none of them involve the megaselling series that have made sff news this week.

Many books function perfectly as standalones; many series end well. Plots are resolved, characters are given their reward or punishment. But there are also books that seem to cry out for a sequel and series that are never finished, leaving readers frustrated. We want more!

Alexis Gilliland’s Rosinante series is on this list —

… I discovered the series is funnier than one would expect from plotlines that feature banking crises, union negotiations, and the sudden collapse of the dominant government in North America. There were just three books in the series—Revolution from Rosinante (1981), Long Shot for Rosinante (1981), The Pirates of Rosinante (1982)—but the setting was expansive and interesting enough that more stories were possible, perhaps elsewhere in Gilliland’s Solar System. Thus far, none have materialized.

(24) DIY. “New ‘Quar-Horror’ Films Show Staying At Home Is Scary Too”.

It’s no exaggeration to say this year feels like a horror movie. And now, a few filmmakers are making it official.

All over YouTube, you can find inventive homemade horror shorts taking the pandemic as inspiration. (They come from Brazil, from Canada and from, well, Funny or Die.) And a new movie Host, filmed over twelve weeks in quarantine and entirely on Zoom, debuted on the horror channel Shudder last week.

Call it “quar-horror.”

Among the most chilling of the YouTube offerings is Stay At Home, part horror movie and part PSA from a filmmaker in New Orleans.

“I literally just grabbed a box, and I set up the camera on a tripod and gave myself a scenario,” says Kenneth Brown, a former Uber driver turned horror auteur. “And the story started to build and build and build.”

Brown went to film school, and you can tell. Based on the myth of Pandora’s Box and the evening news, Stay At Home is elegantly lit and crafted. As of this writing, it’s racked up nearly 200,000 views on YouTube.

Part of what makes Stay At Home so effective — and heartfelt — is the insistent drone of news anchors discussing the mounting carnage. “That’s everything I need to say as far as reaching African Americans, which is the population most vulnerable to this virus,” says Brown, who is Black himself.

But escapism is also the point, say Nathan Crooker and James Gannon. Their upcoming quar-horror, called Isolation, just wrapped principal photography. The two produced the film; Crooker is also its director. Isolation is an anthology; nine interconnected shorts by different directors who filmed their movies using only resources immediately available to them.

(25) PIECEMEAL. According to BBC, “Other mammals lose out in panda conservation drive”.

Saving the giant panda is one of the big success stories of conservation.

Decades of efforts to create protected habitat for the iconic mammal has pulled it back from the brink of extinction.

But, according to a new study, while many other animals in the same landscape have benefited from this conservation work, some have lost out.

Leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dogs have almost disappeared from the majority of protected areas.

Driven to near extinction by logging, poaching and disease, their loss could lead to “major shifts, even collapse, in ecosystems”, said researchers in China.

Without the likes of leopards and wolves, deer and livestock can roam unchecked, causing damage to natural habitats, with knock-on effects for other wildlife, including pandas themselves.

By protecting the panda’s forests, conservationists believed they would be protecting not only the charismatic black-and-white animal, but the many other species roaming the same habitat.

But while that has worked for some other wildlife, the efforts do not appear to have worked for large carnivores, such as the leopard and wolf.

A team of researchers now says a broader – holistic – approach is needed to manage the ecosystem in which the panda lives – one that ensures key species don’t lose out.

(26) SHORT LEAPS FORWARD. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler interviews Catherine Hardwicke, whose new Quibi series “Don’t Look Deeper” is set “15 minutes into the future” and has a teenage girl as a protagonist who may or may not be an android.  Hardwicke discusses what it was like to direct a story delivered in 10-minute chunks and why star Helena Howard is a “strong and vulnerable” actor Hardwicke enjoyed working with. “Can Catherine Hardwicke get you to watch Quibi?”

Why Quibi? Were the shorter episodes appealing?

Actually, the script was written for short episodes. It was written in chapters. I thought that was quite interesting when I first read the script. I was like, “Wow, that’s fascinating,” because the short format does tie in — it weaves in directly with what’s going on with [Aisha’s] memory. We tell the story in a non-linear way as her memories are being erased and restored. The technology that we’re exploring, showing it on a new technological platform with the vertical and horizontal, it all seemed to kind of work together in an interesting way. So this leap of faith — that [Quibi founder Jeffrey] Katzenberg said let’s try this format — I thought that was an interesting challenge to dive into it and see what happens.

(27) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Dragonball Evolution Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that when the hero of the film has to collect seven dragonballs to make a wish that dragonballs are as powerful as “blowing out candles on a birthday cake.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/1/20 Consider a Spherical Scroll

(1) COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND LEADERSHIP TURNOVER. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced June 22 that they had accepted the resignation of Charles Brownstein as Executive Director, effective immediately.  According to Publishers Weekly, Brownstein’s resignation comes after the resurfacing of allegations of sexual assault brought against him in 2006. An account of the situation and its aftermath was reported in the Comics Journal in 2006.

The CBLDF subsequently posted this update:

First and foremost, the CBLDF is grateful that Kris Simon has come forward. We also want to recognize Taki Soma for what she endured and for bringing this to light. Both have our full support. We are releasing Shy Allot from the NDA she signed in 2010 when she left the organization so that her story can also be heard.

CBLDF’s Board is undergoing a complete review of management practices and where we have fallen short. We are examining our mission to ensure it meets modern industry needs, and will do so with input from our full-time staff, expert third parties, and the comics and manga community.

And on June 29, more retirements/resignations followed.

The CBLDF announced today that Paul Levitz is retiring from our Board of Directors. In addition, the Board has accepted the resignations of Katherine Keller and Jeff Abraham.

We respect the decisions that Paul, Katherine and Jeff have made to leave the Board. We realize it will be a long path to earning back the trust of our members, supporters and the industry. We recognize that it’s been our inability to react, or act at all, that’s been the cause of  pain in our community.

Even last week, when we took the necessary action in accepting Charles’s resignation, our communications were stilted and clumsy. To everyone who has come forward, we haven’t done justice to your bravery and we are truly sorry. We vow to be better….   

(2) VIRTUALLY THERE. Locus Online has posted a highly informative report about the 2020 SFWA Nebula Conference

The 2020 SFWA Nebula Conference morphed mid-COVID from an in-person conference into an impressive online event, held May 29-31, 2020. There were 808 members from 33 countries, a record, up from 2019’s record-breaking 475 registered members.

(3) LISTEN IN ON FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has posted the second segment of its audio recording of the “Fans Into Pros” panel at IguanCon II, the 36th Worldcon, held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. (The link to Part I is here.) The participants are Guest of Honor Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Terry Carr, Richard Lupoff and Ted White. 

This audio recording (enhanced with many images) is Part 2 of that panel. More serious than part 1, this segment talks about becoming a writer, and provides straightforward, candid insights about selling in the field. There’s less byplay but lots of good discussion. Note two things – the recording does not go to the end of the panel but stops abruptly (source material ends), and there is a section where members of the audience are speaking and you can’t hear them on the recording.  

Please be patient – the responses from the panel are worth hearing. This recording courtesy of IguanaCon chairman Tim Kyger.

(4) BRITAIN IS FINE. Rob Hansen has added a section about the 1979 Worldcon bid to his website THEN, with publications, photos, etc. Rob says, “I’ll eventually get around to tackling the con itself, but in the meantime here’s the tale of how it came to be.”

The story of how the idea of holding a UK Worldcon in the 1970s emerged, and how things came together and the bid then evolved, is worthy of its own entry. The bid also had its own series of progress reports independent of the eventual convention, all of which are included here.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

(5) NOBODY MUST GET STONED. The recent launch of Avengers: Infinity War on Disney+ was promoted by a short video on Marvel’s Instagram account highlighting the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s six Infinity Stones.

(6) HEARD THAT SOMEWHERE BEFORE. A.V. Club will point you to the video: “It’s some kind of supercut of every time someone says “some kind of” on Star Trek”.

Pretty much everyone has some kind of vocal tic, some sort of repeated phrase or word they use without necessarily even realizing it in their day-to-day conversations. Pointing it out in each other is generally considered an asshat thing to do, but that doesn’t change how damn annoying it can be for all of us. On that note, here’s some sort of supercut of all 214 times someone says “some sort of” or “some kind of” on some sort of show called Star Trek: The Next Generation.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 1, 1955 — Robby the Robot was born. Or so claims the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that would release Forbidden Planet where he had his first screen appearance on March 4, 1956. He would go to be part of a number of series including Lost in SpaceThe Addams FamilyThe Twilight Zone and Holmes & Yo-Yo to name but a few of his appearances. His latest appearance was on The Big Bang Theory with other movie props in “The Misinterpretation Agitation” episode. (CE)
  • July 1, 1984 — William Gibson’s Neuromancer was published. It would win a Hugo for Best Novel at Aussiecon II. It was the first novel to win the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award for a paperback original. The novel opens with the new famous line of “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Deadpool director Tim Miller was chosen three years ago to direct a live-action film adaptation, and Neuromancer the Opera was written but a quarter of a century later has not been staged. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz believed in the feud theory, Richard Lupoff wrote an articl debunking the idea. (Died 1945.) (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1923 – Jean Hougron.  Indochina (as it then was) 1947-1951; a score of novels.  Two for us, The Sign of the Dog, translated into German, Italian, Portuguese; and Naguen, winning the Grand Prix de la Science-Fiction.  Grand Prix du roman de l’Academie française for Death and Fraud, no. 4 in his series The Indochina Night.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1934 Jean Marsh, 86. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1935 David Prowse, 85. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally, he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1942 – rich brown.  No capital letters in his name.  By the mid-1960s known and knowledgeable enough to publish, with Arnie Katz and Mike McInerney, the fanzine Focal Point, revived with AK in the early 1970s.  Also with AK the 3rd (1971) ed’n of The Enchanted Duplicator (1994 ed’n here) i.e. not the protagonist of “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” but producing one’s fanzine, once and for some still the heart of fan activity; also with AK The Incompleat Terry Carr (a somewhat more compleat ed’n 1988 by Jerry Kaufman); contributed a study of fanspeak to Joe Sanders’ Science Fiction Fandom, eventually brought into Fancyclopedia 3.  Self-depreciatingly said “I’m everyone’s rich brother” and “I’m in The Lord of the Rings.  The Ents have my skin.  They have rich brown skin.”  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1952 – Mary Kay Kare , 68.  Edited Red Dust, clubzine of the Norman, Oklahoma, SF Society; then Seattle, San Jose. Co-chaired Potlatch 19 (literary SF con).  Innocently going overseas to Corflu 27 she found herself Guest of Honor – at Corflu this is determined by drawing names from a hat.  Hugo Awards Administrator at Denvention 3 the 66th Worldcon; photo  here.  Widow of the extraordinary Jordin Kare.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1959 – Leah Zeldes Smith, 61.  Can be found under both maiden and married names; husband, Dick Smith.  Served on boards of Ann Arbor SF Ass’n, Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n.  Co-founded Michigan Soc. of (Hapless) Amateur Publishers – opinions differ on whether the H is for Hapless or silent as in bheer; anyhow, MISHAP.  Half a dozen stories in Mike Resnick anthologies.  Fanzine Stet (with Dick) 3-time Hugo finalist.  Fan Guest of Honor at Corflu 4.  Down Under Fan Fund delegate (with Dick), attended Swancon 18.  Chaired Operacon.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 56. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in 2001 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where many of his other stories were published, and which he has edited for past six years. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best-known work.  (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1965 – Kevin Maroney, 55.  Long-time managing editor, now publisher, of the New York Review of SF, 14-time Hugo finalist.  Guest of Honor at Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, held since 1975 when the Worldcon is overseas).  He says “Science fiction valorizes people who Know Things.”  Dilettante in the old sense.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1976 – Ketty Steward, 44.  Author, critic, proofreader.  Two dozen stories; collection, Interrupted Connections (in French, i.e. Connexions interrompoues; KS lives in Martinique). “HeLa Is Here” in English here.  Two special issues of Galaxies (in French) devoted to Africa.  Genre-mixing autobiographical novel, Black & White (Noir et blanc).  Degrees in applied mathematics, social sciences, labor science.  Student of Afrocyberfeminism.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1981 Genevieve Valentine, 39. Author of the superb Persona novel, and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She also scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess. (CE)

(9) IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN SMELL YOU SCREAM. According to CNN, “This is what space smells like”.

If you’ve ever wondered what space smells like, a new perfume may answer that for you. A kickstarter was recently launched for a new fragrance called Eau de Space to bring the smell of outer space back down to Earth.

The fragrance was developed by Steve Pearce, according to Eau de Space product manager Matt Richmond. Pearce is a chemist and the founder of Omega Ingredients, a company focused on the “creation of the highest quality, provenance driven, natural flavours and ingredients for the food and beverage industry,” its website says.

(10) IN BOOKS TO COME. Andrew Liptak told readers where to find his monthly Reading List:

As some of you know from June, Polygon has decided to discontinue the list on their site for the foreseeable future — one small casualty from COVID. Accordingly, I’ve shifted the list over to my newsletter, Reading List.

This newsletter is designed as a step-back from the day-to-day news of the SF/F world, with a couple of different types of letters. Free ones have a regular set of content: I’m aiming for a book review and/or short piece of commentary, along with a list of notable long-read articles and pieces of note, as well as a roundup of book recommendations. I’m also using it as a place to conduct longer-form interviews and this book list. This has a growing audience, with a solid reading and open rate: 50-58%, depending on the post. 

The paid version (Reading List+) is something I just launched, and it features longer or in-depth commentary or reported feature — the first was about J.K. Rowling and Richard K. Morgan’s comments online. The next is set to go out this week, about the legacy of Michael Crichton’s name. This has a smaller audience, but with a much higher open and reading rate (~80%). Future plans here include podcasting (to be called Transfer Orbit), with one long-form interview set to debut later this month, as well as a handful of other posts, ranging from essays about writing, an in-depth feature on a military war game, and more.

(11) YOUR CHAIRS ARE READY. Episode 30 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast is out: “The many trouser-legs of time”. Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg are joined by Dr. Lucy Sussex to talk about alternate history novels. In particular, they discuss those alternate timelines in which the Axis powers won the Second World War. (Did someone forget to punch the Nazis?)

  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton
  • Dominion by C. J. Sansom
  • The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
  • SS-GB by Len Deighton
  • Fatherland by Robert Harris
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

(12) AT THE CORE. In Nature, astronomers claim “Core of a gas planet seen for the first time” says the BBC.

Astronomers have found a previously unseen type of object circling a distant star.

It could be the core of a gas world like Jupiter, offering an unprecedented glimpse inside one of these giant planets.

Giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn have a solid planetary core beneath a thick envelope of hydrogen and helium gas.

But no-one has previously been able to see what these solid cores are like.

Now, a team of astronomers has discovered what they think are the rocky innards of a giant planet that’s missing its thick atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the journal Nature.

(13) PLANTING THE FLAG. This is a wonderful GIF — “NASA if it had the same budget as the US Military”. (I won’t embed it here, because GIFs in the Scroll drive some of you to distraction. Not that I’ll never ever do it, you understand…)  

(14) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. BBC reports:“Tesla overtakes Toyota to become world’s most valuable car maker”.

Tesla has become the world’s most valuable carmaker, overtaking Japan’s Toyota, after its stock hit a record high.

Shares in the electric carmaker hit a record $1,134 on Wednesday morning, before falling back, leaving it with a market value of $209.47bn (£165bn).

That is roughly $4bn more than Toyota’s current stock market value.

However, Toyota sold around 30 times more cars last year and its revenues were more than 10 times higher.

Shares in Tesla have risen more than 160% since the start of 2020, as investors feel more confident about the future of electric vehicles.

(15) SPACE JAM. A 2017 NASA video called “Space Station Fisheye Fly-Through 4K” is a really good look at the International Space Station with some smooth jazz. 

(16) BORED NOW. “Crucible: Amazon pulls ‘boring’ big-budget video game”.

Amazon has pulled its first major game release, putting it back into a testing phase after poor feedback from players.

Free-to-play shooter Crucible is now being put back into “closed beta” – a pre-release stage with a limited number of players.

Current players will be part of the beta, but new players will be unable to download the game without an invite.

Amazon said it had listened to player feedback and would “continue to make the game better”.

In May, when the game was about to be released, Amazon Games vice-president Mike Frazzini told the BBC the company wanted “to make games that resonate with a very large audience of players”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. What?!

Dippin’ Dots—they’re an amusement park, zoo, aquarium and overall summertime staple. The mini balls of ice cream that melt in your mouth are also a childhood favorite. But where did the “ice cream of the future” come from? The answer has a little something to do with cow feed.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/9/20 I Can’t Scroll Yet, I Haven’t Seen The Pixel Story.

(1) HENKIN OUT AS CHAIR OF SAN ANTONIO EVENT. Anime News Network reports “San Japan Chair Resigns After Claiming PoC Guests Aren’t Profitable”. But Henkin reportedly owns the for-profit corporation that owns San Japan, and still controls the event. (The committee’s full statement is on Facebook.)

Staff of the San Antonio-based convention San Japan announced on Saturday that chairman Dave Henkin will step down immediately following “hurtful and ignorant comments” he made on his private Twitter account. Henkin wrote in a private post that the reason the convention doesn’t book People of Color (PoC) guests is because the convention is often asked to book “sexual predators and popular asshole divas” and those guests bring more money.

“Show up by the hundreds with cash to PoC, then I’ll book them,” Henkin wrote on Thursday. He later followed with a public apology on his Facebook account the same day.

San Japan wrote that the committee will select guests “by a combination of fan submissions, staff recommendations, and formal recommendations made by an equity committee.”

…”Our staffing, programming, and community programs will begin an immediate and comprehensive review of acceptance criteria and any possible biases that exist as barriers to entry to the convention,” the convention staff stated. “Please do not hold the stupidity of one man against the work of countless POC and LGBTQ+ individuals who have worked for over a decade to make this a model conference. We look forward to the opportunity to prove ourselves during our next convention.”

San Japan’s convention board will function without a chairman for the time being and make decisions based on committee…

(2) IT’S IN THE CAN. Just like in a Hallmark Channel Christmas Special, you can have a Doctor for Christmas.Entertainment Weekly has some rare good news: Doctor Who star Mandip Gill confirms next holiday episode has been shot: ‘We were lucky'”.

Thanks to the pandemic, the immediate future of many shows is in doubt. But Doctor Who star Mandip Gill confirms that the annual special holiday season episode of the time travel series, titled “Revolution of the Daleks,” has already been shot. “I can confirm that,” says Gill, who plays companion Yasmin Khan on the Jodie Whittaker-starring show. “There is a festive episode. We happened to be quite lucky and fit it in, so that will be exciting.”

(3) EXCELLENT TRAILER. Warner Bros. dropped a teaser trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music.

Whoa. The wait is finally over, dudes! Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter star in the first official trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music! Watch now! And remember: be excellent to each other. Directed by Dean Parisot with returning franchise writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, the film will continue to track the time-traveling exploits of William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. and Theodore “Ted” Logan. Yet to fulfill their rock and roll destiny, the now middle aged best friends set out on a new adventure when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it. Along the way, they will be helped by their daughters, a new batch of historical figures, and a few music legends — to seek the song that will set their world right and bring harmony in the universe.

(4) RARE ACCOMPLISHMENT. N’dea Yancey-Breas’s article “NASA Astronaut From Historic Spacewalk Becomes First Woman to Reach Deepest Part of Ocean” in USA Today, tells how Kathryn Sullivan, who was the first woman to walk in space in 1984, became the first woman to both walk in space and travel to the bottom of the Challenger Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.

…She traveled to the deepest point in the ocean, located in the Western Pacific Ocean, on a submersible called the Limiting Factor piloted by Victor Vescovo of Caladan Oceanic before returning to its mothership the Pressure Drop. Vescovo, who has also piloted the Limiting Factor on a recent dive to the Titanic, became the fourth person to reach Challenger Deep last year.

(5) CAPER CRUSADERS. In “Future Crime: Top 5 Crime Movies In Futuristic Settings” on Criminal Element, Drew Murray, whose new novel is about a murder at a Midwestern Comic Con, discusses five sf movies involving crime and criminals. Number two on the list is —

2. Inception (2010)

Who doesn’t love a professional thief? What if instead of stealing your material possessions they want to take knowledge from your mind?

Leonardo DiCaprio is that cat burglar, slipping into your subconscious while you sleep. In Inception he’s given the ultimate challenge: to plant an idea inside the target’s mind without them knowing. This ingenious concept launches an excellent heist movie set against a mind-bending backdrop that is stunning and surreal, like a Dali painting brought to life.

There’s an excellent supporting cast here with Tom Hardy, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, and Ellen Page, forming the motley crew that every great heist needs. There’s innovative action, using multiple physical dimensions as well as time itself. Sure, it can be confusing if you think too deeply about it, so don’t. Buckle yourself in and just enjoy the ride.

(6) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, “Looney Tunes’ Strips Elmer Fudd of Trademark Guns To Acclaim–And Controversy” — says that in the new Looney Tunes show on HBO Max Elmer Fudd no longer has a gun, although the show’s writers say that Fudd continues to violently attack Bugs Bunny without using a firearm.

…”We’re not doing guns, but we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in,” executive producer Peter Browngardt told the New York Times. While Fudd’s disarming is drawing the bulk of media attention, his fellow legacy gunslinger Yosemite Sam has also lost his trusty firearms since the new series launched late last month.

Unsurprisingly, the decision has been met with equal parts accolades and scorn in a country still fiercely divided on gun issues.

“You can’t take away his gun!” Joe Piscopo, the Saturday Night Live comedian-turned-radio host said on Fox News. “Drop an anvil on his head, it’ll be fine. Explode some dynamite, that’ll be fine….”

One of the show’s animators fired back – so to speak: “Looney Tunes Cartoons Artist Addresses Backlash Over Elmer Fudd Gun Ban” at ComicBook.com.

“Do you guys SERIOUSLY care whether or not Elmer Fudd has a gun in our shorts? You know how many gags we can do with guns? Fairly few,” Michael Ruocco, an animator on New Looney Tunes and Looney Tunes Cartoonstweeted Sunday. “And the best were already done by the old guys. It’s limiting. It was never about the gun, it was about Elmer’s flawed, challenged masculinity.”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 9, 1870 –One hundred and fifty years ago, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: A World Tour Underwater was published in Paris as Vingt mille lieues sous les mers: Tour du monde sous-marin. The novel was first translated into English in 1873 by Reverend Lewis Page Mercier,  but it was rife with errors and the Reverend cut a quarter of the text. In 1962 Anthony Bonner published a fresh, essentially complete translation of Verne’s masterwork. This edition also included a special introduction written by Ray Bradbury.  The novel has seen several adaptions to film including Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Fifties SF anthology series Tales of Tomorrow adaptation. Captain Nemo gets borrowed by film makers and used in a number of other video and text fictions, always played by a Caucasian actor even though he’s East Indian in the novel. He’s got a lead role in Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which was as you made into a film. The film does not use a Caucasian In this role, instead employs Naseeruddin Shah, an Indian actor. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 9, 1911 – J. Francis McComas.  With Raymond Healy (1907-1997) edited the pioneering and still excellent anthology Adventures in Time and Space – and got Random House to publish it.  Thus although not having planted the crops, he knew to harvest: they also serve who only sit and edit.  With Anthony Boucher (1911-1969) founded The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the best thing to happen among us since Astounding.  Half a dozen stories of his own.  Afterward his widow Annette (1911-1994) edited The Eureka Years; see it too.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1925 – Leo R. Summers.  Twenty covers for Fantastic, eight for Amazing, six for Analog; almost six hundred interiors.  Here is a Fantastic cover; here is one for Analoghere is an interior for H.B. Fyfe’s “Star Chamber” from Amazing.  A fruitful career.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1925 Keith Laumer. I remember his Bolo series fondly and read quite a bit of it. Can’t say which novels at this point though Bolo definitely and Last Command almost certainly. The Imperium and Retief series were also very enjoyable though the latter is the only one I’d re-read at this point. The usual suspects have decent though not complete ebooks listings for him, heavy on the Imperium and Retief series and they’ve just added a decent Bolo collection too. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1930 Lin Carter. He is best known for his work in the 1970s as editor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. As a writer, His first professional publication was the short story “Masters of the Metropolis”, co-written with Randall Garrett, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1957. He would be a prolific writer, average as much as six novels a year. In addition, he was influential as a critic of the fantasy genre and an early historian of the genre. He wrote far too much to me to say I’ve sampled everything he did but I’m fond of his CastilloGreat Imperium and Zarkon series, all great popcorn literature! (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1934 Donald Duck, 86. He made his first appearance in “The Wise Little Hen” on June 9, 1934. In this cartoon, Donald and his friend, Peter Pig, lie their way out of helping the titular little hen tend to her corn. You can watch it here. (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1943 – Joe Haldeman.  Two dozen novels, eighty shorter stories; ninety published poems.  Seven Hugos, five Nebulas; three Rhyslings; Tiptree (as it then was); Skylark.  Edited Nebula Awards 17.  Pegasus Award for Best Space Opera Song.  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  Guest of Honor at – among others – Windycon I and 20, Disclave 21, Beneluxcon 7, ConFiction the 48th Worldcon (1990).  His wide range has its virtues; he’s told how one story sold at a penny a word and five years later was adapted for television at five times as much; also “I don’t have to say Uh-oh, I’d better get back to that novel again; I can always write a poem or something.”  [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1949 – Drew Sanders.  Officer of LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc., oldest SF club in the world) and later of SCIFI (S. Cal. Inst. for Fan Interests – pronounced skiffy) when it incorporated separately.  First-rate costumer while married to Kathy Bushman; here they are as “Golden Apples of the Sun, Silver Apples of the Moon” in the Masquerade costume contest at Suncon the 35th Worldcon; he served as Masquerade Director himself, a huge task, e.g. at Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon (1988); here he is as the Joker, from Batman; he said, brilliantly, “the Masquerade is like a cross between kabuki and Little Theater”.  Part of the world of LASFS pastimes when that included LASFS Poker, which ran to games like Soft Shoe (because you could shuffle off to bluff a low).  Among few close friends of Bruce Pelz.  [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1949 George Kelley, 71. Notable collector and blogger with 30,000 books in his basement, which he points out include “many books NOT in the Library of Congress.” (OGH)
  • Born June 9, 1951 – Jim Glass.  LASFS Librarian in the days of our first Clubhouse; earned our service award, the Evans-Freehafer, 1978; trained his successor Sue Haseltine who earned the Evans-Freehafer herself, 1985; now that’s service.  Associate Technical Fellow at Rocketdyne; an idea man; a steady stream of visitors to his office asked him about propellants and nozzles and mining Lunar polar regolith and Mars.  He liked to quote Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), “The Earth is the cradle of humankind.  But one cannot stay in the cradle forever.”  This drawing by Angelo Dinallo was brought to his memorial.  (Died 2007) [JH] 
  • Born June 9, 1954 Gregory Maguire, 66. He is the author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West based off of course the Oz Mythos, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister retelling the tale of Cinderella and Mirror, Mirror, a revisionist retelling of the Snow White tale which is really excellent. Well you get the idea. He’s damn good at this revisionist storytelling. (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1963 David Koepp, 57. Screenwriter for some of the most successful SF films ever done: Jurassic Park (co-written with Michael Crichton, which won the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at ConAdian), The Lost World: Jurassic Park, War of The Worlds and, yes, it made lots of money, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1966 – Christian McGuire.  This amazing astounding fan chaired eight Loscons (three with Shaun Lyon, one with Cathy Johnson, one with Michelle Pincus, and one with Crys Pretzman), Westercon LXIII, Conucopia the 7th NASFiC (N. Am. SF Con, held when the Worldcon is overseas), and L.A.con IV the 64th Worldcon. He was also a founder of Gallifrey One and chaired, or co-chaired its first 12 years. In between, Fan Guest of Honor at Baycon 2002, Westercon 51, Capricon 29, Loscon 36. He has been a panelist on Kevin Standlee’s Match Game SF. He is still alive. [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1967 – Dave McCarty.   Having chaired three Capricons, he chaired a bid to hold the 70th Worldcon in Chicago; when the bid won, he chaired the con, by no means inevitable.  It was Chicon 7 (2012), which by our custom means the seventh Worldcon in the same town with continuity from the same community.  No one else has managed this, or come close; the nearest have been Noreascon IV (62nd Worldcon) and L.A.con IV (64th Worldcon).  Also served as Hugo Awards Administrator, and on the World SF Society’s Mark Protection Committee, among our least conspicuous and most demanding work.  Fan Guest of Honor at Capricon 38, Windycon 38.  [JH]

(9) COMIC CREATORS SIDE WITH BLM. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Veteran comic book writer and editor Gail Simone has challenged fellow comic book writers to sell a piece of art from their collection, with money going to Black Lives Matter. Using the hashtag #ComicWritersChallenge, she’s inspired dozens of writers (including some very high profile creators) to participate. Some of the art that’s been up for auction is the sort of work that is literally never available. This includes such treasures as an original page from Crisis On Infinite Earths, the first page of Mike Grell’s run on Green Arrow, a piece by Greg Hildebrandt, a piece autographed by both Neil Gaiman and and Bryan Talbot, a page from Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman and more. In one week, they’ve raised more than $200,000 for BLM. 

I wish I had the disposable income to keep bidding on the Bill Sienkiewicz piece. 

It’s worth reading the thread that started it all off. Thread starts here.  

There’s a spreadsheet tracking all the donations and bids: here. (Google Docs)

(10) MCDUFFIE AWARD TAKING NOMINATIONS. ComicsBeat says it’s time to “Send in your 2020 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics nominations now”. Submissions will be taken until September 1.

The Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics is now officially accepting submissions for its sixth annual ceremony. Like so many other events, the McDuffie award has shaken off COVID delays, but continues nonetheless. The event will name one winner from five honored finalists, whose work resembles a commitment to excellence and inclusion on and off the page, much like the late Mr. McDuffie’s own efforts to produce entertainment that was representative of and created by a wide scope of human experience.

The Dwayne McDuffie Award’s motto, in his own words, is as follows: “From invisible to inevitable.”

Master of ceremonies, actor Phil LaMarr will announce the winner later this year via video. 

(11) YAKKITY-YAK. Cora Buhlert is back with a “Retro Review: “A God Named Kroo” by Henry Kuttner”.

…Warning: Spoilers beyond this point!

“A God Named Kroo” begins with Kroo, a minor village god in the Himalayas. Kroo has a problem, for his last worshipper died fifty years before. Ever since then, Kroo’s temple has lain abandoned, avoided by the villagers. Now the only follower that Kroo has is a yak, which wandered onto the temple grounds one day in search of food and now belongs to Kroo according to ancient tradition….

(12) ONE FOR THE RECORDS. Mike Allen says, “The appearance the four of us just made on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog, ’The Big Idea: C. S. E. Cooney, Jessica P. Wick, Amanda J. McGee, Mike Allen’ …sets a new record for the ‘largest number of authors co-writing a single Big Idea piece,’” according to John.

(13) GAIMAN’S TAKE. Neil Gaiman fielded a question about the latest J.K. Rowling controversy.

(14) SCHRÖDINGER’S EGG. Randall Munroe illustrates what he found out from scientists in “Can You Boil an Egg Too Long?” at the New York Times. It’s all very earnest.

…If you boil an egg for five or 10 minutes, it becomes firm and cooked. If you boil it for hours, it becomes rubbery and overcooked. Beyond that, things get a little mysterious.

Eggs are full of coiled-up protein molecules. Heating the proteins makes them uncoil and link up with one another to form a three-dimensional lattice, transforming a runny raw egg into a firm, rubbery cooked egg. This scaffolding helps give baked goods their structure.

(15) ON THE EVE OF STAR TREK. Vintage Everyday posted a gallery of Jay Kay Klein’s masquerade photos from the 1966 Worldcon: “Science Fiction & Fantasy Costume Contestants Posing at the 24th World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland, 1966”.

The three co-chairmen of that Worldcon each represented their city’s fandom; they were Ben Jason of Cleveland, Howard DeVore of Detroit, and Lou Tabakow of Cincinnati. The guest of honor was L. Sprague de Camp and the toastmaster was Isaac Asimov. Of special note: Gene Roddenberry premiered the pilot episode for his TV series Star Trek at Tricon.

This collection is primarily comprised of photographs taken by Jay Kay Klein has he documented Science Fiction & Fantasy fandom at the 24th World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The majority of images were taken by Klein while attending Science Fiction & Fantasy conventions and events….

(16) UP FROM THE RANKS. Fanac.org has posted an audio recording of the first segment of the “Fans Into Pros” panel at the 1978 Worldcon.

IguanaCon II, the 36th Worldcon, was held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. Guest of Honor Harlan Ellison, along with Robert Silverberg, Dick Lupoff and Ted White participated in a panel on “Fans Into Pros”. This audio recording (enhanced with more than 50 images) is Part 1 of that panel. It’s clear that the participants are old friends, with the combination of sharp wit and long familiarity. There are multilingual puns, sincere stories of friends that helped them become professionals, tales of writerly poverty, editorial benevolence and malevolence, and a ready acknowledgement (in detail!) of how fandom helped these writers become professionals in the field. Well worth listening to for both the content and the occasional conversational gymnastics. This recording courtesy of IguanaCon chairman Tim Kyger.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Todd Mason, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/20 Is A Palindrone An Unmanned Craft That Can Fly Backwards As Well As Forwards?

(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.

At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.

Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.

Including me.

But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….

(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.

(3) KEEPING AN EAR ON YOU. Mara Hvistendahl’s article “How a Chinese AI Giant Made Chatting—and Surveillance—Easy” in the June WIRED reports that iFlytek does a really good job of translation — and also allows Chinese authorities to track users by the sound of their voices.

When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong.  The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled.  The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text.  Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words.  The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.

Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984,  Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’  This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains.  By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts.  ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.

(4) EMPIRE AT 40. “Star Wars drops 40th anniversary poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back'”Yahoo! Movies UK shared the image and some other interesting links.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

Considered by most to be the blockbuster franchise’s finest moment, the second Star Wars film stunned audiences around the world with a killer twist and the ultimate downbeat ending.

To celebrate the film’s 40th year, Lucasfilm and Disney have gone all out, uploading a wealth of content to StarWars.com including a brand new interview with series creator George Lucas.

(5) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. Inverse has already mined that Lucas interview for a post: “George Lucas reveals a shocking connection between Yoda and Baby Yoda”.

Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.

But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.

Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.

From StarWars.com:

“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”

This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….

(6) AURORA NEWS. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will want to know: “Aurora Awards – Voter Package Downloads now available”.

Awards voting opens June 20 and ends July 25 at 11:59:59 EDT.

(7) CASTAWAYS WITH ETIQUETTE. James Davis Nicoll lists “Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies for Tor.com readers.

…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg…. 

(8) MARTIAN MUD PIMPLES. The German Aerospace Center suspects there are “Lava-like mud flows on Mars”.

Laboratory experiments show that at very low temperatures and under very low atmospheric pressure, mud behaves similar to flowing lava on Earth.

Results suggest that tens of thousands of conical hills on Mars, often with a small crater at their summit, could be the result of mud volcanism.

(9) MOVING TARGET. The paradigm shifts! And CNN tries to sort it out — “J.K. Rowling stupefies fans by revealing the truth around the origins of ‘Harry Potter'”

The news came after a fan posted a picture on Twitter of the Elephant House, a coffee shop in Edinburgh which on its website describes itself as the place “made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.”

The fan asked Rowling to explain “the truth about this ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter.”

Rowling, who is known to drop various bombshells and unknown tidbits about the franchise on Twitter, explained that the real “pen to paper” birth of Harry Potter himself, happened in her flat.

“If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train,” Rowling tweeted.

“But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it’s so far from the truth.”

(10) CHECK YOUR SHELVES. “Harry Potter first edition found in skip sells for £33,000”. No, J.K. Rowling’s revelation above is not the reason that book got chucked. It happened a long time ago. And hey, the librarian was just doing their job when they dumped that worn-out volume!

A hardback first edition Harry Potter book which was found in a skip has sold for £33,000 at auction.

The rare copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was discovered by a teacher 12 years ago along with two paperback first editions.

The anonymous seller found the books outside a school while tidying its library before an Ofsted inspection.

After the paperbacks went for £3,400 and £3,000, the seller said: “To say I’m pleased is an understatement.”

They were sold during an online auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire earlier.

Only 500 hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were printed in 1997, most of which were sent to schools and libraries.

(11) RITA RETIRED. The Guardian’s take on RWA’s new award, “The Vivian” — “Romance Writers of America aims for happy end to racism row with new prize”.

Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.

The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.

The RWA has been at the centre of an acrimonious debate about diversity, criticised for the paucity of writers of colour shortlisted for its major awards, the Ritas, as well as its treatment of Courtney Milan after she called a fellow author’s book a “racist mess” because of its depictions of Chinese women.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 22, 1981 Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole.  It starred  Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking,  Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
  • May 22, 2012 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle.  (Died 1930) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1907 Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne.  Editor of Western Construction.  Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians.  Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.  Eight anthologies of funny things people have said.  Three novels in our field, five others.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1938 Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Ten credited film appearances.  For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1956 Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. 
  • Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts.  Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania.  Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism).  George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific).  Crime fiction as Livia Day.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio references Harlan Ellison.

(15) SPEAK, MEMORY. So does Liza Fletcher McCall:

(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.

Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.

Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!

(17) NEW VIEWS. Nerds of a Feather hears about “6 Books with Rowenna Miller”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.

(18) RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. Joe Sherry and Aidan Moher are on the party line in “The Modern Nostalgia of Dragon Quest XI: A Conversation” at Nerds of a Feather.

Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.

I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.

(19) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. CNN reports “A parasite that feeds off of the reproductive organs of millipedes is named after Twitter, where it was found”.

Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.

Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….

(20) A NEW TWIST. “Jason Momoa is a Vampire and Peter Dinklage is Van Helsing in Action-Horror Movie ‘Good Bad & Undead’”Bloody Disgusting has the details.

Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:

“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”

Momoa and Dinklage are also set to produce.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. In addition to SpaceX’s planned launch, “Virgin Orbit hopes for rocket flight this weekend”.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

Virgin Orbit, based in California, will put satellites above the Earth, using a rocket that’s launched from under the wing of a jumbo jet.

The maiden mission, to be conducted out over the Pacific Ocean, could take place as early as Saturday.

Assuming this demonstration is successful, Virgin Orbit hopes to move swiftly into commercial operations.

It already has a rocket built at its Long Beach factory for a second mission.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

(22) COPYCATS. There’s no telling what’s likely to come over the transom these days –

(23) VASTER THAN EMPIRES, AND MORE SLOW. “Herd-Like Movement Of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists”.

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.

“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.

Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”

In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”

This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.

(24) KEEPING BUSY. “Bumblebees’ ‘clever trick’ fools plants into flowering”. Yes. Let’s call this “Plan Bee.”

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early.

Researchers found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants.

The damage done seems to fool the plant into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal.

(25) STINKERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never heard of some of these. And that’s a good thing. “The Worst Sci-Fi Movies Every Year Of The Decade (According To IMDb)” at ScreenRant.

8 Area 407 (2012) – 3.6

Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.

Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.

(26) SEE SPOT HERD. “Robot dog tries to herd sheep” — video.

A robot dog designed for search and rescue missions has had a go at herding sheep in New Zealand.

Technology company Rocos is exploring how the Spot robot – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – might be put to work in the agricultural industry.

(27) MORE BITS, SCOTTY! BBC rushes to judgment! “Australia ‘records fastest internet speed ever'”.

Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.

A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).

At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.

According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.

(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015.  (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/20 The Cat That Scrolled Through Pixels

(1) NEW FAN FUND. Marcin Klak writes about efforts to bring the European Fan Fund to life in “European Fan Fund – update”.

…Right now the fund has €367.00 and £84.00. It is both a lot and not so much. It will be enough for the airfare for sure, but may not be enough for accommodation on top of the plane tickets. We also need to gather the money for the years to come. Still, this amount means that we can do it and EFF may start – maybe this year, maybe next, but we should manage to have it working and for that I am really grateful to all the fans who helped.

Future plans

The first thing ahead of us is to ensure we will have proper funds to start the race. If this happens, we will hold a race and choose a candidate that will travel to Eurocon. If this is possible to happen this year, we will have the first EFF delegate at Futuricon in Rijeka (Croatia). This would be really awesome. Then we need to remember that just a few months after Futuricon there will be a Eurocon in Fiugii (Italy). Having two trips within half a year would be challenging but maybe not impossible….

(2) RING IN THE NEW YEAR. On The Blerdgurl Podcast, “N. K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell describe the world of a powerful new Green Lantern”.

Happy Holidays everyone! Today’s episode features the award-winning writer N.K. Jemisin and the incredible artist Jamal Campbell who I spoke to recently about their new comic book Far Sector on the DC Young Animal Imprint. The comic introduces us to a brand new member of the Green Lantern Corp. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. The first black woman to wield a Power Ring.

(3) HARLAN WOULD BE SO PROUD. Yahoo! Movies has “The most disturbing talking animals in film – ranked!” BEWARE SPOILERS!

9. Blood – A Boy and His Dog (1975)

If you have children and A Boy and His Dog appear on any streaming services, don’t watch it. At first glance, it looks like the sort of earnestly dumb Disney movie that Kurt Russell would have made in the 70s, but it is not that at all. A Boy and His Dog takes place in the aftermath of nuclear war, as a young man scavenges for food with a dog of contemptible character. Voiced by Tim McIntire, Blood’s one job is to find post-apocalyptic women for Don Johnson to have sex with in return for food. They eat a woman at the end. Like I said, not for kids.

After reading that description you might ask, “How in hell is that movie not Number One on the list?” But after you read what Yahoo! has in first place, your question will be answered —

1. Jennyanydots – Cats (2019)

You will have noticed by now that the top 5 of this Ranked! are all cats. That’s because I saw Cats at the cinema and I now hate cats. Picking a weirdest cat from the Cats lineup is almost impossible (the railway cat? The cat with boobs? Jason Derulo’s Towie cat? The suicidal cat?) and yet Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots makes the choice a little easier. Because Jennanydots is the masturbating cat who unzips her own skin and eats mice that for some reason have the voice of screaming children. I hate cats now.

(4) BOOKS IS EVERYWHERE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] While reserving more Bujold (see my Arisia 2020 report), I noticed this unexpected field in the library network’s REFINE BY choices. (See pic.)

Interestingly, it seems to only appear except when I’ve done some choices of criteria. I’m still experimenting, and haven’t yet gone to chat with the library.

Stay tuned!

(5) AMAZING! So Steve Davidson really answers Amazing Stories’ spam? A 10-point declaration: “Not That It Will Do Any Good, But….”

To all content mills, web-marketing firms, SEO factories and anyone else who thinks that having an article with your “do follow” links in them published on the Amazing Stories website will help your/your client’s business, or that our website is in desperate need of your technical know-how designed to increase our traffic or raise our internet profile:

1.  WE. ARE. NOT. INTERESTED.  That’s blanket and across the board.

…BONUS:  This post was written so I can reduce my correspondence with the SEO mills by simply sending them a link.

(6) ASIMOV CENTENNIAL. Yosef Lindell skeptically inspects “Isaac Asimov’s Throwback Vision of the Future” for The Atlantic.

When Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy won the Hugo Award for best all-time science-fiction series, in 1966, no one was more surprised than the author. The books contained “no action,” Asimov complained years later, adding, “I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did.” As a young reader, I devoured the Foundation books, the short-story collection I, Robot, and other works by Asimov. Though these tales entranced me with their bold strokes of imagination, when I revisit them as an adult, their flaws stand out more than their virtues. It’s not so much that nothing happens, but that the reader doesn’t get to see anything happen. Asimov’s stories are dialogue-driven; the action happens off-stage while men (and, less frequently, women) huddle to debate the significance of what occurred or what ought to be done in the best Socratic fashion.

Asimov was aware of these quirks. “I don’t see things when I write,” he once apologized. “I hear, and for the most part, what my characters talk about are ideas.” Still, his stories often evoke the smoke-filled corporate boardrooms of the past century more than a progressive tomorrow. And his writing is striking for its optimism, betraying a faith in technology and humanity that seems especially naive and out of place today. When considering Asimov’s tales now, I’m reminded of what another famous science-fiction author, Neil Gaiman, once cautioned about rereading older works in the genre: “Nothing dates harder and faster and more strangely than the future.” (It doesn’t help Asimov’s case that he was known for groping women, an aspect of the author’s legacy that Alec Nevala-Lee wrote about in depth for Public Books earlier this month.)

(7) MYSTERIOUS NEW LOCATION. “Independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy opening in Point Loma”sdnews.com has the story.

Despite changing locales and ownership, patrons of iconic independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy can expect the same incomparable service and variety.

Patrons-turned-booksellers, couple Matthew Berger and Jennifer Marchisotto were regular patrons of Mysterious for six years after moving to San Diego. Of the timing of their acquiring the 27-year-old bookstore specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, young adult, romance, Berger said, “That’s something I always wanted to do.” 

Though they didn’t expect to be in retail so soon, Berger noted, “When that opportunity arises, how can you say no?,” while describing Mysterious as our “favorite bookstore in the world. I’ve been familiar with Mysterious Galaxy since I was a kid when I used to go with my dad to book signings,” said Berger who, along with Marchisotto and newborn child, acquired the store Jan. 3 moving it after its lease in Clairemont had expired, into its new 5,650-square-foot space at 3555 Rosecrans St., Suite 107, in Point Loma. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1986 Eliminators premiered. It was directed by Peter Manoogian who did such horror films as Demonic Toys, and was involved in Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Sy.  It had a cast of Andrew Prine, Denise Crosby and Patrick Reynolds. It bombed upon its release, and the Rotten Tomatoes of 35% reflects that. It is unfortunately not available fir viewing online.
  • January 31, 1993 Space Rangers aired its final episode. Only six episodes were made of this series which starred Jeff Kaake, Jack McGee, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Danny Quinn,  Clint Howard,  Linda Hunt and  Gottfried John. It was created by Pen Denshem who wrote and produced such series such as The Outer Limits and Poltergeist. (Well of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well.) There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes but all the critics hated it with a passion calling it cliched, predictable and lame. There’s not much on the series on the net but Starlog did a very nice piece you can read here.
  • January 31, 1997 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope: The Special Edition premiered. A New Hope was re-released along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, under the campaign title The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition.  It has a number of minor changes from the the original print, an enhanced Mos Eisley spaceport For one, and major ones such as Greedo shooting first and the CGI Jabba the Hut. The changes made many fans unhappy inspiring such things as the t-shirt’s that said “Han shot first.” Currently it holds a stellar 93% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see the trailer here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1921 John Agar. Between the early Fifties and the Sixties, he appeared in many SFF films such as The Rocket Man, Revenge of the Creature, Tarantula, The Mole People, Attack of the Puppet People, Invisible Invaders, Destination Space, Journey to the Seventh Planet, Curse of the Swamp Creature, Zontar: The Thing from Venus,  Women of the Prehistoric Planet and E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 31, 1922 William Sylvester. He’s remembered as Dr. Heywood Floyd in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Genre, he later shows up in The Hand of Night (horror), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (dark fantasy) and Heaven Can Wait (fantasy) but none gain him the fame of 2001. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 83. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a SFF underpinning.   
  • Born January 31, 1941 Jonathan Banks, 79. First genre role was as Deputy Brent in Gremlins, a film I adore. In the same year, he’s a Lizardo Hospital Guard in another film I adore, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Ahhh, a good year indeed. Next I see him playing Michelette in Freejack, another better that merely good sf film. The last thing I see him doing film wise is voicing Rick Dicker in the fairly recent Incredibles 2. Series wise and these are just my highlights, I’ve got him on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Shel-la in the “Battle Lines” episode, in Highlander: The Series as Mako in the “Under Colour of Authority” episode and as Kommander Nuveen Kroll in short lived Otherworld series. SeaQuest 2032 also had him for two episodes as Maximillian Scully. 
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 60. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series that started this past fall is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and his very weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1968 Matt King, 52. He’s Peter Streete in the most excellent Tenth Doctor story, “The Shakespeare Code”. His other genre performances are Freeman in the superb Jekyll, Cockerell in Inkheart based off Caroline Funke’s novel of that name, the ghost Henry Mallet in Spirited andClyde in the recent maligned Doolittle.
  • Born January 31, 1970 Minnie Driver, 50. She’s Irina in the seventeenth Bond film GoldenEye. Later on she’s voices Lady Eboshi in the English language version of Princess Mononoke, does the same for Jane Porter in Tarzan, and is Mandy in Ella Enchanted.  She was Lara Croft in the animated Revisioned: Tomb Raider series was distributed through the online video game service GameTap. 
  • Born January 31, 1973 Portia de Rossi, 47. She first shows up as Giddy in Sirens which would be stretching things to even include as genre adjacent but is definitely worth watching. For SFF roles, she was in Catholic Church tinged horror film Stigmata, music Zombie comedy Dead & Breakfast and werewolf horror Cursed. She was Lily Munster in the deli weird Mockingbird Lane pilot that never went to series. 

(10) IS THE BOOK BETTER THAN THE MOVIE? Either way, Gallup’s survey shows “In U.S., Library Visits Outpaced Trips to Movies in 2019”.

Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attend live music or theatrical events and visit national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visit museums and gambling casinos 2.5 times annually. Trips to amusement or theme parks (1.5) and zoos (.9) are the least common activities among this list.

(11) ACTOR IN THE FAMILY. William Ketter, son of well-known book dealer Greg Ketter, will perform in an off-Broadway production of Animal Farm in February.

The animals on a farm drive out their master and take over and run the farm for themselves. The experiment is successful, except that someone has to take the deposed farmer’s place. Leadership devolves upon the pigs, which are cleverer than the rest of the animals. Unfortunately, their character is not equal to their intelligence. This dramatization remains faithful to the book’s plot and intent and retains both its affection for the animals and the incisiveness of its message.

(12) JOCULARITY. McSweeney’s Carlos Greaves declares “As a 28-Year-Old Latino, I’m Shocked My New Novel, Memoirs of a Middle-Aged White Lady, Has Been So Poorly Received”.

…When I set out to write this novel, which takes place in Iowa and centers around 46-year-old Meradyth Spensir and her 8-year-old son Chab, my goal was to shed light on the struggles that white middle-aged women in America face — struggles that I, a 28-year-old Latino man, don’t know much about but I would imagine are pretty tough. And as far as I’m concerned, I freaking nailed it….

(13) WHEN MOVIES WERE SMOKIN’. From “Who’s There?” by Dan Chiasson, in the April 23, 2018 New Yorker, in a piece on the 50th anniversary of 2001:

Hippies may have saved 2001. ‘Stoned audiences’ flocked to the movie.  David Bowie took a few drops of cannabis tincture before watching, and countless others dropped acid.  According to one report, a young man at a showing in Los Angeles plunged through the movie screen. shouting, ‘It’s God! It’s God!’  John Lennon said he saw the film ‘every week.’  2001 initially opened in limited release, shown only in 70mm on curved Cinerama screens,  M-G-M thought it had on its hands a second DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) or BEN-HUR (1959),or perhaps another Spartacus (1960), the splashy studio hit that Kubrick, low on funds, had directed about a decade before.  But instead the theatres were filling up with fans of cult films like Roger Corman’s The Trip, or Psych-Out, the early Jack Nicholson flick with music by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.  These movies, though cheesy, found a new use for editing and special effects:  to mimic psychedelic visions.  The iconic Star Gate sequence in 2001, when Dave Bowman, the film’s protagonist, hurtles in his space pod through a corridor of swimming kaleidoscopic colors, could even be times, with sufficient practice, to crest with the viewer’s own hallucinations.  The studio soon caught on, and a new tagline was added to the movie’s redesigned posters:  ‘The ultimate trip’….

…For the final section of the film, ‘Jupiter and Beyond The Infinite, (Frederick) Ordway, the film’s scientific consultant, read up on a doctoral thesis on psychedelics advised by Timothy Leary.  Theology students had taken psilocybin, then attended a service at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel to see if they’d be hit with religious revelations.  They dutifully reported their findings: most of the participants had indeed touched God.  Such wide-ranging research was characteristic of Clarke and Kubrick’s approach, although the two men, both self-professed squares, might have saved time had they been willing to try hallucinogens themselves.

(14) LIFE SIZE? At $350, “The Child” is a heckuva lot better than a garden gnome. Of course, you may never see another frog in your backyard.

Sideshow presents The Child Life-Size Figure, created in partnership with Legacy Effects to bring you the galaxy’s most sought-after bounty. 

Lovingly referred to by audiences as ‘Baby Yoda’, the mysterious alien known as The Child has quickly become the breakout fan-favorite of Star Wars™: The Mandalorian on Disney+. Now eager collectors can become a clan of two and bring home the asset as an incredible 1:1 scale Star Wars collectible, no tracking fob needed.

The Child Life-Size Figure measures 16.5” tall, standing on a simple ship deck base that lets this adorable alien steal all of the focus- along with the Mandalorian’s ship parts. Inspired by its unique onscreen appearance, this mixed media statue features a tan fabric coat swaddling The Child as it gazes up with charming wide eyes, hiding the silver shift knob from the Razor Crest™ in its right hand. 

(15) DYSTROPES. Dwight Garner reviews Gish Jen’s The Resisters for the New York Times: “In a New Dystopian Novel, the Country is AutoAmerica, but Baseball Is Still Its Pastime”.

The best thing about being God, Iris Murdoch wrote, would be making the heads. The best thing about writing speculative or dystopian fiction, surely, is updating human language, pushing strange new words into a reader’s mind.

Gish Jen’s densely imagined if static new novel, “The Resisters,” is set in a future surveillance state known as AutoAmerica. The ice caps have melted, and much of the land is underwater. A racial and class divide has cleaved the population.

The “Netted” have jobs, plush amenities and well-zoned houses on dry land. The “Surplus,” most of whom live on houseboats in “Flotsam Towns,” have scratchy blankets, thought control and degradation. Members of this underclass have not begun to grow gills, like the buff men and women in Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld,” but that may not be far off.

(16) CITIZEN SCIENCE. “A New Form Of Northern Lights Discovered In Finland – By Amateur Sky Watchers” — includes video.

People in northern climes have long gazed at the wonder that is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.

Those celestial streaks of light and color are often seen on clear nights in Finland, where they’re so admired that a Finnish-language Facebook group dedicated to finding and photographing them has more than 11,000 members.

There aurora aficionados gather to discuss subjects like space weather forecasts and the best equipment to capture the northern lights.

Among its members is Minna Palmroth. She’s a physicist and professor at the University of Helsinki, where she leads a research group that studies the space weather that causes auroral emissions.

When members of the group posted photos of the auroras they’d seen and wanting to learn more, Palmroth would often reply with the aurora’s type and the scientific explanation for its form. The discussions led Palmroth and two collaborators to publish a field guide to the northern lights.

But even after the book came out, some questions remained unanswered. A few of the citizens’ photos showed a form of aurora that didn’t fit into any of the known categories. It had green, horizontal waves running in parallel. Its undulations reminding some observers of sand formations, and it was christened “the dunes.”

(17) ROLLING OUT THE DOUGH. Delish brings word that “Pillsbury Is Selling The Cutest Ready-To-Bake R2-D2 Sugar Cookies”.

And while you may look at the adorable packaging and think you’re getting cookies with different Star Wars characters on each of them, this is really just for R2-D2 die-hards as that’s the only design included. That said, @Pillsbury, I’m fully expecting a roll-out of BB-8 cookies now, as R2-D2 is fantastic and all, but my heart belongs to that tiny round bb always. Actually, I’d take some C-3PO-topped desserts, too. Can we just get all of them ASAP, please? TYSM!

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