Pixel Scroll 4/14/21 The Abacus Stares Back

(1) IN TWEETS, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU EXPLAIN YOURSELF. Charlie Warzel’s article “It’s Not Cancel Culture — It’s A Platform Failure” at Galaxy Brain analyzes a problematic Twitter feature (illustrated by a topic that was mentioned in item #1 of Pixel Scroll 4/6/21.)

We Need To Get Rid Of Twitter Trending Topics

On April 6, Elle Hunt was in a pub in New Zealand, where life has basically returned to pre-pandemic normal. She was, by her account, two wines deep, having a light hearted argument with her friends about film genres. Half serious, but committed to the bit, she tweeted this:

A few minutes later, in response to a harmless reply, she tweeted her rationale and closed her phone:

Even if you don’t know the story, you probably have a sense of what happened next….

The whole affair is a perfect example of context collapse, which generally occurs when a surfeit of different audiences occupy the same space, and a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another — usually an uncharitable one — which then reads said information in the worst possible faith (You can read about the origins here from scholar danah boyd).

In this case, the collapse was substantially amplified by Twitter’s Trending widget, which took an anodyne opinion by a verified Twitter user and displayed it to millions of random people as if it was some kind of significant pop cultural event. “My imagined audience when I tweeted this was, ‘oh, we’re all at the bar and having this low stakes debate,” she told me recently. “In retrospect, that was totally naive to think anyone would have taken it that way.”

The point of Twitter’s Trending Topics is ostensibly to surface significant news and Twitter commentary and invite others to ‘join the conversation.’ Left unsaid, of course, is that ‘the conversation’ at scale is complete garbage — an incomprehensible number of voices lecturing past each other. It didn’t matter how Hunt had intended the argument — whether it was cheeky fun or part of a high-minded indictment of the sci-fi horror industrial complex — it was amplified by others as ammunition to make whatever convenient point that interested parties wanted to make….

(2) YOUR OINKAGE MAY VARY. J.K. Rowling’s children’s book The Christmas Pig will be published October 12 the author’s website announced yesterday.

The Christmas Pig is a heartwarming, page-turning adventure about one child’s love for his most treasured toy, and how far he will go to find it.  It’s a standalone story, unrelated to any of J.K. Rowling’s previous work, and is suitable for children 8+: a tale for the whole family to fall in love with.

“Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig.  DP has always been there for him, through good and bad.  Until one Christmas Eve something terrible happens – DP is lost.  But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life – even toys…  And Jack’s newest toy – the Christmas Pig (DP’s annoying replacement) – has a daring plan:  Together they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known…”

(3) WIKIPEDIA HAILS VONDA MCINTYRE WORK. [Item by rcade.] The featured article on the Wikipedia homepage today is about the SFF writer Vonda McIntyre’s novel Dreamsnake:

Dreamsnake is a 1978 science fiction novel by American writer Vonda N. McIntyre. It is an expansion of her Nebula Award-winning 1973 novelette “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”. The main character, Snake, is a healer who uses genetically modified serpents to cure sickness in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust on Earth. The titular “dreamsnake” is an alien serpent whose venom gives dying people pleasant dreams. The novel follows Snake as she seeks to replace her dead dreamsnake. The book is an example of second-wave feminism in science fiction. McIntyre subverted gendered narratives, including by placing a woman at the center of a heroic quest. Dreamsnake also explored social structures and sexuality from a feminist perspective, and examined themes of healing and cross-cultural interaction. The novel won the 1978 Nebula Award, the 1979 Hugo Award, and the 1979 Locus Poll Award. Snake’s strength and self-sufficiency were noted by commentators, while McIntyre’s writing and the book’s themes also received praise.

Hat tip to Kelly Robson for being the first to notice this on Twitter.

The article notes that Dreamsnake wasn’t finished getting award recognition after the Nebula/Hugo/Locus triple win in the late 1970s. It made the shortlist of the Retrospective James Tiptree award in 1995.

In describing the novel’s theme and structure, the article credits one element that’s particularly relevant today:

Gender expectations are also subverted through the character of Merideth, whose gender is never disclosed, as McIntyre entirely avoids using gender pronouns, thereby creating a “feminist construct” that suggests a person’s character and abilities are more important than their gender.

Wikipedians created the article in 2006 and have edited it 521 times since then, including 35 times today. Because contentiousness is part of the site’s DNA, there’s already a new argument on the internal talk page about whether it’s too long.

The article can be cleaned up by removing non-core fragments and listing the main themes. It reads as PHD dissertation by a gushing fan and would benefit from shortening to the main parts.

(4) JOY STILL FELT. Seanan McGuire gives six tips about “How To Be A Hugo Nominee And Come Out Of It Happy About the Honor” in a superb Twitter thread that starts here

(5) CREATING WORLDS. “Building Beyond… an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be” continues in Sarah Gailey’s newsletter with Rick Innis and Shana DuBois joining in to play: “Building Beyond: An Ocean of Resistance”. Gailey winds it up by challenging readers –

What comes after the message on the beaches in your story? What demands are being made? Are they possible to fulfill?

Do whatever you want with these questions. You can write something down in the comments or on social media or in a notebook nobody will ever see. You can draw or paint or sit down a friend and talk their ear off about your ideas. You can stare at the horizon and imagine, letting the infinite landscape of your mind unfold just a little farther than it did yesterday. No matter what you do, take pride in the knowledge that you’re creating something that has never existed before. You’re building a little corner of a whole new world.

That’s amazing.

(6) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Bruce McAllister and Nalo Hopkinson via livestream on Wednesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. EDT. Check the KGB site for the link.

(7) REV. BOB. Chattanoogan.com ran an obituary article about Rev. Bob today: “Hood, Robert Lewis”.

Robert Lewis Hood of Hixson, Tennessee passed away peacefully in his home on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at the age of 50.

He was born on October 29, 1970, the only child of Janet Hood. He graduated from Chattanooga’s McCallie School in 1988 and attended Tennessee Tech University.

Robert loved computers long before they became popular. He quickly moved from playing computer games to modifying them. It wasn’t long before he transitioned to coding. His lifelong love of computers led him to a career in website design.

A kind and compassionate spirit, Robert used his wit on and offline. He had a knack of making people smile and a gift of making people feel cared for. Robert, who was known among his friends as “Bob” or “Rev. Bob,” loved science fiction books, including author Robert A. Heinlein, an American author who emphasized scientific accuracy in his writings. In recent years, Robert channeled his love of books into editing ebooks by various authors, including science fiction and nonfiction author David Brin among others.

Among his friends, Robert was known for being an unapologetic liberal and for his ability to express ideas succinctly and with a touch of humor. He was sharp, quick and gentle, and will be remembered by many as a loyal, caring friend with an easy smile and frequently, a glint of mischief in his eyes. 

…Robert’s loved ones will hold a celebration of life memorial in his honor on Saturday, April 17, at 11 a.m. at Vandergriff Park, 1414 Gadd Road, Hixson, Tn. 37343. This is going to be a casual gathering for anyone to be able to share their thoughts.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Epilepsy Foundation or the American Heart Association….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

A mass sighting of celestial phenomena or unidentified flying objects (UFO) occurred in 1561 above Nuremberg (then a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire). The phenomenon has been interpreted by some modern UFO enthusiasts as an aerial battle of extraterrestrial origin. This view is mostly dismissed by skeptics, some referencing Carl Jung‘s mid-twentieth century writings about the subject while others find the phenomenon is likely to be a sun dog.

broadsheet news article printed in April 1561 describes a mass sighting of celestial phenomena….

The broadsheet describes objects of various shapes including crosses, globes, two lunar crescents, a black spear and tubular objects from which several smaller, round objects emerged and darted around the sky at dawn.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 14, 2010 — On this day in the United States in 2010, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (in French, Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec) premiered. It was directed by Luc Besson from his own screenplay. It was by Virginie Besson-Silla, his wife.  It starred Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Philippe Nahon, Gilles Lellouche and Jean-Paul Rouve. It was narrated by Bernard Lanneau. It is rather loosely based upon “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade” by Jacques Tardi. Critics world-wide loved it, and the box office was very good, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a oddly muted fifty four percent rating though the critical rating there is eighty five percent. Be advised the Shout Factory! DVD is a censored PG rating version but the Blu-Ray is uncensored. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 14, 1879 – James Branch Cabell.  (“Tell the rabble my name is Cabell.”)  Two dozen novels, a hundred shorter stories, poems, nonfiction.  A score of volumes comprise the Biography of the Life of Manuel.  What has helplessly been called C’s droll style can be seen in e.g. the related titles SmirtSmithSmire; a New York judge said of Jurgen, seventh in the Biography, “it is doubtful if the book could be read or understood at all by more than a very limited number of readers”; an admirer has applauded C’s “engagingly haughty use of SF tropes”.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1924 – Leland Sapiro.  Lived all over North America, Canadian provinces, California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas.  Did enough for LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) to earn its Evans-Freehafer service award.  Noted for Riverside Quarterly, which in our great tradition of fans and pros mixing it up drew James Blish, Redd Boggs, A.J. Budrys – Ursula LeGuin – Sandra Miesel – Arthur Thomson – Roger Zelazny.  See it here. (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1925 Rod Steiger. Carl in The Illustrated Man which is specifically based on three stories by Bradbury from that collection: “The Veldt,” “The Long Rain,” and “The Last Night of the World.” Great film. Genre wise, he also was Father Delaney in The Amityville Horror, showed up as Charlie on the short-lived Wolf Lake series, played Dr. Phillip Lloyd in horror film The Kindred, was Pa in the really chilling American Gothic, played General Decker in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks (really, really weird film), Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in Modern Vampires and Peter on “The Evil Within” episode of Tales of Tomorrow series. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and when need be voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty two episodes was I think the finest of his puppet based shows though Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Fireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson before their divorce. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born April 14, 1933 – Boris Strugatsky.  With and then without his brother Arkady (1925-1991) wrote substantial Russian SF.  Reminiscent of an old jest (“Where were you born?”  ”St. Petersburg.”  “Where were you brought up?”  “Petrograd.” “Where do you live?” “Leningrad.”  “Where do you hope to die?”  “St. Petersburg”) B was born at Leningrad and died at St. Petersburg.  Of more than a dozen novels, plus novellas, novelettes, short stories, plays, by A & B together, three by A alone, two by B after A left, probably the best-known in English is Roadside Picnic; subtler, I think, is Hard to Be a God.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born April 14,1935 Jack McDevitt, 86. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races. He won the Robert A. Heinlein Award six years ago. (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 67. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. (It won a Campbell Memorial Award.) Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan”. (CE)
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 63. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar. (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Frances Dorer, age 63.  Half a dozen novels with her mother Nancy Dorer, some under a joint pen name.  Here is one with a Bruce Pennington cover. [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1967 – Steven desJardins, age 54.  In his own words, “Aspiring Hungarian translator.  World traveller.  Vegetarian.  D.C. native.  Have ankylosing spondylitis.”  He has been active for decades in WSFA (Washington, District of Columbia, SF Ass’n), in fanzines, and more widely in person when occasion served, e.g. co-sponsoring two of the remedial motions passed at the Sasquan (73rd Worldcon) Business Meeting.  For a 1995 sample of his fanwriting see here (note to WSFA Journal on World Fantasy Con).  [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1969 – Rebecca Shelley, age 52.  Half a dozen novels, four shorter stories for us; twoscore books all told.  “‘Stop whining and keep typing.  I know what I’m doing,’ my subconscious answers.”  Has read The Phantom Tollbooth, two by Jane Austen, LolitaMoby-DickThe Hunt for “Red October”The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 39. Her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” novella (lovely title that)  won a Nebula Award, and her short story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” would do the same a short while later. Very impressive indeed. I’ve read her “Eros, Philia, Agape” which is wonderful and “Portrait of Lisane de Patagnia” which is strange and well, go read it. (CE)

(11) BELATED BIRTHDAY.

  • April 13, 1967 Rogers Cadenhead,54. This Filer is a computer book author and web publisher who served once as chairman of the RSS Advisory Board, a group that publishes the RSS 2.0 specification. He’s still a member of the Board. Very, very impressive. He also gained infamy for claiming drudge.com before a certain muckraker could, and still holds on to it. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Sheldon – Daniel Dern asks, does the style remind you of Vaughan Bode? E.g., his Cheech Wizard comics? (There should be a line over the “e” in Bode but WordPress won’t cooperate.)

(13) CALL TO RECAST T’CHALLA. A YouTube video called “The #RecastTChalla Petition To Honor Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther” describes a big petition drive to have the MCU cast someone else as Black Panther eventually rather than killing off the character in the next Black Panther movie.

The petition is hosted at Change.org: “Recast T’Challa To Honor Chadwick Boseman In the Black Panther Franchise”:

In August of 2020, the world mourned the death of Chadwick Boseman. To many, he was known for his on-screen role of Black Panther in the Marvel Universe. While his character of T’Challa was adored by fans, there have been rumors that Marvel will kill off his character in the new movie and for good. 

This is a call for the President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, Co-President Louis D’Esposito, and Writer/Director Ryan Coogler to reconsider their decision, and recast the role of “T’Challa” in the Black Panther franchise. If Marvel Studios removes T’Challa, it would be at the expense of the audiences (especially Black boys and men) who saw themselves in him. That also includes the millions of fans who were inspired by the character as well. 

By not recasting, it could stifle the opportunity for one of the most popular, leading Black superheroes to add on to their legacy. The #1 way to kill a legend, is to stop telling their story. 

(14) APOLOGY BY SIMPSONS ACTOR. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler says Hank Azaria has apologized for voicing Apu for 30 years on The Simpsons and says he will work with the “anti-racist Soul Focused Group” on issues affecting racism in entertainment. “Hank Azaria apologizes for playing Apu on ‘The Simpsons’ for three decades”.

…Initially, Azaria said he didn’t want to “knee-jerk respond to what could have been … 17 hipsters in a microbrewery in Brooklyn.” But he realized he needed to educate himself: “I talked to a lot of Indian people. I talked to a lot of people who knew a lot about racism in this country,” Azaria said. “I took seminars. I read.”

One conversation that particularly resonated with Azaria took place at his son’s school, where the actor spoke with a group of Indian students. One 17-year-old approached Azaria with tears in his eyes. “He’s never even seen ‘The Simpsons’ … but knows what Apu means,” Azaria explained. “It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is this is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.”

The student asked Azaria to pass a message along to his industry colleagues: “Will you please tell the writers in Hollywood that what they do and what they come up with really matters in people’s lives, like it has consequences?”

(15) NOT READY TO SAY GOODBYE. James Davis Nicoll forwarded the YouTube link below with the note:The context is that popular Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience was cancelled very abruptly. Bitter Asian Dude is Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, one of the lead actors. I thought the issue of having something suddenly cancelled and how people react to it might be interesting to your readers. (ObSF: he’s acted in SF shows, and he defended Hench in Canada Reads.)”

The context is very different than the previous item — even the Canadian Prime Minister complimented the program’s diversity:

…Meanwhile, the airing of the final episode was commemorated with social media posts from members of the cast, celeb fans such as “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy — and even a tweet from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“For years, @KimsConvenience has celebrated diversity and championed inclusion,” wrote Trudeau to accompany a video of “Kim’s Convenience” star Simu Liu discussing the importance of diversity in film and television, both in front of and behind the camera.

“Although the show ends tonight, and we have to say ‘okay, see you’ to @SimuLiu and the entire Kim family one last time, let’s continue to #SeekMore representation in the stories on our screens,” he added.

Here is the “Post KC final episode livestream with Paul Sun-Hyung Lee”.

(16) ERR TAXI. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Another hard-to-verify tech prediction. Hopefully, if they’re wrong (by a noticeable amount/%) they’ll issue a follow-up release…

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2021 12:52:08 +0000 (UTC)

Subject: Private equity/eVTOL research: Private equity and VC professionals predict huge growth in the eVTOL market

Please see attached a press release on new research with senior private equity and venture capital professionals, revealing 71% expect there to be more than 160,000 commercial air taxis operating around the world by 2050.    Some 17% anticipate there will be over 200,000.

The research was commissioned by Horizon Aircraft, the advanced aerospace engineering company that has developed the Cavorite X5, the world’s first eVTOL (Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing) that can fly the majority of its mission exactly like a normal aircraft. …

“However, investors should be warned that there are over 400 eVTOL concepts around the world being developed, and the vast majority of these will never become commercially viable.  They either won’t meet the requirements needed to secure insurance, or because of their design and operational costs and challenges, they may be too expensive to run.”

(17) SF CONCATENATION. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has its latest seasonal edition now up of science and SF news, articles and reviews.

Its seasonal news page includes listings of forthcoming SF as well as fantasy books from several British publishers. Such multi-publisher forthcoming book listings are rare, and though from British publishers, most will also be available in N. America. The seasonal edition consists of:

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Summer 2021

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Will R., John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, James Davis Nicoll, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/5/21 The Scroll Unvanquishable, Save By Pixels

(1) IT’LL COST MORE THAN A SOCK TO FREE HARRY POTTER. Episode 75 of Our Opinions Are Correct, the podcast by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, asks “Has JK Rowling destroyed Harry Potter fandom?”

JK Rowling has become an anti-trans activist on social media. This news has sent Harry Potter fandom — always full of queers and trans people — into mourning. We talk to author/publisher (and longtime Slytherin) Cecilia Tan about how to ignore Rowling and take back Harry Potter.

And the shownotes at the above link are compellingly illustrated with a panel from Maia Kobabe’s work on Trans-Affirming Magical Care.

(2) RSR COMPARES NOTES WITH LOCUS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual “Annotated 2020 Locus Reading List for Short Fiction”. Eric Wong explains: “Like the last two years, we’ve merged it with RSR’s Best SF/F list (highlighting stories from the Locus List in red) and grouped the stories by length and score. It includes some observations about overlooked stories, notable publications, outstanding authors, new writers, and translated stories.” Ten of RSR’s top-rated 2020 stories did not make the Locus list.

Eric adds, “The main takeaway is that non-free stories from Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, and Interzone are under-represented in the Locus list. It’s worse than last year and appears to be a trend for several years now.”

(3) FROM CULTURE WAR TO THE THREAT OF CIVIL WAR. With “Debarkle: Introduction” Camestros Felapton launches a series about “An epic story of politics, conspiracies, fans and rocket ships in which the political chaos of 2020 was presaged by a culture war for a literary award.”

From January 6 2021 to January 7 2015

….One person I was reading [on January 6] was a writer for the right-wing media outlet PJ Media/Instapundit, wrote in a comment on her own blog about her own anger seeing major conservative news outlets condemning the protestors:

“FUCK THEM.
Seriously, I think we should do the media next. Put the fear of Americans into them.
Saint Augusto bless us.
Anyone has helicopters?”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2021/01/06/we-will-work-until-we-cant/#comment-732567

Here “Saint Augusto” and “helicopters” being a reference to a far-right meme about the use by Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet of “death flights“, a form of extra-judicial killing by pushing victims out of aircraft.

The following day, ‘alt-right’ ethno-nationalist publisher Vox Day described Sarah Hoyt as the “only non-cuck at Instapundit” [archive link]. In this context “cuck” is derogatory term for mainstream conservatives referencing “cuckold” pornography. Day was applauding a post by Hoyt were she celebrated the actions of the protestors…

(4) THE LONG GAME. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson has a Q&A with an author who made the leap from fanfic to tradpub: “Interview: Everina Maxwell, author of Winter’s Orbit”.

NOAF: You published an early version of Winter’s Orbit online at Archive of Our Own. What was the experience like, going from publishing it online, to then working with a traditional publisher?

EM: Pretty terrifying, honestly! Throughout editing I was nervous of what the people who read it as original fiction on AO3 would think of the new version, which has more worldbuilding and a plot with a much wider scope. Also, on AO3 people were very kind and didn’t tend to ask awkward questions like “why is this thematically inconsistent” or “why haven’t you explained how this worked” or “can you please pick one spelling of this character’s name and stick with it” – which the traditional publishing process absolutely asks and makes you fix. I think it’s a much better book now; I certainly love the new material myself. I hope both old and new readers will enjoy it!

(5) SEMIPROZINE CLOSE-UP. R. Graeme Cameron reviews Hexagon Speculative Fiction Magazine #3 for Amazing Stories’ “Clubhouse” column.

[Editor JW] Stebner is very proud of the role of semiprozines (like Hexagon) “in the literary Magazine industry.” As publisher of the semiprozine Polar Borealis and the soon to be introduced Polar Starlight (devoted to Canadian Speculative Poetry) I have to say I agree with him. I’m quite keen on enthusiasts starting up such and thus am very pleased to have discovered Hexagon. (Actually, I was led to it by Robert Runté, who told me about it, for which I am grateful.)…

(6) WEEPING ANGELS VIDEO GAME. Digital Spy has some eye-opening news: “Doctor Who confirms return date for Weeping Angels in new trailer”.

…”Merciless as ever, the Weeping Angels are back with a vengeance. Will you be able to uncover the truth and avoid their clutches? Now that the Weeping Angels have the power to infiltrate technology, no device is safe,” the synopsis teases, with The Lonely Assassins described as “blurring the line between live-action footage and gameplay”.

The dark mystery game, which is available to pre-order now ahead of its March 19 release, will build on the events of ‘Blink’ as you find a phone belonging to Lawrence, who has seemingly disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

At the other end of the phone is another returning Who character, ex-UNIT scientist Petronella Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), who thinks that you are “the right person for the job” to track down Lawrence….

(7) PARTY OF FIVE, YOUR TABLE IS READY. Publishers Weekly reports Amazon is no longer the lone defendant in this consumer class action suit: “Big Five Publishers Now Defendants in E-book Price-Fixing Suit”.

The news comes after the initial complaint, first filed in the Southern District of New York on January 14 by Seattle-based firm Hagens Berman, portrayed the Big Five publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster—as “co-conspirators” in a bid to restrain competition in the e-book market, but had named only Amazon as a defendant. The amended complaint, filed on February 4, now pulls the publishers into the suit….

(8) NEW LIFE. Charlie Jane Anders tells Esquire readers “How The Expanse Transformed the Space Opera Genre For a New Generation of Sci-Fi Stories”. It all began when Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham ignored warnings that space opera was a dying genre.

…Now, of course, Leviathan Wakes has been followed by eight sequels and a TV show, The Expanse, whose fifth season ends tonight. And the shelves at your local bookstore are crammed with kickass space operas by authors like Valerie Valdes, Becky Chambers, Ann Leckie, Yoon Ha Lee, Arkady Martine, Kameron Hurley, Nicky Drayden, Karen Lord, Tim Pratt, John Scalzi, Nnedi Okorafor, and Karen Osborne.

A lot of these new space opera books share some of the same DNA as Corey’s Expanse series: they feature underdog characters, who are just trying to get paid, or survive, or get justice—they aren’t exactly crisp-uniformed explorers like Captain Kirk, or chosen ones like Luke Skywalker. These books also feature somewhat more realistic physics, with way less hand-waving—for example, faster-than-light travel is usually impossible without some kind of wormhole. And these books often have a touch of weirdness and body horror, along the lines of The Expanse‘s alien protomolecule….

(9) PLUMMER OBIT. Actor Christopher Plummer (1929-2021) died February 5 at the age of 91.

His genre roles included The Man Who Would Be King (1975, as Rudyard Kipling), Starcrash (1978), Somewhere in Time (1980), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991, as a Klingon, General Chang), Harrison Bergeron (1995), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Dracula 2000 (2000), and voice acting in many animated films and several video games.

“How boring it would be to be just one thing — just a movie actor, or just a stage actor — when you can just keep going from one to the other. I think one also helps the other,” he told The [LA] Times in 1998. “I’ll go on doing it until I drop.”

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • February 5, 1994 — On this day in 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Lower Decks” aired. This episode which looked at lives of some of the junior officers is much beloved by Trek fans and is cited as the inspiration for the Below Decks animated series. If you’re interested in an in-depth discussion of this episode, Keith R.A. DeCandido did one at Tor.com.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 5, 1870 – Charles Brock, R.I.  Painter, line artist, illustrator of Austen, Defoe, Dickens, Eliot, Scott, Swift, Thackeray.  Member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colors.  Here is an illustration for Ivanhoe.  Here is one for Emma.  Here are Frey and Freya from Keary’s Heroes of Asgard.  Here are Goliath and David.  Here is Gulliver with the Lilliputians.  (Died 1938) [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance.  After that early Thirties films, he shows up (bad pun I know) in The Invisible ManThe Black CatBride of Frankenstein,  Ali Baba Goes to TownThe Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight ZoneThe MunstersLost in SpaceNight Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s in Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. He was one of many Hollywood stars who appeared in the The Muppets Go Hollywood special. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1934 – Malcolm Willits, age 87.  Two novels, three shorter stories.  Co-edited Destiny; three poems, half a dozen interiors; here is his cover (with Jim Bradley) for the Spring 53 issue.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1942 – Dame Susan Hill, age 79.  Seven novels, as many shorter stories for us; threescore books all told.  Married a Shakespeare scholar.  The Guardian called her Woman in Black the most celebrated ghost story of modern times.  Somerset Maugham Award, Whitbread Award, Rhys Prize.  Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1957 – Margi Curtis, age 64.  Poet and musician.  She’s been in Spectral Realms, e.g. here.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1961 Bruce Timm, 60. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turn spawned more series by him —  Superman: The Animated SeriesBatman BeyondStatic ShockJustice League in several series, and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the one I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood. (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura  Linney, 57. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1974 Rod Roddenberry, 47. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as Production assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1974 – Pablo Castro, age 47.  Four short stories, two available in English; for “Reflections” see Words Without Borders.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1991 – Sharona van Herp, age 30.  Gamer and graphic designer.  Here she is at DeviantArt.  Here she is at ArtStation.  Here is a cover.  I found this at Tumblr.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss knows there’s more than one well-paved road to Hell.

(13) HE’S A BIG FAN. “Schitt’s Creek Cast Q & A  With Star Trek: Picard’s Patrick Stewart” on YouTube is the last part of a discussion that Sir Pat Stew had with the cast of Schitt’s Creek, a show Sir Patrick likes a lot.

(14) OUI ARE FRENCH. Heavy shares “The French Accent Patrick Stewart Almost did for TNG”. Hear it on this clip from The Graham Norton Show.

…Stewart said that the producers of the show did want Picard to have a French accent. After they’d cast Stewart, they asked him to come in and read some of his lines with the French accent. Stewart continued, saying that he did his very best, but the producers were far from impressed with his attempt. After hearing the character with Stewart’s attempted accent, the producers decided to let him perform the character in his normal voice, and they came up with the canon explanation for why a Frenchman had a British accent.

When Stewart was done explaining why the French accent was rejected, he offered to let the audience hear exactly how bad his attempt had been. After they cheered at the offer, Stewart started reciting the lines from the voiceover synonymous with the show in the accent he’d attempted years before. The audience, and everyone on stage, immediately burst out laughing at how hilariously different the lines sounded.

(15) WADE’S NEXT. Paul Weimer has read a new book I wanted to hear more about: “Microreview: Trangressions of Power by Juliette Wade” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this brings us to Pyaras. Cousin to Nekantor and Tagaret, we got a look at him in Mazes of Power, but here he is “promoted to titles” and given a large section of the point of view. Pyaras comes off for a lot of the book as “upper class twit” in a textbook example of the form. His story is about learning better, and eventually doing better. I was dubious about him at the beginning of the book, but he does go on a journey of character that redeems and strengthens him by the end of the novel…. 

(16) OUTSIDE THE BOX. Ty Johnston revisits “Lords of Creation a tabletop RPG before its time” for Black Gate.

…Lords of Creation is very much a game of its time, but in many way it’s also a game ahead of its time. The D&D influence is obvious in the mechanics, especially concerning character and monster stats, but this game was one of the earliest to stretch beyond the boundaries of any single genre. Lords of Creation wasn’t just a fantasy tabletop rpg, but was meant to be a game for all genres, including science fiction, mythology, noir, and more. In fact, the back of the game box reads, “The ultimate role-playing game … a game of science, fantasy, science fiction and high adventure that explores the farthest reaches of your imagination! Splendid adventures take place throughout time, space and other dimensions.”…

(17) NUTRITIONAL ADVICE FROM MIDDLE-EARTH. From 2013, but it’s news to me: “The hobbit – an unexpected deficiency” from PubMed.gov:

Abstract

Objective: Vitamin D has been proposed to have beneficial effects in a wide range of contexts. We investigate the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency, caused by both aversion to sunlight and unwholesome diet, could also be a significant contributor to the triumph of good over evil in fantasy literature….

(18) SPOT GETS AN UPGRADE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Boston Dynamics robotic dog, Spot, is now available with an integrated arm, and even has an available upgraded “Enterprise” version. The basic bot can be purchased for $74.5K direct from BD online. If you want the arm or anything from the Enterprise line, though, best be prepared for some real sticker shock—you’ll still have to contact a salesperson before they’ll divulge the price. Ars Technica has the story: “Boston Dynamics’ robot dog gets an arm attachment, self-charging capabilities”.

For the first time in the company’s 29-year history, Boston Dynamics actually started selling robots to the general public, and it’s pretty incredible that you can actually just head to the Boston Dynamics website, press the “add to cart” button, and have a robot dog shipped to your home. The company says it has sold more than 400 Spot units to date, and the robots are out there doing real work, usually monitoring hazardous work sites like “nuclear plants, offshore oil fields, construction sites, and mines.”

After a year of working with businesses and getting feedback, Boston Dynamics is launching a new Spot revision, a long-awaited arm attachment, and some new features.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Around The Block” by Jonnie Lewis on Vimeo is a brief portrait of how David Zinn draws cartoons on sidewalks and walls with chalk.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/29/21 By Glyer’s Hammer, By The Scrolls Of Trekfan, You Will Be Appertained

(1) ROBOT IS 100. The Czech Consulate of Los Angeles invites fans to the Robot is 100! Webinar on Thursday, February 4 at 12:00 PM Pacific exploring the influence of Karel Capek’s play “R.U.R.” on other forms of art, and the future of robotics. Register here.

[Note: WordPress does not support the proper character for the author’s last name, so the Latin C has been used. And a screenshot of the program description is used to work around the same problem.]

To further explore the past, present, and future of artificial intelligence, visit UCLA Library’s virtual exhibit Robot is 100! Karel Capek’s R.U.R. and the Robot in Pop Culture. You can learn more about Karel Capek’s life and R.U.R. in a complementary UCLA Library Research Guide.

Enjoy an audio created by the BBC Sounds: “The Robots are Us.” This BBC Radio Documentary features Jesse Brown O’Dell, PhD. graduate from the UCLA Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to settle in for bagels and a schmear with comics retailer Joel Pollack in Episode 137 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Joel Pollack has been a part of comics fandom even longer than I have — he attended one of Phil Seuling’s 4th of July Comic Art Conventions two years before I did — in 1968 — and founded Big Planet Comics in Bethesda, Maryland in 1986. That flagship store has expanded to other locations in Washington, D.C., College Park, MD, and Vienna VA, and I thought it would be fun to chat about the world of comics and comics fandom of the past half century, and how comics retailing has changed over the past three and a half decades.

We discussed what the pandemic has done to the comics shop business, the comic his mother bought him which changed his life, the card game which led to him getting his first piece of original art, how his run-in with a young Howard Chaykin convinced him he wasn’t cut out to be a professional comics artist, what opening day was like at the first of his Big Planet comic book stores, the biggest sales event he’s seen during his 35-year retailing career, what inspired Bernie Wrightson to draw a freaky issue of Swamp Thing, how he fights back against the Comic Book Guy cliche to makes his shops welcoming places, our joint distaste of slabbing, why he doesn’t like doing appraisals, and much more.

(3) INTERZONE UPDATE. [Item by PhilRM.] This week’s PS Publishing newsletter provides some more information on their take-over of Interzone (first mentioned in the 1/8/2021 Pixel Scroll) from Andy Cox and TTA Press (and note that Strahan’s post referenced there didn’t make the latter clear: not only is Ian Whates taking over as editor, but Interzone will be published by PS Publishing). Interzone will now appear on a quarterly schedule, and only in digital format. The first issue will appear in August, and will be free to current subscribers.

And heh, we’re kind of jazzed up a little right now where electronic reading matter is concerned . . . and it’s all thanks to our taking on board INTERZONE, which we’ll be running in digital format only, kicking off in August. Ian has already earmarked some 60/70 thousand words for the debut, and the special festive issue in December (always assuming we have a festive season, that is). So watch out as further details emerge and IZ takes its justified place in the pantheon of Science Fiction and Fantasy in digital format only. 

All queries/comments regarding the TTA Press Interzone should be directed to either Andy Cox or Roy Gray direct at andy@ttapress.com or roy@ttapress.com. In the meantime, by way of a goodwill gesture, the first electronic PS IZ (August 2021) will be sent free of charge to all previous subscribers. Subsequent issues will be sent quarterly on receipt of an email to be found in the magazine. Watch out for more information

(4) UP PERISCOPE ON SUBSTACK. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne tweeted a list of recommended newsletters. Thread starts here. I’m only familiar with the ones by sff writers and they’re good, so I expect you’ll find more gold in the rest of his list. Here are a few examples:

(5) STOCK MARKET NEWS. Cory Doctorow makes the information comprehensible with his own comments. Read it complete at Threadreader.

(6) DIANA PHO ON DVCON. DVCon 2021 is a free convention for marginalized writers happening online January 30-31.

DVcon, a product of #DVpit, is a free, two-day virtual writers conference for self-identifying marginalized book creators. The mission of DVcon is to educate and connect authors & illustrators who have been historically underrepresented and marginalized in the book publishing industry. Featuring a diverse faculty as well as #DVpit alum, DVcon will offer informative workshops, fun micro-content, and our additional focus will be on community-building and forging connections.

Editor Diana Pho is part of the Money Talks panel from 2:00-3:00 PM Eastern on January 30.

Money Talks.
2:00pm-3:00pm

Let’s face it: publishing doesn’t always pay. Between low advances, payment installments stretched out for years, and the uncertainty of royalties, authors and illustrators might need to get creative about making ends meet. Our panel will discuss different and unexpected ways that authors and illustrators can make money and still stay on the publishing track. It will also help explain some basics about how payments occur in publishing and how to hustle with your writing. Sponsored by the Authors Guild

Featuring: Rebecca Kuss, Thao Le, Diana Pho, Holly Root, Jennifer Ung, Rebekah Weatherspoon

(7) AMBITIOUS ANIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 25 Financial Times, Leo Lewis and Kana Inagaki look at whether Japanese anime producers can compete globally against Disney and Netflix.

For many industry executives, the stage is now set for Japanese animation to truly go global.  A newly invigorated Sony is competing with Netflix and global giants to uncover the untapped trove of lucrative anime content.  ‘We were forced to accelerate efforts on all three fronts of digitalization, global expansion and streaming services.  It became now or never,’ said George Wada, senior vice-president at Production IG, the company behind the anime hits Ghost In The Shell and Attack On Titan, ‘We are on the brink of whether Japanese animation becomes big or goes minor.’…

…The list of the world’s 25 most valuable franchises are topped by two Japanese giants–Pokemon and Hello Kitty with respective all-time sales of $92bn and $80bn–and include nine other Japanese names.But behind that success, say analysts, has been a tendency to under-exploit the anime gold mine and heavily criticized labour practices that are hidden behind the most popular titles.

(8) FRAZETTA COLLECTED. Print interviews J. David Spurlock, editor of the art book Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta: “The Daily Heller: Frank Frazetta, the Sci-Fi Rockwell”.

Frank Frazetta (1928–2010) may someday hang his paintings in the Guggenheim Museum (hey, whoever thought that Norman Rockwell would have a major exhibition in Frank Lloyd Wright’s temple of Modern?). False equivalency aside, anything is possible in the current what-is-art world (what’s more, Frazetta already has his own museum). Frazetta is to fantasy what Max Ernst is to surrealism (which is fantasy on another psychic and perceptual plane)….

Frazetta transformed the fantasy genre. What can you point to as his most emblematic work?

There was a gradual building, including comic book covers in the early ’50s, which influenced George Lucas and Star Wars. Then Frank’s early 1960s illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs books, including Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. And Frank had a good run, painting big studio, humorous caricature-based movie posters in the mid-’60s. Most illustrators would consider movie poster work as a dream come true. But Frank walked away from them for what he felt was more uniquely his own, with his Sword & Sorcery heroic fantasy art. A shortlist of pieces that I cite as rocking the public’s collective consciousness would include “The Barbarian,” which first ran as the cover to the Conan the Adventurer paperback in 1966. Also “Death Dealer,” which first appeared on an early-’70s paperback but inspired American Artist magazine to break their own traditions to produce a special issue devoted to illustration, including coverage of Frazetta and covered with the Death Dealer. “Dark Kingdom” is another, which most people recall as running on a multi-million–selling Molly Hatchet album cover….

(9) NZ MENTORS. SFFANZ News applauds the “Recognition for Genre Authors Encouraging Young Writers” in a New Zealand magazine:

Check out this item in the forthcoming Focus Magazine. It gives hugely well deserved recognition to well known local SF/Fantasy authors Piper Mejia, Lee Murray, Jean Gilbert and the many other genre authors around NZ who have helped with their efforts in teaching and mentoring and publishing young students.

(10) SF FROM CALIFORNIA. Peter Larsen of the San Jose Mercury-News talks about Bradbury, PKD, Le Guin, and Kim Stanley Robinson in “Dive into California’s science fiction scene — from LeGuin to Philip K. Dick”. Even LASFS gets a shout-out.

…Two years ago, Nick Smith, a Pasadena library technician, curated a “Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction & Southern California” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History. His observation: While the creators of science fiction are rightly lauded, the history of the sci-fi fandom here is also worth acknowledgment.

“I think that’s part of why this has been home to a lot of science fiction,” says Smith, who is the former president of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. Founded in 1934, it’s the oldest such fan group in the world, with a teenage Ray Bradbury one of its early members.

California appealed to science-fiction writers in the same way it appealed to anyone, Smith says. There were jobs to be had here, the promise of a better life and more opportunity or acceptance for people who might be discriminated against in other parts of the nation.

“Hollywood and television also contributed,” he says. “They provided a steady extra income for some of the writers.”

(11) DARROLL PARDOE OBIT. UK fanzine fan Darroll Pardoe (1943-2021) died January 28 at the age of 77 from COVID-19. Pardoe joined the Birmingham (UK) Science Fiction Group in 1965. He took over Les Spinge from Ken Cheslin and Dave Hale in 1966 and published it until 1979. He also was noted for editing the newzine Checkpoint for a year in the Seventies, and an issue of the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector.

He is survived by his wife, Rosemary Pardoe, co-founder of the British Fantasy Society.

(12) CHRISTOPHER LITTLE OBIT. The agent who handled Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Christopher Little, died January 7. The New York Times obituary is here.

Christopher Little, who as a struggling literary agent took a chance on a scrappy submission about tween-age wizards — even though he once disdained children’s fiction as a money-loser — and built it into the most successful literary empire in history on the strength of its lead character, Harry Potter, died on Jan. 7 at his home in London. He was 79.

His death, from cancer, was announced by his firm, the Christopher Little Literary Agency.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was an unpublished, unemployed single mother in Edinburgh in 1995 when she sent Mr. Little the first three chapters of her first book after finding his name in a directory of literary agents. Knowing nothing about the business, she picked him because his name made him sound like a character from a children’s book.

Mr. Little submitted the manuscript for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” to 12 publishers. He received 12 rejections in response, before selling it for £2,500, or about $3,400 (the equivalent of about $5,800 today). It was a meager amount, but his genius was in the details: He sold only the rights to publish it in Britain and the Commonwealth, and he asked for high royalties….

Mr. Little did more than launch Ms. Rowling’s career. He was the architect of the entertainment powerhouse that grew up around Harry Potter, helping line up everything from Legos to amusement parks.

Ms. Rowling was the first author to earn more than $1 billion off her work, and it’s no surprise that her agent did well too: By some estimates Mr. Little made over $60 million from the Harry Potter franchise. He never claimed credit for her success, but he was ever-present in the background, appearing alongside his client at book launches and movie premieres, enjoying those brief moments in the limelight….

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

January 29, 1964 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb premiered. Starring a stellar cast of Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, it was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. 

It was not the original title as Kubrick considered Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus as well as Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying, and the much shorter Wonderful Bomb.

The film is somewhat based on Peter George’s political thriller Red Alert novel. (Originally called Two Hours To Doom.) Curiously Dr. Strangelove did not appear in the book. This novel’s available on at usual digital suspects. And George’s novelization of the film is on all digital sources. If you purchase it, it has an expanded section on Strangelove’s early career. 

It would not surprisingly win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Loncon II in London in 1965 with The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao being the only other film on the final ballot.

The film was a box office success. Critics were universal in their belief that it was one of the best films ever done with Ebert saying it was “arguably the best political satire of the century”. At Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a ninety four percent rating with over two hundred thousand audience reviewers casting a vote. 

A sequel was planned by Kurbrick with Gilliam directing though he was never told this by Kurbrick and only discovered this after Kurbrick died and he later said “I never knew about that until after he died but I would have loved to.”

The original theatrical trailer is here.(CE)

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 29, 1835 – Susan Coolidge.  Known for What Katy Did and two sequels.  Edited Diary and Letters of Frances Burney.  Louisa May Alcott edited Coolidge’s collection New-Year’s Bargain, which is ours; three dozen books all told; short stories, poems.  Alice Dalgliesh edited a posthumous Coolidge coll’n Toinette and the Elves.  (Died 1905) [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1860 – Anton Chekhov.  (Note that kh in the usual Roman-alphabet spelling of his name represents a single consonant in Russian: the pronunciation is near to “che-hoff”).  A dozen stories have fantastic elements making them particularly for us; stories, plays, generally, for everyone.  You can see Nabokov’s discussion of “The Lady with the Little Dog” here.  (Died 1904) [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1907 – John Clymer.  Illustrator of the American West (worked in U.S. and Canada); Prix de West, Rungius Medal, Royal Canadian Acad. of Arts.  Also ArgosyMarine Corps GazetteSaturday Evening Post (eighty covers), Woman’s Day, Chrysler, White Horse whisky; some for us.  Clymer Museum in Ellensburg, Washington.  Here is the Aug-Sep 37 Romance; it and more about him here.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1918 Robert Pastene. He played the title role in the first televised Buck Rogers series on ABC that also had Kem Dibbs and Eric Hammond in that role. 35 episodes were made, none survive. As near as I can tell, his only other SFF performance was on the Out There and Lights Out series. (Died 1991.) (CE)
  • Born January 29, 1932 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.) (CE) 
  • Born January 29, 1938 Ralph Bakshi, 83. Started as low-level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse. His first major break would be on CBS  as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat, which may or may not be genre but it’s got a foul-mouthed talking cat.  Genre wise, I’d say War Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and given a title with the last word Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you-know-what film. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series!  Then there’s Cool World… (CE) 
  • Born January 29, 1942 – Rosemary Wells, age 79.  Five novels for us, counting Voyage to the Bunny Planet and two sequels; ten dozen all told.  Illustrator too.  Daughter of a ballerina and a playwright, who “praised what I did well and didn’t care much about what I didn’t do well….  I drew uncannily for a youngster….  hunted rats with a bow and arrows….  fierce and devoted Brooklyn Dodger fan.”  [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1945 Tom Selleck, 76. Setting aside the matter of if Magnum P.I. is genre which some of you hold to be true, he was Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay in Runaway which is most definitely SF.  He recently did some voice acting by being Cornelius, Lewis’ older self, in the animated Meet the Robinsons film, and he showed up as himself in the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” of the Muppet Babies nearly forty years ago. (CE)
  • Born January 29, 1958 – Nic Farey, age 63.  Irreverent and valuable (sorry, Nic, but it’s true) fanziner.  Two first-rate fanzines, Beam with Ulrika O’Brien, This Here solo (I omit the TH ellipsis mark lest you think I’m eliding, but it’s there); both have won FAAn (Fannish Activity Achievement) Awards.  Chaired fanziners’ convention Corflu (named for mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable) 19, co-chaired Corflu 31.  Likes association football.  [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1970 Heather Graham, 51. Best known SF role was no doubt Dr. Judy Robinson on the Lost on Space film. She played also Felicity Shagwell that same year in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And she was Annie Blackburn on Twin Peaks. (CE)
  • Born January 29, 1985 – Giovanna Fletcher, age 36.  Among writing, singing, acting, blogging and vlogging (I am not making this up), two novels for us with husband Tom Fletcher.  Sang “Moon River” with him.  Won Series 20 of I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here.  Nine other books, some nonfiction.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1988 Catrin Stewart, 33. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was the wife of Madame Vastra and the friend of Strax with the three known as the Paternoster Gang who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of 1984 done at London Playhouse a few years back. (CE)

(15) HAS THERE EVER BEEN SUCH A JOB? [Item by Bill Higgins.] Friends have alerted me to the announcement that Georgia Tech has a job opening for an Assistant or Associate Professor of Science Fiction Film Studies.

There are lots of professors of Film Studies or equivalent, and plenty of them have turned their attention to SF. But a hasty google does not reveal the exact title “Professor of Science Fiction Film Studies” at any other institutions.  Could this be the world’s first? And science fiction’s first?  Further research may be needed.

Though I myself am capable of droning on for hours and hours about SF films, the job requires “Ph.D in film studies or a related field,” which lets me out.  Also, they probably don’t want to hire someone with the “ink-and-paper SF is better” prejudice.

Thanks to Fred Scharmen and Bill Leininger for bringing this to my attention.

(16) SOUTHERN FANDOM STORIES. Fanac.org has announced another FanHistory Zoom session (in addition to the second Ted White segment already reported in the Scroll). RSVP to fanac@fanac.org for the Zoom link.

February 20, 2021, 7PM EST (4PM PST, 12:00 AM London, 11AM Sunday in Sydney) – An Anecdotal History of Southern US Fandom, with Toni Weisskopf, Janice Gelb and Guy Lillian III. Get a perspective on Southern Fandom from the inside. Topics expected to include history and impact of conventions and Worldcons, clubs and fanzines, and bigger than life individuals.

(17) CALDECOTT WINNER. Publishers Weekly’s “When They Got the Call: PW Speaks with the 2021 Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz Winners” includes this quote from an author genre interest:

Michaela Goade, illustrator of We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, reflected on the experience of winning the 2021 Caldecott Medal; she is the first BIPOC woman and the first Indigenous artist to receive the award. “I felt a bit like a deer in the headlights and did not know what to say!,” Goade told PW.

(18) BIDEN CAN SEE THE MOON (ROCK) FROM HERE. CollectSpace shares the view —“A moon rock in the Oval Office: President Joe Biden’s lunar display”. Photos at the link.

Joe Biden was three weeks from taking office as a freshman U.S. senator when the moon rock that is now newly on display in the White House was collected by astronauts on the lunar surface.

Six terms in Congress, two terms as the Vice President of the United States and one presidential inauguration later, Biden and the lunar sample 76015,143 will now share the Oval Office.

The Biden Administration requested an Apollo-recovered moon rock for display as “a symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current moon to Mars exploration approach,” according to NASA. The 0.7-pound (333-gram) rock, held by a metal clamp and encased in glass, sits on the bottom shelf of a recessed bookcase beside a painted portrait of Ben Franklin and adjacent to the Resolute desk.

(19) THEY LOST ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter’s ears perked up when they had a Star Trek-related item on tonight’s Jeopardy! A contestant missed it.

Category: Poet-Pourri

Answer: George Herbert’s poetic query “Is there there in truth no” this? became the title of the “Star Trek” episode with the Medusans.

Wrong question: “What is stone?”

Correct question: “Is there in truth no beauty?”

(20) UNEXPECTED RING. Click through to see the intriguing image A Moon Dressed Like Saturn on the NASA website, photo by Francisco Sojuel.

Explanation: Why does Saturn appear so big? It doesn’t — what is pictured are foreground clouds on Earth crossing in front of the Moon. The Moon shows a slight crescent phase with most of its surface visible by reflected Earthlight known as ashen glow. The Sun directly illuminates the brightly lit lunar crescent from the bottom, which means that the Sun must be below the horizon and so the image was taken before sunrise. This double take-inducing picture was captured on 2019 December 24, two days before the Moon slid in front of the Sun to create a solar eclipse. In the foreground, lights from small Guatemalan towns are visible behind the huge volcano Pacaya.

(21) FRINGE PRODUCER’S NEXT SERIES. “’Debris’ Sets Premiere Date As Creator Of New NBC Sci-Fi Drama Draws Parallels To ‘Fringe’” reports Deadline.

Debris will premiere on Monday, March 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, NBC announced during its first TCA panel on Tuesday. In addition to teasing the upcoming series and unveiling the premiere date, the Debris team also talked parallels to Fringe. 

“There’s always going to be my DNA in the show,” [J.H.] Wyman, who serves as executive producer and showrunner said. “But it’s definitely its own thing.”

Like FringeDebris follows government officials as they investigate when wreckage from a destroyed alien spacecraft has mysterious effects on humankind. Riann Steele will star as MI6’s Finola Jones and Jonathan Tucker as the CIA’s Bryan Beneventi.

While the series will feature different stories driven by the odd effects of the alien leftovers, Debris will see the relationship between the two leads develop and gain complexity as the show continues.

(22) BREAK TIME. “30 Minutes of Relaxing Visuals From Studio Ghibli” on YouTube is a compilation of short clips about nature from Studio Ghibli films prepared by HBO Max.

[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Bill Higgins, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, PhilRM, David K.M. Klaus, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 1/13/21 The Scroll Is A Harsh Mistress

(1) OVERVIEW OF THE NEW LOTR SERIES. Amazon just unloaded Parler but now they’re bringing back Sauron? What are they thinking? io9 has the story: “Amazon Reveals Lord of the Rings TV Show Details—Sauron Returns”.

…Confirmed via a synopsis provided to TheOneRing.net, Amazon Studios revealed that the series—currently filming in New Zealand with a cast that seems about as large as the population of a small country on top of that—is indeed set in the Second Age, “thousands” of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The show will concern itself with characters “both familiar and new” as they reckon with the fact that the Dark Lord Sauron has returned to cast shadow and flame across Middle-earth.

(2) WORLDCON HOTEL NEWS. “Owner of DC’s Wardman Park Hotel files for bankruptcy” reports WTOP. The hotel is where DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, would be held if an in-person 2021 Worldcon is possible:

Wardman Hotel Owner LLC, an affiliate of Pacific Life Insurance Co., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has ended its management contract with Marriott International.

The 1,152-room Wardman Park, one of the largest hotels in D.C., opened in 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Pacific Life permanently closed the hotel just before filing for bankruptcy protection, and is seeking to sell the property, which could clear the way for the property’s redevelopment.

The Chapter 11 petition was filed Jan. 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

Marriott and Pacific Life have been locked in legal disputes since shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the hotel’s temporary closure in March 2020.

…The owner’s bankruptcy filing Monday came the same day that neighboring historic hotel the Omni Shoreham reopened.

The DisCon III committee hasn’t posted a response to the latest development, but last October they did address their plans for an alternative to the Wardman Park if needed. The chairs wrote in the convention’s newsletter [PDF file]:

As you can imagine, we have uncertainty related to the Coronavirus but planning and activities continue. The status of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel is unclear. Litigation between the owners was filed 2 September and settled at the end of September. At the start of October, Marriott filed a lawsuit against one of the entities that owns the hotel. What a mess! The hotel itself does not have an official statement at this time, and we are in close touch. Our Facilities team does have the room blocks for both the Marriott and the Omni Shoreham set up, and our current plan is to release those in January 2021.

(3) BOOM BOOM BOOM. James Davis Nicoll names “Five Books Featuring Space Travel Powered by Atomic Bombs”. Strange that I’ve read four of these but only remembered the nukes from one of them.

Nuclear explosives can be used to address many urgent issues: a shortage of mildly radioactive harbours, for example, or the problem of having too many wealthy, industrialized nations not populated by survivors who envy the dead. The most pressing issue—the need for a fast, affordable space drive—wasn’t solved until the late 1950s. Theodore B. Taylor and others proposed that the Bomb could be used to facilitate rapid space travel across the Solar System. Thus, Project Orion was born….

(4) SOMETHING ELSE THAT’S SURGING. “Online D&D provides relief during the COVID-19 pandemic” – the Los Angeles Times profiled D&D players.

… Players and scholars attribute the game’s resurgent popularity not only to the longueurs of the pandemic, but also to its reemergence in pop culture — on the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” whose main characters play D&D in a basement; on the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”; or via the host of celebrities who display their love for the game online.

Liz Schuh, head of publishing and licensing for Dungeons & Dragons, isn’t surprised by the game’s reanimated popularity. Revenue was up 35% in 2020 compared with 2019, the seventh consecutive year of growth, she said.

Many newcomers purchase starter kits packed with character sheets, a rule book, a set of dice and a story line. New dungeon masters may buy a foldable screen to hide their rolls and anything else they’d like to keep from the player-characters. Once the introductory journey ends, players pore through other adventure books for sale — or conjure an original odyssey.

“The first few days of news [of the virus] coming out globally, at the top of every hour all the alarms were going off at the company,” said Dean Bigbee, director of operations for Roll20, an online tabletop gaming platform. “The amount of new account requests were so high that the systems thought that we were under a denial-of-service attack. But they were legitimate. They were accounts from Italy, and then France, following the paths of lockdowns across the world.”

(5) FORTIES SF’S POWER COUPLE SPEAKS. G.W. Thomas at Dark Worlds Quarterly put together a fine link compilation: “In Their Own Words: Interviews with Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton”, who married in 1946 and put Kinsman, Ohio on the map.

Here are some interviews given by Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton. They range from artsy film magazines to the cheapest of fanzines. My favorite is the audio clip from Youtube when Leigh and Ed were the guests of honor at the 1964 (PacifiCon) WorldCon. It is somehow revealing to hear what their voices sounded like and to glean a little of their personalities beyond the printed page….

Included are Q&A’s conducted by one of fandom’s best interviewers, Paul Walker, such as his Leigh Brackett interview from Luna Monthly #61 [1976] [Internet archive link].

(6) STRAIN OBIT. Actress Julie Strain, whose genre resume is mostly erotic horror movies, has died reports Joblo.com: “R.I.P.: Julie Strain, B-movie legend and Penthouse Pet, has died at age 58”. This is the third time her death has been announced, however, news sources are satisfied this time the news is accurate.

Last January, it was mistakenly announced that B-movie legend and 1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain had passed away. The announcement was quickly retracted – but in a sad twist of fate, friends and family are confirming that Strain has passed away almost one year to the day after that erroneous report. She was 58 years old.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 — Thirty years ago at Chicon V, Lois McMaster Bujold‘s The Vor Game  as published by Baen Books wins the Hugo for Best Novel. Runners-ups were David Brin‘s Earth, Dan Simmons’ The Fall of Hyperion, Michael P. Kube-McDowell’s The Quiet Pools and Greag Bear’s Queen of Angels. It would nominated for the HOMer as well.  A portion of this novel had appeared in the February 1990 issue of  Analog magazine in slightly different form as the “Weatherman” story.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 13, 1893 – Clark Ashton Smith.  Poetry, prose, graphic art, sculpture.  One novel, two hundred thirty shorter stories, seven hundred poems; a dozen covers, a hundred thirty interiors; five dozen posthumous collections.  Pillar of Weird Tales with Howard and Lovecraft.  “I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.”  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1933 – Ron Goulart, age 88.  Eighty novels, a hundred fifty shorter stories.  Book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Venture.  Comic-book stories and prose about The Phantom; scripts for Marvel.  Inkpot Award.  Detective fiction, including half a dozen books featuring Groucho Marx.  Nonfiction, e.g. The Great Comic Book ArtistsComic Book Encyclopedia.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1937 – George Barr, age 84.  Decades-long career as a fanartist; here is a cover for Amrahere is one for Trumpet; two Hugos as Best Fanartist; Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXVI, at MidAmeriCon the 34th Worldcon.  Also developed a career as a pro.  Here is The Dying Earth.  Here is the Sep 86 Amazing.  Here is Adventures in Unhistory.  Artist GoH at ConAdian the 52nd Worldcon.  Fifty illustrated limericks for Weird Tales.  Fan and pro, two hundred covers, seven hundred interiors.  Artbook Upon the Winds of Yesterday.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1938 Charlie Brill, 83. His best remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes, he’ll show in the DS9 episode that repurposed this episode to great effect. He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer SpaceThe Munsters TodaySlidersThe Incredible HulkWonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant, 76. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of  Red Moon and Black MountainThe Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes.  Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely brilliant, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and  designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her amazing retellings of the legends.  I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone actually read it? (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1957 – Claudia Emerson.  Five poems for us in Son and Foe.  Eight collections.  Poetry editor for Greensboro Review.  Pulitzer Prize.  Acad. Amer. Poets Prize.  Poet Laureate of Virginia.  Elected to Fellowship of Southern Writers.  Donald Justice Award.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1960 Mark Chadbourn, 61. I’ve read his Age of Misrule series in which the Celtic Old Gods are returning in modern times and they’re not very nice but they make for very entertaining reading. It’s followed by the Dark Age series which is just as well crafted. His two Hellboy novels are actually worth reading as well. (CE)
  • Born January 13, 1968 Ken Scholes, 53. His major series, and it’s quite worth reading, is The Psalms of Isaak.  His short stories, collected so far in three volumes, are also worth your precious reading time. He wrote the superb “The Wings We Dare Aspire” for METAtropolis: Green Space. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1972 Una McCormack, 49. She’s the author of The Baba Yaga and The Star of the Sea, two novels  in the delightful Weird Space series. She’s also written myriad Trek novels including a Discovery novel, The Way to the Stars, and the first Picard novel, The Last Best Hope. She’s also a writer of Who novels having five so far, plus writing for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1979 – Bree Despain, age 42.  Six novels, a couple of shorter stories.  Took a semester off college to write and direct plays for inner-city teens.  Felt she wasn’t special enough to be a writer, decided to study law.  Hit by a pickup truck.  Thought it out again.  First book sold on 6th anniversary of collision.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1980 Beth Cato, 41. Her first series, the Clockwork Dagger sequence beginning with The Clockwork Dagger novel is most excellent popcorn literature. She’s fine a considerable amount of excellent short fiction which has been mostly collected in  Deep Roots and Red Dust and Dancing Horses and Other Stories. Her website features a number of quite tasty cake recipes including Browned Butter Coffee Bundt Cake. Really I kid you not. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1981 – Ieva Melgave, age 40.  Her “Siren’s Song” has been translated from Latvian into English.  Interviewed (in English) in Vector 281.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) ALIENS OMNIBUS. Marvel invites fans to jump on the Aliens Omnibus when the volumes arrive in April and August.

Cover by Mahmud Asrar

The classic comic book tales set in the iconic—and terrifying—world of the Alien franchise are being collected in brand-new hardcover collection starting in April with Aliens Omnibus Volume 1. And in August, fans of the iconic franchise can enjoy even more of these thrilling comic book stories with Aliens: The Original Years Omnibus Vol. 2.

A rogue scientist’s genetic experiments create a horrific new alien king! A ragtag unit of Colonial Marines battles a xenomorph infestation on a space station — and the survivors face a pack of bizarre hybrids! An investigator must solve a murder on a deep-space alien-research station! But what dread music will a deranged composer make with an alien’s screams? And can a synthetic xenomorph rebel against its sadistic creator? Plus: Flash back to an alien attack in the 1950s! And witness the fate of England as aliens overrun the Earth! This rare collection includes: Aliens: Rogue #1-4, Aliens: Colonial Marines #1-10, Aliens: Labyrinth #1-4, Aliens: Salvation, Aliens: Music Of The Spears #1-4 and Aliens: Stronghold #1-4 — plus material from Dark Horse Comics #3-5, #11-13 And #15-19; Previews (1993) #1-12; Previews (1994) #1; and Aliens Magazine (1992) #9-20.

Exclusive direct market variant cover by Paul Mendoza

(11) THE REAL SPACE COMMAND. “U.S. Space Command to be headquartered in Huntsville, Ala.” reports station WAFF.

The permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command will be located at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.

According to a statement from the Secretary of the Air Force, Huntsville was confirmed as the preferred location for the U.S. Space Command Headquarters.

The Department of the Air Force conducted both virtual and on-site visits to assess which of six candidate locations would be best suited to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters. The decision was based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and costs to the Department of Defense.

(12) AUDIOBOOK NARRATION. In AudioFile’s latest Behind the Mic, narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt shares her thoughts about recording Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer, on AudioFile’s list of the 2020 Best Young Adult Audiobooks.

Listeners meet Tarisai as a lonely younger girl growing up with a distant mother, and we feel her astonishment when she’s brought to the palace in Aristar and meets the prince — and discovers her new friend is the person her mother cursed her to kill. This vibrant and multilayered fantasy audiobook comes to life with Joniece’s evocative narration.

“You watch her save the world… and that was really cool, to be inside of a story of a young woman that got to stand in her truth and in her power. You watch a princess mature into a queen.”—Narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt

Read AudioFile Magazine’s review of Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko.

(13) COOK BOOKS. Get stacks of Glen Cook novels via this new Bundle of Holding deal.

Adventurer! This Glen Cook Bundle presents novels by fantasy and science fiction author Glen Cook from Night Shade Books. Best known for his Black Company dark military fantasies, Cook has also written the eight-book Dread Empire epic fantasy series, the Starfishers and Darkwar trilogies, and many free-standing novels. This all-new fiction offer gives you nearly two dozen Glen Cook novels in both ePub and Kindle ebook formats for an unbeatable bargain price.

For just US$7.95 you get all five titles in our Glen Cook Sampler (retail value $69) as DRM-free ePub and Kindle ebooks

… And if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.97, you’ll level up and also get our entire Complete Collection with eight more titles…

(14) ON SECOND THOUGHT. He’s a busy man, you know.

(15) HELICONIA WINTER. Richard Paolinelli handed out the 2021 Helicon Awards [Internet archive link] yesterday, some to bestselling sff writers, two to L. Jagi Lamplighter and Declan Finn, but if you want to know what’s really on Richard’s mind look at this entry on the list:

  • John W. Campbell Diversity in SF/F Award – J.K. Rowling

Paolinelli also presented awards named for Melvil Dewey and Laura Ingalls Wilder, which he created after their names were removed from two American Library Association awards in recent years.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Cyberpunk 2077” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Cyberpunk 2077 is “the most anticipated release since Cup And Ball 2″ and that it lets gamers wallow in a world which is “not cool, not fun, and everything’s broken.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/22/20 Hey Rocky, Watch Me Pull A Pixel Out Of My Scroll

(1) THE STARS MY DESTINATION. Galactic Journey gave out the Galactic Stars for 1965 today and Thomas Burnett Swann is a double winner: “[Dec. 22, 1965] Swann Lake (the 1965 Galactic Stars)”.

…Swann is definitely a winner with his myth-inspired tales, Zelazny is hit or miss, but he hit it with Conrad, and Moorcock is a rising star to watch!

(2) ADDRESSEE UNKNOWN. At The Cut, Molly Fischer tries to figure out “Who Did J.K. Rowling Become?”

…“Perplexed” was a common reaction. Rowling had never been a particularly controversial figure. Her books sold hundreds of millions of copies, they inspired films that brought in billions of dollars, and she used the money she made to save children from orphanages. In 2012, she gave enough to charity and paid enough in taxes to knock herself off the Forbes billionaires list. In 2020, she was tweeting links to a store that sold pins that said F*CK YOUR PRONOUNS.

Read another way, though, the latest turn in Rowling’s story looks perhaps less perplexing than inevitable. It is the culmination of a two-decade power struggle for ownership of her fictional world — the right to say what Harry Potter means. The Harry Potter books describe a stark moral universe: Their heroes fight on behalf of all that is good to defeat the forces of absolute evil. Though the struggle may be lonely and hard, right ultimately beats wrong. For fans, when it came to the matter of trans rights, the message of Harry Potter was clear. For Rowling, this was no less the case.

“She absolutely believes that she is right, that she’s on a mission, and that history will eventually bear her out,” Anelli told me. “She thinks she’s doing good work right now.”…

(3) SUM OF THE YEAR’S DIGITS. Sarah Gailey knows that life is more than numbers, though they like to track them, too: “2020 in Review: Writing” at Here’s The Thing.

…This year tried so hard, from so many angles, to take away the things we rely on. At many turns, it succeeded. But here we are: whether we are whole or in pieces, you and I made it to the final days of 2020. We found ways to get each other this far, and that process meant so much more to me than a column of numbers in a notebook. I used to rely on that column of numbers more than I care to admit — but now I have other things to rely on. And it’s so much better this way.

(4) SHE’S BACK. If she’s a bluebird on a telegraph wire I hope she’s happy now. It took long enough! The Guardian celebrates that “Pioneering fairytale author Madame d’Aulnoy back in print after centuries”.

A story by Madame d’Aulnoy, the 17th-century French writer who coined the term “fairytales”, is to be published in English for the first time in more than 300 years, telling of a woman whose beauty is so great it slays her lovers by the hundreds.

Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, known as Madame or Countess d’Aulnoy, invented the term “conte de fée” or fairytale, when she published her major collection of them in 1697-98. Unlike her contemporary Charles Perrault, or later authors such as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, today her work rarely appears outside anthologies.

Now Princeton University Press will release a new collection of her work in March, The Island of Happiness, featuring illustrations and an essay by the artist Natalie Frank.

(5) LEGISLATION. Publishers Weekly reports a new option for contesting copyright claims will soon be on the books: “CASE Act Set to Pass as Part of Omnibus Bill”.

A four year-old bill that would establish an extra-judicial “small claims court” for copyright disputes is now set to become law after Congressional leaders slipped the measure into the Covid-19 relief and omnibus spending bill now headed to President Trump’s desk. In addition, the bill includes a provision that would make illegal streaming a felony.

First introduced in 2016, the CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement) was re-introduced again in 2019. It passed easily in the House, but failed to get to a vote on the Senate floor and was set to die before being dropped into the omnibus spending bill this week (the CASE Act provisions begin on page 77). Among the bill’s provisions is the establishment of a copyright tribunal within the Copyright Office that would hear infringement claims, with awards for claims less than $30,000. Participation would be voluntary—a party served with a claim could opt not to go before the tribunal.

The legislation has been strongly supported by both the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. In a statement, AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante called the bill’s passage a “big achievement,” and said the CASE Act “represents years of reasoned analysis, public feedback, and bipartisan leadership on Capitol Hill.”…

(6) AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Nerdist is ready: “It’s Time for DOCTOR WHO’s First All-Female TARDIS Team”.

…While Ryan and Graham’s relationship was a cornerstone of season 11’s plot, both characters have languished in season 12. Yaz has been a companion for two full seasons, and yet it often seems as though we barely know her. The show has given each big, emotional moments, but fails to do the everyday work that strings them together into real arcs. And that’s a shame.

 The departure of Ryan and Graham will not only allow Yaz, a criminally underused character, to finally step forward into the spotlight, but it will also change the composition of the show in an unprecedented way. In season 13, the TARDIS will be populated solely by women for the first time in Doctor Who’s 54-year history—a change that feels both extremely necessary and long overdue.

(7) BOBA TIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jill Serjeant, in the Reuters story “Boba Fett to get own Star Wars spin-off TV series” says that Jon Favreau announced on Good Morning America that “The Book of Boba Fett” will be in production, which is a project separate from the third season of The Mandalorian and is different than other previously announced Star Wars projects.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • December 22, 1958 — On this day in 1958, the BBC aired the first installment of the Quatermass and the Pit television series.  The first  episode of the six in total was called the “The Halfmen”. Each episode was thirty one to thirty six minutes in length. It was created by Nigel Kneale, and stared André Morell. Cec Linder. Anthony Bushell, John Stratton and Christine Finn. Special effects were handled by the BBC Visual Effects Department. For the box set release, Quatermass and the Pit was extensively restored.
  • December 22, 1967 — On this date in 1967 on NBC, Star Trek’s “Wolf in The Fold” premiered. It was written by Robert Bloch, one of three that he wrote, the others being “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”.  Bloch played off the Jack the Ripper theme in this second season episode.  Charlie Jane Anders at io9, ranked the episode as the seventy-sixth best episode of all the Star Trek series in a list of the top hundred Star Trek episodes. We should note that Baycon the next year would have five Trek episodes on the final Best Dramatic Presentation ballot though not this episode with the Harlan Ellison scripted “The City on the Edge of Forever” winning. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 22, 1802 – Sara Coleridge.  Daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Knew Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Spanish.  Her Phantasmion (1837) may have been the first fantasy novel written in English; you can even read an 1874 edition here.  (Died 1852) [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1869 – E.A. Robinson.  Three Pulitzer Prizes.  Famous for “Richard Cory”, he gave us a “Merlin”, a “Lancelot”, two more.  (He hated “Edwin” and used this form of his name.  Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. Other roles: showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other  genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.) (CE)
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 69. I’ve personally known him for twenty five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The HeartSomeplace To Be FlyingSeven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here. (CE)
  • Born December 22, 1939 – Norma Auer Adams, age 81.  New York fan who developed a career in visual art.  Here is “Goldfish Abstraction”.  Here is her book Artfully Told.  Here is Inside My Sketchbook.  Here is Early Artwork.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1942 – Bea Barrio, age 78.  Los Angeles fan who I wish would let her artwork be wider known.  Here is her cover for the Bouchercon III Program Book.  She did the Two of Swords in Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (PDF of the whole deck; scroll down, BP’s introduction comes first, then Cups, Pentacles, Swords; credits at the end).  There’s a range of style for you.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 58. Perhaps best known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films which is quite frankly merde.  If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!  ( CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1965 Victoria Alonso, 55. Argentine-born producer, co-producer or executive producer of such films as Iron Man (nominated for a Hugo), Avengers: Endgame (also Hugo nominated), the Guardians of The Galaxy franchise… Well you get the idea. (CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1966 – Kim Wilkins, Ph.D., age 54.  Associate Professor at Univ. Queensland.  A dozen novels for us, thirty all told; a score of shorter stories.  Two Aurealis Awards for The Infernal.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1967 – Erik L’Homme, age 53.  A dozen novels for us.  Two and a half million copies sold.  All three Book of the Stars volumes available in English (and two dozen other languages).  Boxer and medieval historian.  Re-read Chrétien de Troyes for research.  Has climbed the spire of Notre Dame.  “Although there has never been a female knight, I reflected on the women of character I knew and thought to myself that they were part of this new knighthood.”  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1968 Dina Meyer, 52. Of course she’s in Starship Troopers, a film that, oh well, where she’s best known for a scene we have discussed here. She actually gets to act in Dragonheart, bless the producer!  And there might have been something good come out up of her role as Barbara Gordon/Oracle/Batgirl on Birds of Prey but we’ll never know. (CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann , 42. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favourite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home makes the cure sound mundane, if not worse than the malady.

(11) BUYER’S REMORSE. For this critic it’s thumbs down: “Most Disappointing Car Reveal Of 2020: The New Batmobile”.

…As one of the most popular superheroes of all time and an iconic symbol, people understandably are pretty critical of how Batman is portrayed. If you’re also a gearhead like us, you’re especially focused on what the Dark Knight drivesEveryone has their favorite Batmobile, but there’s a strong possibility that not many people will put this latest big screen version of Batman’s ride on their top ten list, even though it’s more muscle car than before.

… This thing looks jankier than a high school auto shop class project. It’s a cobbled-together mess with no clearly-defined design theme.

(12) WW84 Q&A. The New York Times inteviews “Patty Jenkins on ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ and the Future of Theaters”.

It’s been reported that you made around $8 million or $9 million for this movie, which would be a record for a female filmmaker.

It feels great. It really does. The weirdest part about it is that you can’t even quite wrap your head around the money, as somebody who’s never made huge amounts of money before. Really, I was so distracted with why it had to be that way that I wasn’t even able to absorb it.

What made you decide to set this film in the 1980s?

I wanted to do a full-blown “Wonder Woman” movie, but what I really wanted to talk about was what I was feeling is happening in the world. Not to get too heavy about it — I don’t want people to even know it’s about climate change — but we’re about to lose this world. What are we, when we’re at our most excessive, when we can’t stop wanting more? We all have a hard time changing our lives, but if we don’t, we’re going to lose everything. So what better time than the ’80s, before we knew any of the costs of these things?

(13) WONDER OVERDOSE. People who have seen the movie too many times this season will be fascinated by these “Dark and Twisted Interpretations of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’” at Mental Floss. The third scenario agrees —

3. BEDFORD FALLS WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF WITHOUT GEORGE BAILEY.

George’s plea to his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) is to have never been born, and the Scrooge-esque vision Clarence grants him shows the tragedy of his family and the town. But Pottersville—the town that would have been Bedford Falls had George not stood in the way of greedy Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore)—is actually pretty great. It’s got bars and theaters and all the big-city excitement George had been dreaming of his entire life.

That’s why, in 2008, The New York Times writer Wendell Jamieson suggested that maybe things would have been better had George Bailey never been born. Or at the very least, he should have left the town to Mr. Potter’s devices.

(14) TENTACLE TAPS. I thought this kind of thing only happened in cartoons: “Octopuses Have Been Observed ‘Punching’ Fish Silly”.

The octopus is one of the world’s most intelligent creatures. It can open jars, camouflage itself, and demonstrate many other signs of thinking.

Other times, octopuses will get what they want using cruder methods. Like punching a fish right in the face.

In a new study published in the journal Ecology, researcher Eduardo Sampaio at the University of Lisbon in Portugal detailed a collaborative arrangement between octopuses and different species of fish, in which the fish and cephalopods hunt for food in pairs and therefore cover a wider search area.

Observing this dynamic in the Red Sea, researchers noted that octopuses establish control of the pairing by striking at their fish partners using an arm to get them to move to a preferred position, to avoid eating the prey, or to deter them from the search entirely. They referred to this as a “swift, explosive motion with one arm,” otherwise known as “punching.”

You can watch an octopus smack the gills right off a fish in the video below….

(15) TOTAL WARRIORS. The Fabulous Fifties scanned an old Argosy article from December 1948: “How To Survive An Atomic War”. Here are a couple of frames.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: TENET” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the new Christopher Nolan film is so complicated that stars John David Washington, Kenneth Branagh, and Robert Pattinson can’t explain what’s going on and the villain’s name, Sator, is evidence that TENET is “the movie equivalent of a crossword puzzle” (look up “Sator square” on Wikipedia).

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

Pixel Scroll 9/30/20 Fantastic Pixels And Where To Scroll Them

(1) HEAD FILLED WITH IDEAS. “Interview: P. Djèlí Clark, author of Ring Shout”, an author Q&A conducted by Andrea Johnson at Nerds of a Feather.

…Mr. Clark was kind enough to talk with me about the music behind his new novella, the novella’s long (and then fast) journey to publication, how the novella got personal, and more. Let’s get to the interview!

NOAF: You mention on your blog that this story was in your head for a long time before you wrote it down. Can you tell us about when and why you decided to write the story down? And while you were drafting it out, did were there any scenes or characters that ended up completely differently than how you had originally imagined them?

P. Djèlí Clark: Yeah, the story was definitely with me for a while—mostly in dreamt up scenes and characters with a smattering of a plot. Visuals or a song could send me daydreaming for a minute. As I’m prone to do, it’s only when I have a full sketch of a story in my head that I start jotting down notes. That was in early August 2016. I sat down and wrote up Ring Shout from start to ending, on the Notes feature on my iPhone. Then I put it down and went and lived the rest of my life. It wasn’t until April of 2019 that it started to become “a thing.” I was sitting in a DC café, on the phone with my editor Diana Pho about a book contract for an unrelated completed full-length novel. The book world being the book world, it probably wouldn’t come out until 2021. My novella The Haunting of Tram Car 015 had just been released and that meant there’d be this big gap before I was next published. Diana asked if I might be interested in doing another novella in between—that is, if I had any ideas. I pitched two concepts, one of which was Ring Shout. It ended up in the contract.

Then came the real trouble. I had nothing written but a set of notes from almost 3 years back and a head full of ideas. I had until about September to turn it into a working story. Planned to get it done that summer. But nope. Academic work and copyedits on the unrelated full-length novel pretty much devoured my writing time. Finally, I got started on August 30, 2019. Two days before it was due. Had to ask for an extension. Then somehow, in the next four weeks, got it written. By that time whole new characters had been added, scenes had changed, and elements of the overall plot had been rewritten—so that it only resembles in passing those original notes from 2016. But hey, that’s the writing process….

(2) ARISIA. Progress Report 3 confirms Arisia 2021 will be entirely virtual – which hadn’t been taken for granted after last year’s issues.

Over the past seven months, the Eboard Con Chair Team, along with Assistant Con Chair Vivian Abraham and the Division Heads, have been working hard to determine what we need to recreate the Arisia experience in an online-only convention. Our first step was to make sure that Arisia is squared away with its hotel contract. Hotel liaison Wendy Verschoor, along with Eboard President Nicholas “Phi” Shectman, have been in talks with the Westin Boston Waterfront and Aloft regarding our Arisia 2021 contract. As of September 15, 2020 we were able to come to an agreement. We will not need to have a hotel presence this year, and our continuing contract with the Westin Boston Marriott and Aloft will resume in 2022.

(3) EPIC SLAPDOWN. CNN Business is a fly on the wall as “Judge in Apple ‘Fortnite’ case slams Epic’s tactics, hints at July trial date”.

A federal judge presiding over a high-stakes antitrust lawsuit between Apple and Epic Games — maker of the popular video game Fortnite — repeatedly slammed Epic on Monday on its legal theories and tactics in the company’s case against the iOS App Store, a court battle that could reshape the digital economy.

Epic is seeking a temporary court order that would force Apple to unblock Fortnite from its iOS App Store. Apple removed the game in August after Epic pushed a software update to the app that allowed players to circumvent Apple’s proprietary in-app payment system — a move that is contractually prohibited.

…Judge Gonzalez Rogers looked skeptically at many of Epic’s claims, explicitly telling the company several times in the hearing she was not persuaded by its arguments or its strategy.

Epic knew that it was breaching its contract with Apple when it published the update, but did it anyway, she said, accusing the company of dishonesty.

Apple has justified its app store policies partly as a way to protect consumers from security risks and malicious software. Epic has countered that it is a credible business that has been on the iOS App Store for years and poses no security threat. But Gonzalez Rogers said that is not the issue.

“You did something, you lied about it by omission, by not being forthcoming. That’s the security issue. That’s the security issue!” Gonzalez Rogers told Epic. “There are a lot of people in the public who consider you guys heroes for what you guys did, but it’s still not honest.”

Epic’s attorneys acknowledged that the company breached its agreement with Apple but claimed Epic was simply refusing to comply with an anti-competitive contract, and that forcing a legal battle was part of Epic’s plan.

…It also cited Apple’s in-app payment system as an example of illegal tying — when a company bundles two products together for anti-competitive gain.

But there is no tying going on with Apple’s in-app payment system, Gonzalez Rogers observed.

“I’m not particularly persuaded,” she said of the in-app payment mechanism. “I just don’t see this as a separate and distinct product.”

Nor did the judge buy Epic’s argument that Apple has harmed the distribution of Fortnite because of Apple’s exclusive control of the iOS App Store. Fortnite players on iOS have a variety of choices to access the game even if it is no longer available on iOS, she said.

“Walled gardens have existed for decades,” she said. “Nintendo has had a walled garden. Sony has had a walled garden. Microsoft has had a walled garden. What Apple’s doing is not much different… It’s hard to ignore the economics of the industry, which is what you’re asking me to do.”

(4) TWO OPEN LETTERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alison Flood, in “More than 200 writers and publishers sign letter in support of trans and non-binary people” in The Guardian, says that 200 people, most notably Jeanette Winterson signed a letter generally supporting trans and non-binary people after 58 writers, including Lionel Shriver, Ian McEwan, and Susan Hill, signed a letter supporting J.K. Rowling.  But the article about that letter was published in The Times, which is behind a paywall.

(5) ACCIO ERRAT! [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing in Forbes, film critic Scott Mendelson examines the recent announcement that Warner Brothers will be making another Harry Potter-related movie, despite the diminishing returns from the franchise, and the cavalcade of transphobia from J.K. Rowling. “4 Reasons Warner Bros. Is Still Making J.K. Rowling’s Third ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Movie”.  

He writes: “In a skewed way, stopping now and admitting that the Fantastic Beasts franchise was a failed experiment would probably do Warner Media, a publicly-traded company, more harm than just bringing the story to a natural conclusion and taking their commercial licks along the way. Call it sunk-cost fallacy.”

(6) JOHN THE BALLADEER NEWS. The latest Haffner Press newsletter includes an update on the forthcoming 500+-page volume, Manly Wade Wellman’s The Complete John The Balladeer – with a link to preview five examples of Tim Kirk’s illustrations. Here’s one of them:

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 30, 2005. The Joss Whedon-written Serenity premiered. The sequel, or perhaps continuation, or perhaps finale of, the short-lived Firefly series, it reunited the entire cast from the series. It would overwhelmingly win the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation at L.A. Con IV beating out The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,  Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Batman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It holds an excellent eighty two percent rating by audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 30, 1915 – Richard D. Mullen.  Founder of Science Fiction Studies; co-editor (with Darko Suvin) 1973-1978; returned as editor, managing editor, and like that, 1991.  Two books of selected SFS articles, two more on P.K. Dick (with DS & others); essays, reviews, in SFS, ExtrapolationFoundationRiverside Quarterly.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1926 – Gillian Avery.  Historian of children’s education and literature.  The Guardian Children’s Literature prize for Edwardian father-son novel A Likely Lad.  For us, Huck and Her Time Machine (note pronoun); a dozen others; nonfiction including a Life of Juliana Ewing and an ed’n of Emily Pepys’ Journal (this branch of the family pronounces their name peppis).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1949 – D Potter.  Fanziner, photographer, railroad fan.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 16.  Active in various apas including APA-QFAPAMyriad.  Appreciations by Our Gracious Host and Avedon Carol here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1950 Laura Esquivel, 70. Mexican author of Como agua para chocolateLike Water for Chocolate in English. Magic realism and cooking with more than a small soupçon of eroticism. Seriously the film is amazing as is the book. ISFDB says she’s also written La ley del amor (The Law of Love) which I’ve not read. (CE)
  • Born September 30, 1951 Simon Hawke, 69. Author of the quite superb Wizard of 4th Street series as well as the TimeWars series. He has written Battlestar GalacticaTrekFriday the 13thPredator and Dungeons & Dragons novels as well as the genre adjacent Shakespeare & Smythe mysteries which bear titles such as Much Ado About Murder. (CE) 
  • Born September 30, 1954 – Sylvia McNicoll, 66.  Two dozen children’s novels, of which two for us.  Silver Birch; four Hamilton Arts Council awards (Body Swap won 2019 Literary Award for Fiction); several more.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1960 Nicola Griffith, 60. Editor with Stephen Pagel of the genre gender anthologies, Bending the Landscape: Science FictionBending the Landscape: Fantasy (World Fantasy Award and Lambda winner) and Bending the Landscape: HorrorAmmonite won both the Lambda and Otherwise Awards. She also garnered a Lambda and a Nebula for the most excellent Slow River. All of her novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 30, 1972 – Sheree Renée Thomas, 48.  Dark Matter, a NY Times Notable Book of the Year, won World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology, then Dark Matter, Reading the Bones won another; Fall 2016 Obsidian; Jul 2018 Strange Horizons (with Rasha Abdulhadi, Erin Roberts); Aug 2018 Apex.  A dozen short stories, fifty poems, essays, for us; many others; see here (Wikipedia).  [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1975 Ta-Nehisi Coates, 45. He has also written Black Panther and Captain America stories. Issue number one of the former series sold a quarter million physical copies, very impressive indeed. The Water Dancer contains magic realism elements. (CE) 
  • Born September 30, 1982 Lacey Chabert, 38. Penny Robinson on the Lost in Space film reboot which I did see in the theater and didn’t think it was too bad.  She’s done mostly voice acting and children’s features after that. She voiced Gwen Stacy on The Spectacular Spider-Man series and does likewise for Zatanna Zatara on the current Young Justice series. (CE) 
  • Born September 30, 1983 – Angela Kulig, 37.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories.  “I write books, many of which have been published.  I live in Las Vegas, which sounds exciting, but I prefer to pretend I live in books.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1985 Katrina Law, 35. She’s well-known for playing the roles of Mira on Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Spartacus: Vengeance which are sort of genre, and  Nyssa al Ghul on Arrow. (CE)

(9) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says another Jeopardy! contestant missed their shot with a genre topic.

Category: Playing the part on TV

Answer: Mr. Sulu; His own head on “Futurama”

Wrong question: “Who is DeForest Kelley?”

(10) FORD NOVEL RETURNS. Today is the republication date for John M. Ford’s long out-of-print The Dragon Waiting.

Available for the first time in nearly two decades, with a new introduction by New York Times-bestselling author Scott Lynch, The Dragon Waiting is a masterpiece of blood and magic.

Isaac Butler has all kinds of reasons you should read it:

(11) DO INQUISITORIAL SPAIN AND YA MIX? Not a problem. At garik16’s blog: “SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova”.

Incendiary is the first in a new Young Adult Fantasy trilogy by author Zoraida Córdova, with the setting inspired by Inquisitorial Spain.  Córdova is a prolific YA writer whose work I hadn’t gotten to previously, but one I was hoping to get to at some point, so I requested this novel via inter-library loan once my library reopened.

And well, Incendiary is a really interesting YA fantasy novel, with a compelling protagonist….but also one that feels not quite sure what it wants to do with her…. 

(12) RENDEZVOUS WITH DESTINY. “Man steals truck to go ‘meet an alien'” – but this time it’s Utah Man, not Florida Man.

A Utah man is behind bars after he stole a pickup truck out of a 7-Eleven parking lot.

The victim left the keys in the truck and the vehicle unlocked when he went in to the convience store for a quick stop.

That’s when Bryce Jerald Dixon hopped into the vehicle and took off.

KUTV reports that Dixon took the truck in order to drive all the way to the “Colosseum to get on a flight with alien diplomats.”

Unfortunately, before Dixon could get to the Colosseum, which was some 6,000 miles away across the ocean, he started feeling bad, and decided to return the red pickup truck to the parking lot and its owner, where the police were waiting….

(13) CHEESE FROM OUTER SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Mamie Van Doren On The Red Skelton Show S09E30 (5/24/60” on YouTube is a sketch from a 1960 episode of The Red Skelton Show where Mamie Van Doren is the Queen of Outer Space and Peter Lorre is the Galactic Emperor.  They want to destroy the Earth — and the only person who can stop them is Red Skelton’s goofball character  Clem Kadiddlehopper!  Special cameo by Rod Serling.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Among Us” Fandom Games reviews a mindless phone game from 2018 that’s for “the attention-deficit gaming community” that “searches for something to keep them busy in this time of isolation.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/24/20 Doo-Be-Doo-Be-Dune!

(1) GET READY TO REFLECT. A new free SF/F e-zine is launching in October, Departure Mirror Quarterly. Editor Art Tracy says –

Our first issue features stories by Kyle Aisteach, Cécile Cristofari, and Evergreen Lee.  Readers will be able to pop by the website to download .PDF issues (and hopefully .MOBI and .EPUB, but we don’t have that workflow completely nailed down yet), and we’ve got an e-mail list that can send people the links as each new issue comes out.  

(2) THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Mark Evanier maintains ”A List of Things I’ve Learned About The Comic Book Industry Since I Got Into It In 1970, Many But Not All Of Which Still Apply” at News From Me. It boasts 125 items. Here are four examples:

30. It is impossible to make a decent living in comics if you don’t love what you do.

49. Colorists often have to make up for the fact that the artist has not bothered to think about the source(s) of light in the panels.

103. If you work in comics for an extended period, look over the books published by the company or companies that buy your work and ask yourself, “What comic am I totally unqualified and ill-suited to work on?” Then prepare for the call where they say, “We discussed it here in the office a lot and decided you’re the perfect person for this job!” It will be that comic.

117. If the hero in the comic you’re writing has a secret identity, you should not do a story in which that secret is threatened or apparently revealed less than twelve years after the previous story in which that hero’s secret identity was threatened or apparently revealed. Fifteen is better.

(3) WHO’S NUMBER ONE? Didn’t someone say there’s no such thing as bad publicity? The Guardian’s Alison Flood reports “JK Rowling’s new thriller takes No 1 spot amid transphobia row”. [Free registration required.]

JK Rowling’s new Robert Galbraith thriller Troubled Blood sold almost 65,000 copies in just five days last week, amid widespread criticism of the author’s decision to include a serial killer who dresses in women’s clothing in the novel….

(4) HERE’S NUMBER TWO. In the series of Uber Eats commercials with Mark Hamill and Patrick Stewart.

And a bonus.

(5) MYERS OBIT. [Item by Steven H Silver.] John J. Myers (b. July 26, 1941), the former archbishop of Newark, died on September 24.  Myers was a childhood friend of author Gary K. Wolf and in 2006 they collaborated on the short story “The Unhardy Boys in Outer Space” with Myers adopting the pseudonym Jehane Baptiste because he was worried about how the Vatican would respond to an archbishop writing science fiction.  In 2008, they collaborated again on the novel Space Vulture on which his byline was Archbishop John J. Myers.

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 1984 — Thirty six years ago this month, Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood was first published in Britain by Gollancz. It would win both the BSFA Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. (He never made the final nomination list for any Hugo Award.) It was the first novel in what became the Ryhope Wood series with four more novels (LavondyssThe HollowingGate of Ivory, Gate of Horn and Avilion, plus “The Bone Forest” novella. Merlin’s Wood is sort of connected to this series, as is The Merlin Codex.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 24, 1922 Bert Gordon, 98. Film director most remembered for such SF and horror films as The Amazing Colossal ManVillage of the Giants and The Food of the Gods (based of course on the H.G. Wells’ novel The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth).  His nickname “Mister B.I.G.” was a reference both to his initials and to his preference for directing movies featuring super-sized creatures. (CE) 
  • Born September 24, 1929 – Barbara Ker Wilson, 91.  Five dozen short stories in Stories from ScotlandTales Told to Kabbarli, aboriginal legends collected by Daisy Bates & retold by BKWRussian Fairy Tales (with Jacqueline Athram).  Also The Lost Years of Jane AustenJA in Australia.  Dromkeen Medal.  [JH]
  • Born September 24, 1930 – Jack Gaughan.  So active as both fan and pro artist that he won both Hugos in 1967; for years afterward, Hugo rules provided that no one could be on the ballot in both categories. Art editor for Galaxy doing all the interiors and many covers.  Battle of the Titans is his cartoon duel with Vaughn Bodé.  Here is his cover for the Lunacon 24 Program Book (see this appreciation by Vincent Di Fate).  Here is the Jul 62 Galaxy.  Here is Skylark Three.  Here is the Sep 86 SF Chronicle.  Artbook, Outermost.  Five Hugos, as both pro and fan.  Skylark Award.  SF Hall of Fame.  NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) named an award for him.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born September 24, 1934 John Brunner. My favorite works by him? The Shockwave Rider, the Hugo Award winning Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up. That was easy. What’re your favorite works by him? (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born September 24, 1936 Jim Henson. As much as I love The Muppet Show, I think The Storyteller is his best work. That’s not to overlook Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal which are also excellent. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born September 24, 1945 –David Drake, 75.  Phi Beta Kappa from Univ. Iowa (history and Latin); Duke law school.  Hawkeye Distinguished Veteran award. Motorcyclist.  Famous for military SF e.g “Hammer’s Slammers”, Republic of Cinnabar Navy (yes, military is from Latin and really means army).  Five dozen novels, not counting a score with co-authors where he says the co-author did the real writing; as many shorter stories.  See his Website for essays, interviews, newsletters, photos, comments about Mandy Wade Wellman and Kipling, translations of Ovid (“the classics permeate my life; it’s inevitable that they should permeate my work”).  [JH]
  • Born September 24, 1948 – Elaine Kowalsky.  Printmaker; campaigner for artists’ rights.  Chaired Design & Artists Copyright Society, their London gallery named for her.  Collections, Larger Than LifeHearts and Vessels.  After her death her Diary of an Aging Art Slut at n.paradoxa (see here – PDF) was released from anonymity.  Here is Letters from Home.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born September 24, 1950 – John Kessel, Ph.D., 70.  Five novels, seventy shorter stories; reviews in Delap’sF&SF; essays in NY Rev of SFSF Eye; interviewed in ClarkesworldLightspeedLocusStarShipSofaStrange Horizons.  Two Nebulas (26 years between them the longest in Nebula history), a Shirley Jackson, a Sturgeon, a Tiptree.  Paul Green Playwrights prize.  [JH]
  • Born September 24, 1951 David Banks, 69. During the Eighties, he was the Cyberleader on Doctor Who in all the stories featuring the Cybermen — Earthshock (Fifth Doctor story), The Five DoctorsAttack of the Cybermen (Sixth Doctor story), and Silver Nemesis (Seventh Doctor story). In 1989, he played the part of Karl the Mercenary in the Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure stage play. There were two performances where he appeared as The Doctor as he replaced Jon Pertwee who had fallen ill. (CE) 
  • Born September 24, 1957 Brad Bird, 63. Animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and occasionally even a voice actor whom I’m going to praise for directing The Iron GiantThe Incredibles (winner of Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Interaction), Incredibles 2 and  Tomorrowland. He’s the voice of Edna Mode in both the Incredibles films. (CE) 
  • Born September 24, 1960 – Pete Young, 60.  Our man in Thailand, with Big SkyThe White NotebooksZoo Nation; co-edited four issues of Journey Planet.  Reviews in FoundationStrange HorizonsVector.  Three Nova Awards, three FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  [JH]
  • Born September 24, 1962 – Bruce Jensen, 58.  Two hundred covers, a dozen interiors.  Here is Bug Jack Barron.  Here is the mid-Dec 95 Analog.  Here is Goblin Moon.  Here is Lord of Light.  Here is Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.  Jack Gaughan Award.  [JH]
  • Born September 24, 1965 Richard K. Morgan, 55. The Takeshi Kovacs novels are an awesome series  which is why I haven’t watch the video series. His fantasy series, A Land Fit For Heroes, is on my TBR, well my To Be Listened To pile now. I’ll will admit that The Thirteenth Man was repugnant enough in its sexism and other stereotypes that I gave up on it. And yes, I read Thin Air, the sequel first and it’s quite excellent. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side records an astonishing paleontological discovery.
  • Bliss hints at how those green eggs and ham get scrambled.
  • Bizarro depicts a bestseller’s school days.
  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider needs a title.

(9) BE SEATED. Minneapolis’ DreamHaven bookstore has installed a new Captain Marvel bench.

For many years Batman has stood guard outside DreamHaven offering a pleasant place to sit and rest for many local residents of Minneapolis. After enduring inclement weather and normal wear and tear, Batman protected the store during the recent civil unrest and was heavily damaged and broken. Batman has been retired to a well-earned rest.

Taking his place is a new Golden-Age Captain Marvel (Shazam) bench. Both benches were designed and constructed by our good friend, Joe Musich, who has been a comics fan and a very-much appreciated DreamHaven customer for many years. Joe is a retired high-school teacher who attends Comic Con most every year. We salute Joe and his love of Captain Marvel and are honored to have The Big Red Cheese standing guard over our store.

(10) WELCOME TO THE ISLAND OF TSUNDOKU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] A resort in the Maldives is looking for someone who loves books to run a book shop on the island. I can’t imagine that there’s a Filer that wants such an onerous gig. The Guardian reports: “‘Barefoot bookseller’ sought to run island bookshop in Maldives”.

… When the position of “barefoot bookseller” was previously advertised, Blackwell received thousands of applications from people desperate to escape the grind of daily life.

“Last time we had everybody from the White House press corps to film directors, lawyers, IT managers, beach poets, retired librarians,” said Blackwell, who is a member of the British bookselling family that sold their chain in 2006. “What works best is somebody with bookselling experience. They’ve got to love people and selling books, and they’ve got to know about books. They’ve also got to be adventurous because this is not for somebody to sit in a bookshop eight hours a day, this is for people to get out there, engage with guests and help people on their reading journey, because reading for pleasure is a muscle that, like any other muscle in the body, is traditionally under-used until people go on holiday.”

(11) THE KING. Nikkolas Smith posted a photo on Instagram of a new mural he did at Downtown Disney honoring Chadwick Boseman.

(12) WHAT CAN BE SAID AT ALL CAN BE SAID CLEARLY, “The Philosopher And The Detectives: Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Enduring Passion For Hardboiled Fiction” at CrimeReads.

The scene is London; the year, 1941. Ludwig Wittgenstein, likely the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century, has taken a hiatus from his Cambridge professorship to do “war work” in a menial position at Guy’s Hospital. By the time he arrives there, in September, the worst of the Blitz is over, but there’s no way of knowing that—the bombing could begin again any night. Wittgenstein serves as a dispensary porter, meaning he pushes a big cart from ward to ward, delivering medicine to patients. He’s 52 years old, small and thin, not to say frail. He writes in a letter that sometimes after work he can “hardly move.”

To John Ryle, brother of Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle, Wittgenstein explains his reason for volunteering in London: “I feel I will die slowly if I stay there [in Cambridge]. I would rather take the chance of dying quickly.”

Wittgenstein’s time at Guy’s Hospital is an especially lonely period in a lonely life. Socially awkward in the extreme, he does not endear himself to his coworkers. Although it soon gets out, he initially hopes to conceal that he’s a professor in regular life, hating the prospect of being treated differently. But he is different. His attempts to hide in plain sight must strike everyone as yet another eccentricity.

Nevertheless, he makes at least one friend at the hospital, a fellow staffer named Roy Fouracre. After some time, Fouracre is permitted to visit Wittgenstein in his room, a rare privilege with the reclusive philosopher. Crossing the threshold into Wittgenstein’s private quarters, Fouracre must expect to find books everywhere, hefty, awe-inspiring tomes by Aristotle and Kant and the like. Nothing of the sort. The only reading material in evidence is “neat piles of detective magazines.”

… When American pulps became scarce in the U.K. during and after World War II, Wittgenstein relied on American philosopher Norman Malcolm to send them in care packages from the States. “Thanks a lot for the detective mags,” he wrote Malcolm in 1948. “I had, before they arrived, been reading a detective story by Dorothy Sayers, & it was so bl[oody] foul that it depressed me. Then when I opened one of your mags it was like getting out of a stuffy room into the fresh air.” Wittgenstein’s favorite “mag” was Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine, which he preferred—simply out of habit, it seems—to the similar and now more widely remembered Black Mask.

(13) HONEST, FOLKS. Fandom Games’ Honest Game Trailer on Marvel’s Avengers dropped two days ago.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Olav Rokne, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributig editor of the day Daniel “The Chairman of the Board” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/16/20 Let Us Pixelate It In Glorious Scrollovision

(1) THE EXPANSE REACHES ITS LIMIT. “Leviathan Falls Will Be The Final Installment of The Expanse” – Andrew Liptak has the story at Tor.com.

During a live stream today, Orbit Books officially announced the title and cover for the final installment of James S.A. Corey’s science fiction series, The ExpanseLeviathan Falls, which will hit stores sometime in 2021 .

…Orbit didn’t release any synopsis for the book, but Abraham and Franck did explain that the novel will provide a definitive ending for the series.

During the live stream, Abraham and Franck answered a handful of reader questions. In addition to Leviathan Falls, they plan to have another novella that’ll come out after that final book, which will provide a “nice grace note” to some hanging threads from the series. Abraham noted that he’s been waiting to write the story for “years.”

Franck explained that they don’t plan to write any novels in the world, but that Alcon could always put together another Expanse-related project for television.

(2) RSR UPDATE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender announced today in “Taking a Break” that he’ll be on hiatus as a short fiction reviewer —

After five years of writing reviews for Rocket Stack Rank, I’m going to take an indefinite break. This month marks five years since we started the site, and so it seemed like a good time to pause.

Eric Wong says he will continue to update RSR with monthly lists of stories that readers can flag and rate and find reviews for, as well as aggregate recommendations from various sources (currently 6 reviewers, 16 awards, 7 year’s best anthologies) for the Year-To-Date and Year’s Best lists. 

Hullender adds:

Five years ago, in September 2015, Eric and I started Rocket Stack Rank as a response to the Sad/Rabid Puppy episode that ruined the 2015 Hugo Awards. As we said at the time, we wanted “to create a website to encourage readers of science fiction and fantasy to read and nominate more short fiction.”

The response was very positive, and we’ve enjoyed steady support from readers. We quickly ramped up to a few thousand unique monthly users, with 20-30,000 monthly page views (we recently passed 1,000,000 total page views), and we’re currently the #1 Google result for “short science fiction story reviews.” Best of all, we were finalists for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine three times (2017, 2018, 2019). Thank you for supporting us!

(3) ANOTHER VIEW OF ROWLING’S CONTROVERSIAL LATEST. Alison Flood, in “JK Rowling’s Troubled Blood: don’t judge a book by a single review” in The Guardian, says she’s read Rowling’s Troubled Blood and although there are parts she says are “tone-deaf” that she doesn’t consider the novel “transphobic” since the cross-dressing character is not the main villain and is not described as trans or even a transvestite.

…Perhaps some will still consider this depiction transphobic, given Rowling’s rightly widely criticised views on trans people. It is, at best, an utterly tone-deaf decision to include an evil man who cross-dresses after months of pain among trans people and their allies. But there is also reason to be wary of any moral outrage stoked by the Telegraph, a paper that generally doesn’t shy away from publishing jeering at the “woke crowd”, or claims that children are “put at risk by transgender books”, or attacks on “the trans lobby”. And we should also be wary of how one review has been reproduced without question by countless newspapers and websites, by journalists who have shown no indication of having read the book themselves.

(4) GREETINGS GATES. “‘Star Trek’ Alum Gates McFadden To Host Nacelle Company’s First Podcast” reports Yahoo! Entertainment. The title: Who Do You Think You Are?

…The McFadden-fronted podcast will be the first one from the Nacelle Company and serves as a stepping stone for its NacelleCast Studios, the company’s neighboring podcast studio in Burbank. The new podcast studio will serve as the main production space for all NacelleCast productions.

The Nacelle Company has created a number of pop history-focused titles including Netflix’s The Movies That Made UsThe Toys That Made Us and the CW’s Discontinued. Branching into the podcast space is a step in the company’s efforts to broaden its reach of pop history-focused content.

(5) STATUS QUO VADIS. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will probe “Is Science Fiction Really the Literature of Change?” in its September 19 program. Register at the link.

Anil Menon is joining Gadi as co-host for a one-hour discussion on science fiction and change, bringing along friends and colleagues Christopher Brown, Claude Lalumière, Geoff Ryman, Nisi Shawl, and Vandana Singh. This Saturday, 19 September.

Arguably, science fiction has had a focus on working out the consequences of a change (what-if scenarios) rather than how a certain change comes to be. This seems to be especially true in the case of social or political change. The distinguished panelists will discuss the possibilities and limitations of (science) fiction for representing a changing world.

(6) GENUINE PIXEL NEWS. Plans for a Japanese adaptation of The Door Into Summer were unveiled on Twitter. Thread starts here.

(7) UNDERTALE CONCERT. Beginning at the 45-minute mark in this YouTube video, you can listen to the full orchestral concert that was staged for the 5th anniversary of the video game Undertale.

Polygon’s Patricia Hernandez tells why “Undertale’s surprise concert got the internet in its feelings”

This is probably why many folks who watched the concert last night absolutely got in their feelings about the game. The top comment on the YouTube video says, “I cried like twice through the whole thing.” I saw the same sentiment unfold across my Twitter timeline, where folks reminisced on the game’s highlights and what it meant to them when they played it. It was a total mood shift from the general depressing and terrifying tenor of the year. Undertale is, at its heart, an optimistic game about friendship and love. 

(8) LOOKING FOR SIGNS. In a Washington Post opinion piece, “Venus may hold the answers about life we’ve been looking for”, Cornell University astronomer Jonathan Lunine says that the discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus might mean that Venus had, and possibly has, life.

…How would we know such organisms might exist? Many chemical compounds that simple microbes produce are also made by non-biological processes. But one, phosphine or PH3, is difficult to produce on Earth abiotically (without life) and, as argued by Seager and her colleagues in another paper, could be a good “biosignature” or sign of life on planets around other stars. This isn’t always the case: The compound is found in the dense hydrogen-rich atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, where it is understood to be an abiotic product of simple chemistry, and will likely be found on gas giants around other stars using the James Webb Space Telescope, planned for launch next year. But Venus — which has an atmosphere in which hydrogen is extremely scarce — is a place where phosphine is a plausible biosignature.

The detection of sufficient quantities of phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere would be an intriguing pointer to the possibility of life in the sulfuric-acid clouds of our sister planet, but many questions would remain. Is it possible that planetary chemists have overlooked ways to produce phosphine on Venus in the absence of life? And if phosphine is produced by biology, where did that life originate? It is one thing to imagine life adapting to and hanging out opportunistically in the clouds of Venus. It is quite another to imagine that life could have originated there, sandwiched between the hell of the surface and the frozen realms of the thin upper atmosphere….

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 1995 — Twenty five years ago this month at Intersection, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Mirror Dance won the Hugo for Best Novel. Other finalists were John Barnes’ Mother of Storms, Nancy Kress‘s Beggars and Choosers, Michael Bishop‘s Brittle Innings and James Morrow’s Towing Jehovah.  It would be the third Hugo winner of the Vorkosigan saga, and Bujold’s third Hugo award-winning novel in a row. It’s  the direct sequel to Brothers in Arms. The Vorkosigan saga would win the Best Series Hugo at Worldcon 75. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 16, 1898 Hans Augusto Rey. German-born American illustrator and author best remembered for the beloved  Curious George children’s book series that he and his wife Margret Rey created from 1939 to 1966. (An Eighties series of five-minute short cartoons starring him was produced by Alan Shalleck, along with Rey. Ken Sobol, scriptwriter of Fantastic Voyage, was the scriptwriter here.) His interest in astronomy led to him drawing star maps which are still use in such publications as Donald H. Menzel’s A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. A simpler version for children called Find the Constellations, is still in print as well. (Died 1977.) (CE) 
  • Born September 16, 1917 – Art Widner.  Pioneer in earliest days, he left for a few decades to teach school, beget children, other mundane matters, then returned, resuming his fanzine YHOS (“Your Humble Obedient Servant”, pronounced ee-hoss though I said it should rhyme with dose), the Eo-Neo.  See here.  Here is his cover for the Mar 40 Spaceways.  On his board game Interplanetary see here.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  YHOS first took my note on The Glass Bead Game.  As of his passing he may have been Oldest of All; rooming with him at a few cons, I promised not to call him “Woody” (see Mary Sperling in Methuselah’s Children).  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1916 Mary, Lady Stewart (born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, lovely name that). Yes, you know her better as just Mary Stewart. Genre wise, she’s probably best known for her Merlin series which walks along the boundary between the historical novel and fantasy. Explicitly fantasy is her children’s novel A Walk in Wolf Wood: A Tale of Fantasy and Magic. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born September 16, 1930 — Anne Francis. You’ll remember her best as Altaira “Alta” Morbius on Forbidden Planet. She also appeared twice in The Twilight Zone (“The After Hours” and “Jess-Belle”). She also appeared in multiple episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. She’d even appear twice in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and played several roles on Fantasy Island as well. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born September 16, 1932 Peter Falk. His best remembered role genre is in The Princess Bride as the Grandfather who narrates the Story. The person who replaced him in the full cast reading of The Princess Bride for the Wisconsin Democratic Party fundraiser, Director Rob Reiner, wasn’t nearly as good as he was in that role. He also plays Ramos Clemente in “The Mirror”,  an episode of The Twilight Zone. And he’s Reverend Theo Kerr in the 2001 version of The Lost World. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born September 16, 1932 – Karen Anderson.  Fan and pro herself, wife of another, mother of a third, mother-in-law of a fourth.  While still Karen Kruse she was WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) secretary and joined SAPS (Spectator Amateur Press Society) and The Cult.  Marrying Poul Anderson she moved to the San Francisco Bay area, bore Astrid, and thus was mother by marriage to Greg Bear.  Stellar quality also in filk, costuming, and our neighbor the Society for Creative Anachronism.  At an SF con party a few decades ago I arrived in English Regency clothes having just taught Regency dancing; she sang “How much is that Dukie in the window?”  See here; appreciation by OGH here.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1938 – Owen Hannifen, 82.  How he found the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.; “LASFS” pronounced as if rhyming with a Spanish-English hybrid “mas fuss”, unless you were Len Moffatt, who rhymed it with “sass mass” and had earned the right to do it his way) minutes, then and now known as The Menace of the LASFS, I’ve never learned; with a good Secretary – Jack Harness, Mike Glyer, John DeChancie – they’ve been swell; anyway they lured OH to L.A. (from Vermont?), where he roomed with Harness and others in a series of apartments, the Labyrinth, Labyrinth 3, Labyrinth of Valeron, Labyrinth DuQuesne (see here).  He was in N’APAOMPA, SAPS, and The Cult.  Dungeons & Dragons was fire-new then; he and his wife Hilda (also “Eclaré”) did that.  They moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, Sampo Productions (named for the magic sampo in “Why the Sea Is Salt”), and incidentally the SCA.  [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1948 – Julia Donaldson, C.B.E., 72.  Author, playwright, performer; almost two hundred books.  Famous for The Gruffalo.  Half a dozen stories of Princess Mirror-Belle.  Busked in America, England, France, Italy.  Bristol Street Theatre, British Broadcasting Corp., Edinburgh Book Festival.  Honorary doctorates from Univ. Bristol, Univ. Glasgow.  Children’s Laureate of the United Kingdom 2011-2013.  Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1952 Lisa Tuttle, 68. Tuttle won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, received a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute”, which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”. My favorite works by her include CatwitchThe Silver Bough and her Ghosts and Other Lovers collection. Her latest novel is The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross. (CE) 
  • Born September 16, 1960 – Kurt Busiek, 60. Writer for Dark Horse, DC, Dynamite, Eclipse, Harris, Image, Marvel, Topps.  Known particularly for Astro City, Marvels, the Thunderbolts.  Nine Eisners, six Harveys; two Comics Buyer’s Guide Awards for Favorite Writer.  Here he’s interviewed about Conan.  Alex Ross put KB and wife Ann into Marvels 3 reacting to the arrival of the Silver Surfer and Galactus.  I’ll leave out Page 33.  What jewels these Filers be.  [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1960 Mike Mignola, 60. The Hellboy stories, of course, are definitely worth reading, particularly the early ones. His Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an amazing What-If story which isn’t at all the same as the animated film of that name which is superb on its own footing, and the B.P.R.D. stories  are quite excellent too.  I’m very fond of the first Hellboy film, not so much of the second, though the animated films are excellent. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1982 – María Zaragoza, 38.  Three short stories for us; novels, poetry, film scripts, graphic novels.  Post-human, anthology of Spanish SF authors.  Atheneum of Valladolid Award, Young Atheneum of Seville Novel Prize.  Part of Fernando Marías Amando’s storytelling collective “Children of Mary Shelley”; of “The Cabin” collective of mutant artists (painters, poets, writers, sculptors, photographers), Ciudad Real.  [JH]

(10b) BELATED BIRTHDAY. Worldcon 76 chair Kevin Roche turned 60 on September 15 — we wish him a cake-full of candles for the occasion!

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy calls it a “new Mary Worth” storyline. Daniel Dern says, “I had to convince myself I hadn’t dreamed it.”
  • Lio discovers what happens when horror movies take over your yard. 
  • Argyle Sweater carves a Pinocchio joke.

(12) CLAREMONT ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL. Marvel Comics will honor the extraordinary career of writer Chris Claremont in December with the Chris Claremont Anniversary Special.

For the past 50 years, Claremont has graced the Marvel Universe with his brilliant storytelling—creating and defining some of its most iconic heroes and building the framework for one of its most treasured franchises.

In the Chris Claremont Anniversary Special, the acclaimed writer returns to the world of the X-Men with a brand-new story. Dani Moonstar is drafted for a mission across time and space for an incredible psychic showdown against the Shadow King—joining forces with other characters created and defined by the pen of Chris Claremont! In this extra-sized milestone issue, Claremont will team up with a host of iconic artists including Brett Booth and reunite with his classic New Mutants collaborator, Bill Sienkiewicz.

…Chris Claremont’s influential run on X-Men changed the comic book landscape forever. As the architect behind the epic tapestry that makes up the world of mutants, Claremont’s contributions went far beyond the creation of characters but to the very themes, concepts, and allegories that are ingrained in the X-Men today. Claremont’s work catapulted the X-Men into unprecedented success with now classic stories such as Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past as well as series like New Mutants and Wolverine’s first solo series. In addition to his groundbreaking work on X-Men titles, Claremont also had memorable runs on books such as Ms. Marvel and Fantastic Four.

(13) SFF IN TIMES TO COME. In “Noah Hawley on ‘Fargo’ Season 4, His ‘Star Trek’ Film and ‘Lucy in the Sky’” at Variety, Hawley says that his Star Trek film would be a new cast, and “we’re not doing Kirk and we’re not doing Picard” but there would be some sort of connection to the original Star Trek series.  He also says that Lucy In The Sky was his “magical-realist astronaut movie.”

Just before “Fargo” returned to production in August, Noah Hawley — the writer who somehow adapted an eccentric and beloved Coen brothers film into one of the most decorated television series of the past decade — sent a letter to the show’s cast and crew. He wrote about the importance of safety. He wrote about mutual responsibility. He wrote about Tom Cruise.

“Someday in the not too distant future Tom Cruise will go to space,” the message began. “He will bring a film crew with him. He will bring a director and actors. They will shoot a film. Now space, as we know, is an airless vacuum where nothing can live. A hostile void where a suit breach or airlock malfunction can kill, where even the simplest tasks must be done methodically, deliberately. Astronauts train for years to prepare. They drill protocols and procedures into their heads. They know that surviving in space will require their full concentration. Now imagine doing all that AND making a movie.”

The “Fargo” crew is rather more earthbound, but Hawley likened its experience to that of Cruise, who is indeed planning a trip to the International Space Station to shoot an action movie. (It was reported in May that he will do this with the help, of course, of Elon Musk.) But before Tom Cruise ascends into space, the cast and crew of “Fargo” are gathering in Chicago to film the final two episodes of the show’s fourth season in a 13-day stretch — five months after being forced to break camp by the coronavirus pandemic.

(14) FIRE BELLS. LAist points out a local science landmark in jeopardy: “What We’ll Lose If The Mt. Wilson Observatory Burns”.

You may not have realized it, but sitting atop one of the highest points in the San Gabriel mountains, looming 5,700 feet over L.A., is arguably one of the world’s most important spots for scientific discovery: the Mount Wilson Observatory.

The 114-year-old site is covered in equipment that not only helped mankind discover the universe and cement Southern California as an astronomy hub, but still connects normal people to wonders beyond our own world.

Worryingly, the Bobcat Fire is charging right for it. Only 500 feet away as of Tuesday afternoon.

(15) GREAT PUMPKINS. Los Angeles County’s Descanso Gardens plans a “Pumpkin-Filled Halloween Event”We Like LA has the story.

Descanso Gardens has announced a month-long fall exhibit for those of you who get really into decorative gourd season. “Halloween at Descanso” is a socially distant, “pumpkin-filled extravaganza” that takes place October 1-31. 

The exhibit is suitable for all ages, so don’t worry about this Halloween event being too scary. Instead, expect a winding hay maze, a house built entirely out of pumpkins, a pumpkin arch that leads to a forest filled with pumpkin-headed scarecrows, and colorful pumpkin mandalas. The pathways that lead to the Hilltop Gardens, the Japanese Garden, and the main promenade will feature hand-carved jack-o-lantern boxes. 

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants struck out on this one.

Category: Summarizing the novel.

Answer: Utopia (not); I ain’t goin’ nowhere; the butler did it (in 1872).

No one got: What is Erewhon.

(17) PRESAGED BY ASIMOV. In the Washington Post article “School, but an ‘undead version’: Students, parents and teachers in Northern Virginia adjust to online learning”, Hannah Natanson interviewed middle school math teacher Jay Bradley, who thinks virtual teaching reminds him of the Asimov story “The Fun They Had.”

Margie went into the schoolroom…and the mechanical teacher was on and waiting for her,’ the passage (from Asimov) read,  ‘The screen was lit up, and it said, ‘Today’s arithmetic lesson is on the addition of proper fractions.  Please insert yesterday’s homework in the proper slot.’  Margie did so with a sigh.”

These days, Bradley–who teaches middle school in Fairfax County Public Schools–feels a lot like the ‘mechanical teacher.’  He spends ever morning huddled ina spare room in his Northern Virginia home staring at his computer screen. The monitor is filled with small rectangles:  Each one depicts an anonymous, identical silhouette.

(19) BORDER, BREED, NOR BIRTH. “Star children: can humans be fruitful and multiply off-planet?”The Space Review weeks the answer.

From his home in Cape Canaveral, Air Force pilot Alex Layendecker explained how he had been drawn to the study of sex and reproduction in space. “I had been immersed in the space environment in the Air Force, assigned to launch duty, and was simultaneously pursuing an M.A. in public health, and then at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, and I was looking for a dissertation topic,” he recalled. “I decided that sex and reproduction in space had not received the attention they deserved—if we’re serious about discussions of colonization, having babies in microgravity—on Mars or other outposts of the Earth, then more needs to be learned.” His general recommendation was that because of the squeamishness of NASA to study sex in space, a private nonprofit organization, or Astrosexological Research Institute, should be founded for this research critical to human settlement of outer space.

What were the prospects for space-based sex lives? Layendecker’s study of the literature yielded both good and bad news. Sex should be possible, even lively, but reproduction, critical for space colonization, could entail severe health consequences… 

(20) BE SEATED. In Two Chairs Talking Episode 36 – “Marrying the genre next door” — Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg talk about novels which blur the boundaries between genres: literary novels with strong elements of fantasy or science fiction. Call them “genre adjacent” fiction. And David interviews Matthew Hughes, author of the historical fiction novel “What the Wind Brings.”

(21) SHARP, POINTY. The final trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s Antlers has dropped.

A small-town Oregon teacher and her brother, the local sheriff, become entwined with a young student harboring a dangerous secret with frightening consequences.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/15/20 The Six Million Pixel Scroll

(1) IT’S SF2 CONCATENATION TIME. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF2 Concatenation’s Autumnal edition is now up. Principal contents include:

Plus there are many standalone SF/FH book and non-fiction SF & science book reviews.

Full details at SF2 Concatenation’s What’s New page.

Looking ahead, in SF² Concatenation will (hopefully, depending on its lock-down) have its spring (northern hemisphere) edition. Before that, hopefully we will have a pre-Christmas one-page ‘Best of’ Nature Futures short stories. But if we have a second UK lockdown then that will get rolled into our January edition.

(2) CANON CONSIDERED. In a guest post at Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons, Alasdair Stuart recalls the years when Warren Ellis’ work used to weave way through his life, and why he now doubts it can even sit on his shelves.

…So I start buying comics from the store I used to manage before being laid off.

That last one becomes a solace, a tiny spark against the black backdrop of sleeping on my parents’ camper bed. But it reminds me of the medium that brought me joy as joy slowly returns. This time it’s Ellis’ Secret Avengers[6] run — Fortean and weird, kind and bleak. The team are barely in control, reacting as much as leading. But they’re still trying. Beast – large, smart, kind Beast – makes an appearance.

I buy the book three times. In singles. In trade. The last time I buy it digitally, in California with my new partner, and realize that, at last, I’m home.

*

When we move back to the UK a panel from Transmetropolitan heads my new Facebook page. It’s Spider Jerusalem, sitting on a window ledge. The text box reads:

AND SO, FREED, I BEGIN TO WRITE.

I know how he feels. It’s good to be outside at last.

*

I am rounding the corner towards forty-four and I’m reading a different kind of Ellis’ work. Somanyofus.com collects testimony from over sixty of the countless women who he’s harassed, or groomed, or manipulated over the last twenty years. Careers made or denied, glimpsed briefly from my own track but now laid out with courageous, horrifying context. Were it simply that, it would be damning. But damning is a zero-sum game. Damning is something Spider Jerusalem would do.

The writers of this site are better than that. Better than him.

There are tools here. Questions to ask, behavior to search for. Things to know as you travel the complex and protean landscape of parasocial relationships.

This corpus is not just a collection of testimony but a statement of intent, a course bearing for an industry from the very people that industry — through Ellis — has ground up and thrown aside. Those damaged the most by the toxic business they loved, hauling on the tiller and trying to steer it away from more rocks, more damage, more careers broken against the shore of this single man….

(3) ROWLING IGNITES SOCIAL MEDIA AGAIN. “J.K. Rowling’s New Book—About A Cross-Dressing Serial Killer—Draws Outrage” Forbes’ Lisette Voytko has a rundown:

The revelation that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s latest book hinges on a male serial killer who dresses like a woman infuriated social media users Monday, after Rowling kicked up controversy in recent months over her views on transgender people, which critics denounced as transphobic.

Rowling’s new book, written under her pen name Robert Galbraith, is titled Troubled Blood and is the latest installment of a fictional crime series following private detective Cormoran Strike.

Troubled Blood’s villain is a “psychopathic serial killer,” according to the book’s Amazon page, and turns out to be a man who dresses as a woman.

Reaction on social media was swift, with #RIPJKRowling trending on Twitter by early Monday afternoon, as critics and former fans argued that Troubled Blood’s villain is another example of the author’s alleged transphobia….

(4) THE COMMERCIAL MARCHES ON. “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will go on, but only in TV land”. Well, it’s always been more of a televised variety show anyway, to be honest.

This year’s parade will still have the giant balloons, colorful floats and, of course, Santa Claus, but it will “shift to a television-only special presentation,” Macy’s and New York City announced on Monday.

The parade will still air across the country on NBC on Thanksgiving morning, but the pandemic forced Macy’s to “reimagine” the event. It will forgo the traditional 2.5-mile route and reduce by 75% the number of parade participants, who will be socially distanced during performances and required to wear face coverings.

…All parade participants will be at least 18 years old, with previously selected high school and college bands’ performances deferred to the 2021 event and local professional marching and musical ensembles taking over this year.

Meanwhile, the 80 to 100 handlers that normally walk the balloons throughout the city will be replaced by specialty vehicles.

(5) LEM IN PLAY. GamesRadar+ honors the source material of a forthcoming game: “The Invincible is a sci-fi thriller coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X from a new studio of former CD Projekt Red and Techland developers”.

In fact, if you’ve read any of Stanislaw Lem’s novels, then you’re probably surprised that it’s taken this long for a studio to directly adapt one of his stories into a video game, which feel like the perfect medium for his pulpy ruminations on AI, futurology, and space exploration. 

The studio that’s breaking that pattern is Starward Industries, a new team based out in Cracow, Poland, made up of 12 veteran developers who hail from CD Projekt Red, Techland Games, and other household names from around the rest of the country. 

(6) WHAT VERNE GOT RIGHT. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s AirSpace podcast presents “Voyages To Mars”.

In this first installment of Voyages to Mars, we hear launch stories from two famous science fiction novels written long before the invention of modern rockets. From Percy Greg’s 1880 novel, Across the Zodiac, we get a detailed account of one of the first imaginary ships ever to travel from the Earth to Mars in literature. In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel, From the Earth to the Moon, we find one of the first descriptions ever written of what it might be like to witness a launch. Strap yourself in and come along for the ride.

(7) BOOKSTORE DESPERATION. There must be a lot of this happening by now: “Brentwood’s Diesel bookstore launches a GoFundMe as more stores struggle through pandemic” in the Los Angeles Times.

Next to a bottle of hand sanitizer, on a table at an entrance to Brentwood’s Diesel bookstore, is a message to customers describing an existential crisis induced by a pandemic. It says, in essence: We need your help.

“We have tried to weather this storm, with creative reinvention, hard work, and perseverance, as we always have,” reads the note from Diesel owners Alison Reid and John Evans. “We’ve managed to keep our booksellers afloat financially and with the necessary health care. But at this point, our stores are foundering.

”… So we are asking for your support to restore us to a sustainable level, to make it through this taxing time… We have resisted this appeal to our wider community, but now we are running out of time. It is either this, or ending our run as a quality independent bookstore.”

Online orders, gift card purchases and the recent return of indoor shopping by appointment only have helped keep afloat the charming bookstore tucked inside the Brentwood Country Mart. But as Reid and Evans alerted some 3,500 people via email, “it is not enough, given our rent, operating expenses and our publisher debt, to sustain us.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 15, 1965 — The Lost In Space series premiered on CBS. It was created and produced by Irwin Allen who was also responsible for Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants. It starred Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Bill Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Jonathan Harris and Bob May. Dick Trufeld was the voice of The Robot.   It would three seasons and eight three episodes, fifty-four In color. It would get two reboots — the Lost in Space film (withThe Robinsons: Lost in Space short) and the Lost in Space series. A sixty-minute animated film aired in the early Seventies as part of the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. Only Jonathan Harris from the series was part of the voice cast. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 15, 1894 – Rachel Field.  Hitty, her First Hundred Years won a Newbery Award (the first given to a woman) and a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, memoir of a mountain-ash-wood doll.  The Magic PawnshopEliza and the Elves also ours.  English lyrics to Schubert’s Ave Maria for Disney’s Fantasia.  A dozen other books, three best-sellers.  (Died 1952) [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1898 – Jan Slauerhoff.  Poet and novelist, an important Dutch author.  The Forbidden Kingdom (1932; Irishman haunted by and maybe transferring identities with Luís de Camões 1524-1580) recently in English (2012); sequel The Life on Earth (1934; tr. as Adrift in the Middle Kingdom 2019) yet stranger.  I haven’t found his poetry (Van der Hoogt Prize, 1933) in English.  (Died 1936) [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1914 – Aldolfo Bioy Caseras.  Friend of and collaborator with Borges, who called C’s Invention of Morel “reasoned imagination”, ha ha.  For us, one more novel, eight shorter stories, tr. into English; much else.  Legion of Honor, Cervantes Prize, Diamond Konex Award. (Died 1999)  [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 80. I’ll admit that the only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. So how is that he’s never won a Hugo? (CE)
  • Born September 15, 1942  Charles L. Grant. A writer of whom it’s said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror.” Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” short garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye” novella. And “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”. Both iBooks and Kindle have decent but not outstanding selections of his works including a few works of Oxrun Station, his core horror series. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1942 Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 78. Best known for her series of historical horror novels about the vampire Count Saint-Germain. She has been honored with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, a Living Legend Award from the International Horror Guild Award and a Bram Stoker Award for Life Time Achievement. (CE)
  • Born September 15, 1942 – John Faucette.  Five novels, a few shorter stories; collection, Black SF.  Half a dozen novels unfinished at his death.  Of Black SF a reviewer said “warning label on the cover … should be heeded….  adult themes….  no one can argue that the author does not have a strong imagination.”  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1946 Howard Waldrop, 74. I think that The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 which he wrote with Jake Saunders is my favorite work by him. His short fiction such as “The Ugly Chickens” which won The World Fantasy and Nebula Awards are most excellent. A generous selection of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1956 Tommy Lee Jones, 74. Best known as Agent K in the Men in Black franchise, he’s done other genre work with the first being in Batman Forever as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. He’s also Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1960 — Kevin Roche, 59. Chaired Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018). Prior to that he co-chaired Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013 and chaired Costume-Con 26 in San José in 2008. He’s a veteran costumer and masquerade emcee, who co-directed the 2011 Worldcon’s Masquerade as well as Masquerades at Anime Los Angeles, Westercon, and BayCon. Roche is a research scientist at IBM Research Almaden. He also is the editor of Yipe! The Costume Fanzine of Record.
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 58. My first encounter with her was the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much it’s Zelazny is open to vigorous debate. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1971 – Laura Martin, 49.  Colorist for CrossGen, DC, Image, Marvel.  Four times Comics Buyer’s Guide Favorite Colorist; six Eagles, two Eisners, a Harvey; Inkwell Awards Ambassador.  Special Guest at Comic-Con Int’l, 2015.  Here is a watercolor (portrait of Butch Guice).  Here is another.  She donated the original of this to the Baltimore Comic-Con art auction.  [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1977 – Sophie Dahl, 43.  Author and former fashion model.  Contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveller, to be seen (I mean, after her modeling career) in The GuardianThe ObserverVogue (won a Jasmine Award).  Books and cookboks.  Children’s picture book Madame Badoebdah.  Puffin Classics 2008 ed’n of The Secret Garden has her introduction.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield agrees with aliens about what makes life on Earth worthwhile. (“These aliens were redirected to Denmark, I presume,” says Lise Andreasen.)

(11) CHOOSING BETWEEN HORROR AND CATS. You don’t actually have to, as we learn in James Whitbrook Q&A at io9, “Manga Legend Junji Ito Talks Making Horror, Adapting It, and Cats”. Here’s the part about cats:

io9: Your autobiographical manga series Yon & Mu is quite a step out from what people typically know you for. What drove you to make the switch from horror to a slice of life about living with cats?

Junji Ito: I had drawn some short autobiographical comics in the past, and I enjoy working on them because of how easy they are to make. When I got married, I started living with the cats that my wife brought with her, but prior to that I had never been around cats much and honestly got the impression they were a bit creepy. At some point, I realized that a manga about learning how to deal with these new circumstances could be interesting. Not long after, my editor somehow caught onto the fact that I was now living with cats, and proposed the idea of drawing the manga. I was between projects at the time, so it was perfect timing.

(12) ARRIVAL. James Davis Nicoll shows off his newly-arrived Hugo finalist pins at his Dreamwidth blog.

(13) TRAILBLAZER. There’s not much left of summer, so be prepared to read fast! James Davis Nicoll prepared “A Late-Summer SFF Reading List” to save you some time at Tor.com.

What have I read recently? I am so happy to have imagined someone asking me that conveniently leading question.

I should note that I have embraced the concept of comparative advantage by focusing on activities at which I am acceptably competent (reading, reviewing, encountering wild animals), freeing people who are not me up for other activities at which they are superior (anything social). The end result is more productivity all round! Plus, it turns out that, at the moment, a simple handshake can be akin to French-kissing Death herself, so all in all, this anti-social, work-focused lifestyle is working out pretty well! For me, anyway. Without further ado, here’s a survey of what I’ve been reading over the last month…

(14) MUTATING SARS-COV-2 VIRUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Most people (deniers excepted) have an interest in the SARS-CoV-2 /CoVID-19 pandemic, but SF folk perhaps a little more as pandemics are something of an SF trope and commonly evoked as the backdrop to a ‘Quiet Earth’ story.

The latest Nature journal has a feature, by Nature staffer Ewen Callaway, that explores how the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which can result inCoVID-19 disease) is mutating.

The feature may be a little hard to digest for those Filers not rooted in science or biology, so here’s a condensed summary.

SARS-CoV-2 is mutating (as was previously much anticipated even as a short-term concern). Fortunately it is mutating at less than half the rate of influenza viruses and a quarter that of HIV. The virus genome has nearly 30,000 letters and if you were today to sequence a virus from two patients anywhere in the world you’d probably see an average of 10 RNA letters difference. So far, some 90,000 patients have had their virus genomically sequenced and this has revealed over 12,000 mutations doing the rounds. Luckily, nearly all these do not affect the way the virus spreads, or the resulting disease.

The bad news is that a new dominant strain has emerged. Way back, it infected an estimated less than 10% of patients by early-to-mid-February but nearly 100% by mid-June (of a sample size of over 50,000 patients globally). This strain, D614G (with a genome mutation at the coding for the 614th amino acid position) is unlike most other strains that do not affect the CoVID-19 disease. Instead, this new strain is
more infective than the original SARS-CoV-2! This is because this mutation alters the spike protein on the virus’ surface that it uses to latch on to human cells. It makes the spike more open and so easier to latch onto human cell membrane proteins.

The good news is that in COVID-19 patient impact terms this strain is no better or worse to contract than the original virus.

More good news, is that though this new strain is more infective, it responds just as well to vaccines. This is likely because what makes it more infective (an open spike) also exposes the receptor binding domain (RBD) used to lock onto human cells but the mutation has not changed the RBD itself. So this new mutation is unlikely to affect the prognosis for a vaccine from the potential vaccines now being trialled.

Interestingly, there is a second mutation doing the rounds which is a big mutation involving nearly 400 RNA nucleotides! This strain is linked to a milder form of CoVID-19.

Where does all this leave us?

Well, it could be that slow mutation will lead to vaccine-resistant strains. With vaccination, these strains may only generate mild symptoms (vaccines to related strains may confer partial protection) and also we may develop new vaccines for the new significant mutations. One possibility, the Nature feature contemplates (which the SF²; Concatenation briefing also considered way back in March), is that vaccines will immunise us making us less susceptible to mutations, so that subsequent COVID-19-related disease will have less impact. In short, that we will eventually get by with annual SARS-CoV jabs and that in the long-term it will be a bit like living with flu.

(15) TOS CONTINUES. Fansided makes sure viewers know “A new fan film called Star Trek: First Frontier has debuted online”.

Star Trek: First Frontier is an entirely new, original, and self-funded fan film that takes place in the time of the original show. Set in the same time-frame, with sets and uniforms dedicated to that era of Star Trek. It was directed by Kenneth Smith, with the entire film being self-funded by the director. It was released on Star Trek Day 2020 to add to the festivities.

Despite its production budget being very high for a Star Trek fan-film, there are issues that the director himself admits to. He attempted to fix everything but funds became scarce after Covid-19 hit, and the subsequent quarantining caused a financial issue in fixing some of the minor issues with the audio. Smith promises that the issues will be fixed in a special edition.

(16) HONEST TRAILER PARK. In “Mulan (2020) Honest Trailer” the Screen Junkies explain the Mulan remake has “vibrant colors and sumptuous landscapes that will be totally wasted on your crappy TV.”

(17) ONLY ONE HAS A RACING STRIPE. Ranker asks readers to vote on “The 19 Coolest Starships In The ‘Star Trek’ Universe”.

Throughout the many complicated iterations of the Star Trek universe, there are entire cultures dedicated to exploration, subjugation, and assimilation. Whether they’re looking to map uncharted territories or obliterate neighboring races, the right starship makes all the difference.

Here’s a look at some of the greatest Starfleet cruisers, Klingon fighter ships, and bizarre sentient space vessels that the Star Trek universe has to offer.

Now in fourth place —

4. USS ENTERPRISE (NCC-1701)

Where It’s From: Star Trek: The Original Series

Who It Belongs To: Starfleet

Why It’s Awesome: This Constitution-class heavy cruiser was built in San Francisco, assembled in space, and has one of the most storied histories of any vessel in Starfleet. It has visited more than 70 different worlds over its multiple five-year missions, and is the flagship of the Federation fleet.

(18) NOT YOUR AVERAGE BEAR. Looks like he couldn’t find a pic-a-nic basket in time. “Perfectly preserved Ice Age cave bear found in Arctic Russia”.

Reindeer herders in a Russian Arctic archipelago have found an immaculately preserved carcass of an Ice Age cave bear, researchers said Monday.

The find, revealed by the melting permafrost, was discovered on the Lyakhovsky Islands with its teeth and even its nose intact. Previously scientists only had been able to discover the bones of cave bears that became extinct 15,000 years ago.

Scientists of the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, the premier center for research into woolly mammoths and other prehistoric species, hailed the find as groundbreaking.

In a statement issued by the university, researcher Lena Grigorieva emphasized that “this is the first and only find of its kind — a whole bear carcass with soft tissues.”

“It is completely preserved, with all internal organs in place, including even its nose,” Grigorieva said. “This find is of great importance for the whole world.”

A preliminary analysis indicated that the adult bear lived 22,000 to 39,500 years ago.

(19) PITCH MEETING. In “Twilight: New Moon Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the sequel to Twilight reveals that werewolves run around shirtless to save themselves from ripping off their shirts, but asking what happens to werewolf pants is too much information.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From 2014.

The Doctor and Clara have been called to the National Portrait Gallery to investigate some very strange paintings, but instead the Doctor runs into, well, himself.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, N., James Davis Nicoll, Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 8/28/20 Maslow’s Filerarchy Of Pixels

(1) GARCIAGATE GOFUNDME. Chris Garcia, Vanessa and the boys had to evacuate from their Northern California home because of the fires. So far their house has survived, but there’s no telling when they will be able to return. Til then, they’re in hotels. A GoFundMe appeal launched yesterday: “GarciaGatePenguins Fire Relief”  People have donated $5,780 of the $10,000 goal in less than 24 hours.

…Initially they believed their home is lost, but are holding out hope that their home and belongings aren’t destroyed. It may still be a long voyage in the clean up process, assuming the house is still standing. What may have been destroyed by smoke damage is also still an unknown. It has been an incredibly hard time and they are incurring many added expenses for temporary lodging and having to eat out. 

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman continues having the conversations he would have had in New Zealand had there been a flesh-and-blood CoNZealand. It’s time for tea and scones with Farah Mendlesohn on Episode 126 of Eating the Fantastic.

I’d previously made plans to chat and chew with three guests on the ground in Wellington, but since that proved impossible, I decided to go virtual, too, urged on by my Patreon supporters. And so, during my previous two episodes, you were able to eavesdrop as I dined with Lee Murray in New Zealand and Stephen Dedman in Australia. This time around, we’re off to Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England for tea and scones with Farah Mendlesohn.

Farah was a Hugo Award finalist this year in the category of Best Related Work for her book The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, and had previously been nominated in that category for The Inter-Galactic Playground: A Critical Study of Children’s and Teens’ Science Fiction, and On Joanna Russ. She won a Hugo (with Edward James) in 2005 for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, as well as a World Fantasy Award in 2017 for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction, which she wrote with Michael M. Levy.

She’s also edited anthologies, including Glorifying Terrorism, Manufacturing Contempt: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction, which she created to protest laws introduced by the British Government she saw as restricting free speech. She was the chair of the Science Fiction Foundation from 2004-2007, served as President of the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts from 2008-2011, and is currently an Associate Fellow of The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy.

We discussed the reasons Robert A. Heinlein resonated with her, how her early and current readings of Heinlein differ, why the science fiction of the ’30s was far more politically radical than that of the ’40s and ’50s, her deliberately controversial comment about Ursula K. Le Guin, the circumstances under which she’s more interested in the typical rather than the groundbreaking, that period during the ’20s when everyone was fascinated by glands, the one Heinlein book she wishes we’d go all back and reread, our joint distaste for fan policing, and much more.

(3) INTO THE UNKNOWN. Deadline introduces “‘His Dark Materials’ Teaser: First Look At Season 2 Of HBO/BBC Adaptation Of Philip Pullman’s Fantasy Epic”.

We’re getting the first look at the upcoming second season of His Dark Materials, HBO/BBC’s big-budget adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy epic.

The second season begins after Lord Asriel has opened a bridge to a new world, and, distraught over the death of her best friend, Lyra follows Asriel into the unknown. In a strange and mysterious abandoned city she meets Will, a boy from our world who is also running from a troubled past. Lyra and Will learn their destinies are tied to reuniting Will with his father but find their path is constantly thwarted as a war begins to brew around them. Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter searches for Lyra, determined to bring her home by any means necessary.

(4) ROWLING RETURNS AWARD. “J.K. Rowling Returns Kennedy Family Award Following Kerry Kennedy Remarks”Variety has the story.

Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has emerged into a fresh controversy after she returned the Ripple of Hope Award bestowed upon her by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization in December 2019, following criticism from Kerry Kennedy. Kerry is the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, and the president of the organization.

“Over the course of June 2020 — LGBTQ Pride Month — and much to my dismay, J.K. Rowling posted deeply troubling transphobic tweets and statements,” Kennedy posted on the organization’s website on Aug. 3. “On June 6, she tweeted an article headlined “Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.” She wrote glibly and dismissively about transgender identity: ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

Kennedy said she had spoken with Rowling “to express my profound disappointment that she has chosen to use her remarkable gifts to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and nonbinary people, undermining the validity and integrity of the entire transgender community — one that disproportionately suffers from violence, discrimination, harassment, and exclusion and, as a result, experiences high rates of suicide, suicide attempts, homelessness, and mental and bodily harm. Black trans women and trans youth in particular are targeted.”

On Thursday, Rowling responded with a statement posted to her website.

“Because of the very serious conflict of views between myself and RFKHR, I feel I have no option but to return the Ripple of Hope Award bestowed upon me last year,” said the author. “I am deeply saddened that RFKHR has felt compelled to adopt this stance, but no award or honor, no matter my admiration for the person for whom it was named, means so much to me that I would forfeit the right to follow the dictates of my own conscience.”

Rowling said Kennedy’s statement “incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people.”

(5) FAMILY FEUD. The Independent eavesdropped on David Tennant’s podcast and learned: “William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy rivalry sparked by fan letter jealousy, claims George Takei”.

While appearing on David Tennant’s celebrity interview podcast, David Tennant Does a Podcast With…, Sulu actor Takei alleged that the cast of the original Star Trek TV series all got along apart from Shatner, with Takei confirming that it often felt like “William Shatner versus the rest of the world”.

“It got more and more intense,” Takei recalled. “How do I put it? It began from the TV series. There was one character whose charisma and whose mystery was like a magnet.

“It was Spock, the strange alien with pointy ears. That intrigued the audience and women thought ‘I’m the one who can arouse him.’ His fan letters were this many, and Leonard’s were that many, and that created an insecurity [in Shatner].”

He continued: “Movie-making, TV-making, theatre-making is all about collaborative teamwork. A good actor knows that the scene works when there’s that dynamic going on with the cast. Some actors seem to feel that it’s a one-man show. That’s the source of some tensions.”

Shatner saw the article and lashed out —

Then, in an unrelated exchange on Twitter, Shatner downplayed Trek’s immediate benefits to his career.

(6) THE MARTIAN CANTICLES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 24 Financial Times, Ludovic Hunter-Tilney talks to progressive rocker Rick Wakeman about his new album, The Red Planet, He says he got the idea for the album about Mars by attending the Starmus International Festival of astronomy and music in Tenerife, Spain.

“Next year’s Starmus, due to be held in Armenia, marks the 50th anniversary of the first orbit of Mars by a space probe.  Wakeman will be among the musicians appearing.  He describes how the event’s founder, the astrophysicist Garek Israelian, updated him about the latest Martian findings.

‘He told me that it’s beginning to look like 20bn years ago Mars was a blue planet with oceans and rivers.  ‘Your good friend David Bowie may have been right,’ Wakeman recalls.  The rock musician–who played the piano part on Bowie’s celebrated ‘Life on Mars’ in 1971–went very quiet as the scientist spoke.  Inside, a light went on.  ‘Bingo!’ he said to himself/”

(7) THE TOON IS OUT THERE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Lower Decks must look like a success, since now X-Files seems to be jumping onto the animated spin-off bandwagon. But since this show is being done by the creators of Movie 43 (which currently earns a generous 5% on Rotten Tomatoes) I wouldn’t hold out much hope for the series being watchable. From Variety: “‘X-Files’ Animated Comedy Series in Development at Fox”.

An animated “X-Files” comedy series spinoff is in the works at FoxVariety has confirmed.

The project is currently titled “The X-Files: Albuquerque.” It has received a script and presentation commitment at the broadcaster. The show would revolve around an office full of misfit agents who investigate X-Files cases too wacky, ridiculous or downright dopey for Mulder and Scully to bother with. They’re basically the X-Files’ B-team.

“X-Files” creator Chris Carter is attached to executive produce the project, with Rocky Russo and Jeremy Sosenko attached to write and executive produce. Gabe Rotter, who worked on the “X-Files” revival at Fox, will also executive produce. 20th Television and Fox Entertainment will produce. Bento Box will provide animation. Neither Gillian Anderson or David Duchovny is involved with the project at this time.

(8) UP THE AMAZON. Publishers Lunch reports:

…In advance of Independent Bookstore Day on August 29, Powell’s Books announced that it will no longer sell rare and collectible books through Amazon Marketplace. Owner Emily Powell wrote in a message to customers, “For too long, we have watched the detrimental impact of Amazon’s business on our communities and the independent bookselling world…. The vitality of our neighbors and neighborhoods depends on the ability of local businesses to thrive. We will not participate in undermining that vitality.”

(9) TALKING ABOUT MY GENERATION. James Davis Nicoll tells about “Five Stories About Generation Ships That Don’t End in Disaster”. (Did I know there were any such stories? Couldn’t remember, but I guess I must, because I’ve read the first two he names.)

We’ve all read about it: after decades of construction, a shiny new generation ship is loaded with a crew of bright-eyed optimists. Once the sun is just another bright star in the sky, mutiny and civil war reduce the crew to ignorant peasants…unless something worse happens. This is a narrative pattern set as early as Murray Leinster’s 1935 “Proxima Centauri,” solidified by Heinlein’s 1941 “Universe,” and embraced by authors ever since: human foibles in the confined space of a generation ship ensure calamity. Ideally not of the sort that leave everyone too dead to be interesting.

But it does not have to go that way! Here are five examples of generation ships that managed to avoid mutiny, civil war, barbarism, and mass cannibalism.

(10) THE MAGIC OF LONDON BOOKSHOPS. Publishers Weekly conducted a “Q & A with Garth Nix” whose new book is The Left-Handed Booksellers of London.

Why did you choose to set the tale in 1983 London?

In part I chose to set the story in 1983 London because that was when I first saw it in person, visiting from Australia. I was there for about six months, off and on—even though I have returned to the U.K. many times since—so I have particularly concrete memories of that time. But I also wanted to make it a slightly alternate 1983, so the world of the book could be more diverse and have greater gender equality, and I could enjoy myself including and transforming various cultural references of the time.

The magic users in your book are booksellers rather than being specifically wizards, witches, magicians, etc. What’s the connection for you, between selling books and casting spells?

I think bookshops have always been rather magical, so by extension, the people who work in them are too! There is also something magical about making the connection between a book and a reader. I always had tremendous satisfaction in match-making a customer with a book they didn’t know they wanted, but would later come back in to rave about and buy everything the author had written.

In Merlin and the booksellers generally, you’ve created a group of characters who are magically gender-fluid. Why was it important for you to include this facet of the characters?

I think this is similar to my writing about places I wish really existed, that I could visit. While it isn’t easy for the booksellers to physically become the gender they feel they are, it is far easier than it is in this world. I think it would be good to be, as Merlin says, “somewhat shape-shiftery.”

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 28, 1956 X Minus One’s “Surface Tension.” Based off the short story of the same name by the Hugo Award winning James Blish that was first published in the August 1952 edition of Galaxy Science Fiction,  it first aired on this date in 1956. A Cold War tale in which The East and The West knowing the sun will soon explode meet to decide how to save  the human race. Can this end well? The story was adapted as usual by George Lefferts. The rather extensive radio cast was   Luis Van Rooten, Danny Auchal, Lawson Zerbe, Larry Haines, Mason Adams, Jim Stevens and Bob Hastings. You can listen to it here.         

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 28, 1749 – Johann von Goethe.  Two-part play Faust big in the history of fantasy; four shorter stories, a dozen poems, also ours; other plays, poems, novels; criticism; science, particularly anatomy, botany, color; three thousand drawings.  Inspired Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Gounod.  On the cusp leaving the balance of Classicism for the passion of Romanticism.  (Died 1832) [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1833 – Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bt.  Painter, illustrator, designer.  “I mean by a picture a beautiful, romantic dream of something that never was, never will be – in a light better than any light that ever shone – in a land no one can define or remember, only desire – and the forms divinely beautiful”.  Here is The Beguiling of Merlin.  Here is Angeli laudantes (Latin, “Angels praising”; tapestry).  Here is The Golden Stairs.  Here is The Wheel of Fortune.  Here is a study for The Masque of Cupid (Desiderium is Latin, “desire”).  His accepting a baronetcy disgusted his socialist wife and friends.  (Died 1898) [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1896 Morris Ankrum. Numerous appearances in the Fifties — in Rocketship X-M as Dr. Ralph Fleming, as a Martian leader in Flight to Mars, in Red Planet Mars playing the United States Secretary of Defense, in Invaders From Mars playing a United States Army general, and as yet another Army general in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. (Died 1964.) (CE)
  • Born August 28, 1916 – Jack Vance.  Forty novels – these are round numbers; I think The Dying Earth is a novel, and I think it’s science fiction.  Sixty shorter stories.  Memoir This Is Me, Jack Vance (or more properly “This is I”).  Interviewed in AberrationsLighthouseLocusOrbit (Dutch, hello Kees van Toorn), SF ReviewStarShipSofa.  Mystery novels too (Edgar for The Man in the Cage), unless they all are.  Three Hugos, a Nebula; Prix Utopia; Forry (for service to SF; Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.); Jupiter; Emperor Norton Award (for extraordinary invention and creativity); Seiun; World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1917 Jack Kirby. Responsible for a goodly part of modern comics from Captain America and the X-Men to Challengers of the Unknown and the New Gods. I’m very much looking forward to the New Gods film being worked on, now delayed by the Pandemic. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born August 28, 1925 – Arkady Strugatsky.  A score of novels, fifty shorter stories, with his brother Boris; also translated English (with B) and Japanese.  Roadside Picnic is much applauded; I recommend Hard to Be a God.  Interviewed in Fiction (French), FoundationLocusPolaris (German), Urania (Italian), Yellow Submarine (French).  Together Guests of Honour at Conspiracy ’87 (45th Worldcon).  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1948 Vonda McIntyre. I’ve read a number of her works including Dreamsnake and The Moon and the Sun which are all phenomenal. The latter was based on a short stor of hers done as a faux encyclopaedia article “The Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea”, that was illustrated by Le Guin. Way cool. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born August 28, 1951 – Barbara Hambly, 69.  Forty novels, two dozen shorter stories.  Interviewed in Andromeda SpacewaysLocus.  Forry Award.  Two Lord Ruthven Awards.  Children of the Jedi NY Times Best Seller.  Served a term as SFWA President.  Black Belt in karate (shôtôkan).  Outside our field, notably historical fiction (free man of color Benjamin January, nineteen detective novels in antebellum New Orleans; The Emancipator’s WifeSearch the Seven Hills; several others).  Peter Nicholls calls her writing vigorous, interesting, and alert.  [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1954 – Diane Turnshek, 66.  Astronomer; teaches at Carnegie Mellon Univ. and Univ. Pittsburgh.  Four short stories and a Probability Zero.  SFWA Speakers’ Bureau.  Dark Sky Defender Award from Int’l Dark Sky Ass’n.  Ranks Flatland about the same as The Taming of the Shrew.  [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1964 – Traci Harding, 56.  A score of novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Her publisher (HarperCollins/Voyager Australia) says she blends fantasy, fact, esoteric theory, time travel, and quantum physics; sold half a million books in Australia alone.  Worked in film studio management before starting to write novels.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1965 Amanda Tapping, 55. She’s best known for portraying Samantha Carter on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. She also starred as Helen Magnus on Sanctuary which I never managed to see. Anyone seen it? She was in The Void which also starred Adrian Paul and Malcolm McDowell. (CE)
  • Born August 28, 1978 Rachel Kimsey, 42. She voices Wonder Woman on Justice League Action, yet another series that proves animation, not live, is the DC film strong point. Here’s a clip of her voice work from that show. She was Zoe, the old imaginary friend of Frances, on Don’t Look Under The Bed, a supposedly horror that ran on Disney. Disney, horror? And she was a zombie in the “Don’t Let Her Pull You Down” musical video by New Found Glory. (CE) 
  • Born August 28, 1978 Kelly Overton, 42. She has the lead role of Vanessa Van Helsing in Van Helsing, a Syfy series based off of Zenescope Entertainment’s Helsing graphic novel series. She‘s been on True Blood as the werewolf Rikki Naylor, and then there’s The Collective, a  horror film written, directed, and produced by her and her husband, Judson Pearce Morgan. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTON.

(14) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. LitHub introduces a NewberyTart podcast episode: “What We’ve Come to Expect From Heroines in Science Fiction”. (The podcast link is embedded at the post.)

Each week on NewberyTart, Jennie and Marcy, two book-loving mamas (and a librarian and a bookseller, respectively), read and drink their way through the entire catalogue of Newbery books, and interview authors and illustrators along the way.

On today’s episode, Jennie and Marcy talk about the finalist of the 1971 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature, Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl.

Marcy: Since I started reading what I consider to be better science fiction, the tone of the book leaves me thinking it could be a little better, even if it might not necessarily be true, but it just falls in that category. Does it make sense the association?

Jennie: I think that we’re both talking about prejudices we have when it comes to books as we approach them and what we enjoy versus what we have been exposed to in the past. I think that makes total sense. I’m just like, Elana should be with a knife in her teeth and she should be hanging from the rafters.

Marcy: You want her to be Zoe from Firefly.

Jennie: I was thinking more Ripley.

This is a really great discussion about what we’ve come to expect from heroines in sci-fi!

Marcy: Which is ironic because this is probably one of the building blocks that got us to where we are to the ones that we wanted.

Jennie: I think it’s really good that we take some time and look at this and hopefully bring it to some new new readers.

Marcy: I have nothing but gratitude for the innovators who gave us any main characters, much less ones who rebelled in even any small ways and accomplished things and were characters who had agency. In this case, literally, even if they make bad choices sometimes, which people do. It’s still totally necessary to get us to where we are now, where we have so many choices and so many great female characters. We wouldn’t be here without those.

(15) ALL A LOAN.  I Love Libraries investigated “What It’s Like to Be a Library Cat During the Pandemic”.

Libraries have long been home to feline residents who keep patrons company, promote activities and programs, and assist with pest control. We checked in on four library cats (and their humans) to see how their lifestyles have changed during the pandemic.

Browser from Texas’s White Settlement Public Library may be one of the nation’s most famous library cats. In a viral story from 2016, a city council member tried to oust Browser from his position at the library; after a public outcry, Browser was reinstated for life while his political opponent lost his reelection campaign.

Browser has stuck around the library during the pandemic closure but seems to be missing the crowds.

“He is generally quite independent, but since the closure he always wants to be near people. We can usually find him in the lap of a staff member, or lying helpfully on their keyboard,” library staffer Kathryn King told I Love Libraries. “Now that we are offering curbside service, he posts himself at the window during curbside hours to watch the patrons come and go.”…

(16) FREE IS NOT ENOUGH. In “The Public Domain Will Not Make You Popular”, John Scalzi disputes an SFFAudio tweet that essentially claims Heinlein would be more widely read if his work was available free.

…What is true is that Heinlein is probably less generally relevant to newer science fiction readers and writers than he was to new SF readers and writers in earlier eras. I have essayed this at length before and therefore won’t go into it again now. I will say, however, that Heinlein’s work and the work of many of his contemporaries are at an awkward age: enough decades after publication that the underlying cultural assumptions of the work and the author are no longer consonant with contemporary times, but not enough decades out that the work can be comfortably be considered a “period piece,” which means that consonance is no longer expected.

In other words: a lot of “Golden Age of Science Fiction” work currently lies in a sort of cultural uncanny valley, existing in a simultaneous state of being too distant from contemporary readers, and also not nearly distant enough. That’s not Heinlein’s fault, precisely; it’s a matter of time and culture. It’s going to happen to most creative work — well, most work that’s remembered at all.

SFFAudio’s thread starts here. They also say:

(17) BRADBURY’S CRIME. Time travelers…dark carnivals…living automata…and detectives? Hard Case Crime is celebrating Ray Bradbury’s centennial, with a deluxe illustrated commemorative collection of his finest crime stories: Killer, Come Back To Me.

Honoring the 100th birthday of Ray Bradbury, renowned author of Fahrenheit 451, this new, definitive collection of the master’s less well-known crime fiction, published in a high-grade premium collectible edition, features classic stories and rare gems, a number of which became episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Ray Bradbury Theater, including the tale Bradbury called “one of the best stories in any field that I have ever written.” 

Is it murder to destroy a robot if it looks and speaks and thinks and feels like a human being? Can a ventriloquist be incriminated by the testimony of his own dummy? Can a time traveler prevent his younger self from killing the woman they both loved? And can the survivor of a pair of Siamese twins investigate his own brother’s murder? No other writer has ever rivaled the imagination and narrative gifts of Ray Bradbury, and the 20 unforgettable stories in this collection demonstrate this singular writer’s extraordinary range, influence and emotional power.

(18) HOLE NEW IDEA. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Universe Today brings to our attention a new theory that would allow human-transmissible wormholes. There are, however, just a feeeew caveats. For instance, though the trip would be almost instantaneous for the passengers, an outside perspective would see the trip take longer than light would take to travel the same distance. Oh, and there’s the bit where the engineering would be many, many orders of magnitude greater than anything humans are currently capable of. And the thing where the effect depends on whether a particular 5-dimensional model of the universe correctly describes it or not. “One Theory Beyond the Standard Model Could Allow Wormholes that You Could Actually Fly Through”.

The study, titled “Humanly traversable wormholes,” was conducted by Juan Maldacena (the Carl P. Feinberg Professor of theoretical physics from the Institute of Advanced Study) and Alexey Milekhin, a graduate of astrophysics student at Princeton University. The pair have written extensively on the subject of wormholes in the past and how they could be a means for traveling safely through space.

(19) JDA’S SELF-ASSESSMENT. Jon Del Arroz told readers of his blog how he’s “Making Science Fiction Greater” [Internet Archive].

…The fireworks underlined the light in the darkness, the path forward, the bombs bursting in air, and made me reflect on our journey here for our movement to push this great American culture in a healthy and wondrous direction through science fiction and comics.

God’s blessed me with talents beyond most of the field in science fiction, fantasy, and comics, and on top of it, a clear vision of what needs to be done with the work not only to produce greatness for my own edification, but to do glory to His name and bring a return to hope, heroism, and the exceptionalism of mankind to fiction and culture.

It’s been missing for a long time, and the trials and tribulations, the struggles, the blacklisting, the bannings, they all were trials given to me to push me to outwork and out-innovate the competition, which is the true American way of winning.

(20) SONG DYNASTY CAT TWEETS. You wouldn’t want to miss this. Thread starts here.

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