Pixel Scroll 12/2/21 Of All The Pixels In The World, She Scrolls In To Mine

(1) OMICRON AT ANIME NYC 2021. The New York Times reports “Hochul Urges Anime NYC Conference Attendees to Get Tested Due to Omicron”.

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said on Thursday that everyone who attended a recent anime convention in Manhattan should get tested for the coronavirus, after it was announced that an individual who tested positive for the Omicron variant in Minnesota had attended to the conference.

Ms. Hochul said the individual, a Minnesota resident who was vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms, had attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center in Midtown Manhattan. She urged people who attended the event, which was held from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, to get tested and said that health officials would be in contact with attendees. The convention hosted 53,000 attendees over three days, according to a spokesman for the Javits Center….

The Mayor of New York City also put out a statement:

(2) VARLEY MEDICAL UPDATE. In “The Two Johns”, John Varley tells why he’s home from his third stay in the hospital this year. Much as he works to lighten it up, this is serious, plus some touching moments about his last roommate. The digest version about his health is in this excerpt of the last three paragraphs:

…So I’m back home now. My final diagnosis, like a slap on the butt as I went out the door, was C.O.P.D. (That’s #5.) It stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. My guess is that it has something to do (ya think?) with over fifty years of a pack-and-a-half per day smoking habit, only recently terminated. Used to be, it was easy to find me at SF conventions. Just look for the very tall guy whose head was obscured by the smoke that encircled his head like a wreath. That was in the early days. More recently I could usually be found outside the hotel, huddled against the rain, the cold, and the howling gale with a couple other hopeless addicts.

I was sent home with a couple bottles of oxygen and an oxygen concentrator, but it’s possible I won’t need them after a while. Lee and I were enrolled in classes at something called the Transitional Care Clinic, TCC, a really smart and nice service of the Clinic where you record all your vital signs and come in weekly for consultation. I hate trailing the coiled tubing for the O2 all around the house, but so be it. I am able to do most things I always did, and get around in the car. I still tire quickly, but I don’t pant like an overheated hound dog.

Thanks again to all who sent money after my heart attack at the beginning of the year. I can’t tell you how much those dollars have helped take a heavy load off both our minds….

(3) MOBY WORM. Michael Dirda, well-known Washington Post critic who started there writing sf book reviews, has written an introduction to the new Folio Society edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune. An excerpt appears at Literary Hub: “What Accounts for the Lasting Appeal of Dune?”

… Even now, half a century since it first appeared in 1965, Dune is certainly still “the one”—it continues to top readers’ polls as the greatest science-fiction novel of modern times. Many would say of all time. Before Star Wars, before A Game of Thrones, Frank Herbert brought to blazing life a feudalistic future of relentless political intrigue and insidious treachery, a grandly operatic vision—half Wagner, half spaghetti western—of a hero discovering his destiny. Characters include elite samurai-like warriors, sadistically decadent aristocrats, mystical revolutionaries, and, not least, those monster worms, which barrel along under the desert surface with the speed of a freight train, then suddenly emerge from the sand like Moby Dick rising from the depths….

(4) MISSING A FEW THINGS. A.V. Club’s M.L. Kejera’s “Comics review: The History Of Science Fiction is bad history” contends “This reprehensible graphic novel could have been so much more, but instead spends time covering up history, not unpacking it.”

… Presented with an index and a list of principal art sources, the book is clearly attempting to be of some academic or referential use, on top of its wider appeal. But the English translation of Histoire De La Science Fiction fails utterly as a proper historic work—and worse, ends up functioning as weak hagiography.

… For example, though objects and ideas from Japanese sci-fi litter the futuristic museum, no Japanese author is given anywhere near the depth as writers from the aforementioned countries. Considering that one of the primary sources for this book is able to be precise about its purview (La Science-Fiction En France Dans Les Années 50, or Science Fiction In France In The ’50s), it’s a baffling decision on the part of everyone involved here to not specify this—especially while calling itself history.

Additionally, there is an ugly tendency in the book to gloss over the more reprehensible aspects of the writers featured….

(5) CLARK DEPARTS. SFWA bid “A Farewell to SFWA Blog Editor C.L. Clark”.

As of November 30, our blog editor, C.L. Clark (Cherae) has stepped down from her role for personal reasons. Clark joined SFWA’s staff in the summer of 2020. Her editorial perspective has brought many new voices to the blog over the past year, voices with a lot of insightful and fresh perspectives on the publishing industry today and the craft of science fiction and fantasy writing in the many mediums in which our members work. She’s also provided essential assistance with the release of The Bulletin #216 and our other SFWA Publications projects…. 

(6) SLF WANTS ART. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put out a “Call for Artists 2022” seeking a piece of original artwork, ideally combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustration of the Year or Artwork) for 2022.  Full guidelines at the link.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats. The winning artist will receive $750.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s first open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fifth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

(7) HOST CITY WANTED FOR 2023 WESTERCON. Kevin Standlee posted an announcement at the Westercon.org website: “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2023 Westercon”.

Because no groups filed to host Westercon 75, selection of the site of the 2023 Westercon devolved upon the 2021 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 73 (in conjunction with Loscon 47) in Los Angeles on November 27, 2021. The Business Meeting voted to appoint Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Westercon 74 Head of Hospitality Lisa Hayes as a committee to select a site and committee to run Westercon 75. Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75.

To submit a bid to the “Standlee-Hayes Commission” to host Westercon 75, write to Kevin Standlee at chair@Westercon74.org, or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee.

The initial deadline for applications is January 31, 2022.

(8) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Rosemary Claire Smith encourages writers to do what they want to anyway: “Reasons to Publicize Your Award-Eligible Works” at the SFWA Blog. Here’s the second of four points:

2. Award Eligibility Posts Are for All Writers, Not Only the Big Names.

Don’t believe me? Consider how many writers won a Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy Award or another prestigious literary prize with the first story or novel they ever got into print. Think about the “newcomers” awards such as the Astounding Award for Best New Writer given to someone whose first professional work was published during the two previous calendar years. It’s been a springboard launching a number of careers. Also, keep in mind that your audience may nominate and/or vote on readers’ choice awards given by Analog, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and other periodicals. 

By now, some of you are saying to yourselves, “Why bother when I’ll never win an award…or even be nominated. Or if I am, it’ll be as a list filler.” Others are thinking, “I only published one story. It came out in an obscure publication.” Then there’s, “My novel didn’t sell all that well,” not to mention the perennial, “The reviewers don’t know my book exists.” Are you thinking about waiting until…what? You’re better known? You sell more copies? You get published in a top market? Your sales figures improve or your social-media following grows? Your work attracts a glowing review? 

To every one of your objections, the answer is the same: Your fiction merits more attention right now. Even in better times, writing is a difficult enough business without running ourselves down. As writers, we are notoriously NOT the best judge of our own work. We’re too close to it. Sometimes words flow quickly and effortlessly. Other pieces fight us for every sentence we succeed in wringing out of them. Critical and popular acclaim aren’t tethered to the ease or difficulty of creation. Besides, our assessment of particular pieces may evolve as we gain the advantages of time and distance. In short, you never know how a story will fare….

(9) A TOP SFF BOOK COMES TO TV. Station Eleven will air starting December 24 on HBO Max.

A limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s international bestseller, #StationEleven is a post-apocalyptic saga that follows survivors of a devastating flu as they attempt to rebuild and reimagine the world anew while holding on to the best of what’s been lost.

(10) GAIMAN ON TOUR. Neil Gaiman will be visiting many cities in the U.S. in April and May next year – see the schedule on Facebook.

(11) OSBORN OBIT. [Item by Bill.] I am saddened to pass on that Darrell Osborn has died of heart issues. He’s the husband of Stephanie Osborn. They’ve made a number of appearances at SF cons in the Southeast, with Stephanie as a writer and Darrell doing magic and balloon animals. Darrell’s day job was as a graphic designer for an aerospace contractor, and he did cover art for SF books.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

1996 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age wins the Hugo for Best Novel at L.A. Con III where Connie Willis was Toastmaster. The other nominated works that year were The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter, Brightness Reef by David Brin, The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer and Remake by Connie Willis. The Diamond Age would be nominated for Nebula, Campbell Memorial, SF Chronicle, Clarke, Locus, Prometheus, BSFA and HOMer Awards, winning the SF Chronicle and Locus Awards. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. He wrote a lot of SFF novels, none of which I recognize from the ISFDB listings. A lot of his genre novels are available from the usual suspects for very reasonable prices. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best remembered, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleSix Million Dollar ManGalaxy of TerrorAmazing Stories, PopeyeFriday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.  He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 84. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 75. British-born American illustrator and writer who is at least genre adjacent I’d say. (Motel of the Mysteries is genre.) Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and I really like one of latest works, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writers such as Mercedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man some twenty years ago: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 69. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. She too loves dark chocolate. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1952 Keith Szarabajka, 69. Quite a few genre roles including Daniel Holtz in the Angel series, voicing the demon Trigon in the Teen Titans series, Gerard Stephens in The Dark Knight and a recurring role as Donatello Redfield on Supernatural. That’s just a small sample of his genre roles down the decades. 
  • Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 50. Writer and illustrator, best remembered as creator of the most excellent Liberty Meadows series as well as work on HulkMighty Avengers and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. I recommend the Frank Cho Art Book from Delcourt as being a superb look at his work. It’s available from the usual suspects. In French only for some reason. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full’s joke really has nothing to do with Tom Baker. Honestly.

(15) BEEBO, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A.V. Club declares, “Beebo Saves Christmas is one of the oddest holiday specials ever”.

You don’t (apparently) have to have been watching the WB/”Arrowverse” series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow; indeed, it’s not clear that will help or otherwise make any difference. Beebo is a small furry toy that’s appeared as a character in several LofT episodes, ranging from as a mild joke to a malevolent something-or-other.

… For those who aren’t invested in Arrowverse lore, Beebo Saves Christmas was spun out of a running joke on DC’s Legends Of Tomorrowthe show about loser superheroes traveling through time and trying to save the day without making anything worse. In one episode—arguably the show’s best—a talking Tickle Me Elmo-style toy called Beebo is sent back in time and ends up in the possession of Leif Erikson and a group of Vikings who worship the talking toy as their new god of war….

If you can find it. On the CW, it apparently aired last night, “with an encore presentation airing on December 21, 2021.”  JustWatch.com doesn’t have this in its database. This Decider article has some other how-to-watch-it suggestions: “What time is ‘Beebo Saves Christmas’ on The CW?”

I’m thinking that an hour might be overmuch, but there’s only one way to find out…

(16) LAUREL & HARDY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this 2017 podcast Leonard Maltin did with Mark Evanier on Laurel and Hardy (Maltin on Movies: Mark Evanier.)  As kids, both of them watched Laurel and Hardy two-reelers after school and when John McCabe’s Mr Laurel And Mr Hardy came out in 1961 both checked out copies from the adult section of the library.  Because the Los Angeles public library didn’t have a copy, Evanier persuaded his aunt to get the Beverly Hills library’s copy.

Both men are really knowledgeable on silent film history, and if you know enough to argue about whether Snub Pollard was funnier than Charley Chase, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.  But their points are simple ones: all of Laurel and Hardy is worth watching except for the last five years of their careers, and it’s best to see them in a theatre or with friends because the laughter produced by a group adds to the joy these great comedians provided.

Fun facts: The stairs used in the 1932 short The Music Box still exist, and you can visit them in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles.  Two Oscar-winning directors: Leo McCarey (as director) and George Stevens (as cinematographer) got their start on Laurel and Hardy shorts.

I thought this was a fun hour.

(17) THREE’S A CHARM. The first two were cursed. “BABYLON 5 The Geometry of Shadows commentary/reaction by Straczynski Third Version”. Why was this the third version? Straczynski spends the opening minutes explaining the problems that trashed the first two attempts:

…I’m recording the commentary for the Geometry of Shadows for the third time. The first time turned out that the new lavalier i was using wasn’t exactly hooked up right and did the entire recording sounding like Marvin the Martian — if Marvin the Martian were a raging drunk. Same applies to the Sense-8 commentary I did the same night. The second time I did it to redo the technology of the first one everything went fine. The sensitive microphone picked up all the sound in the room which was great, until I found out that it also picked up enough of the dialogue from the screen that it showed up on the recording and Youtube, when it did its search, said you cannot use this, Warner Brothers television has a claim on this, you can’t use it, you can’t post it. From 26 minutes to 42 minutes we can hear it. This is now my third run at this. I am beyond annoyed. I’m so – I wore a B5 cap from the pilot. I had a whole story about this. Screw it. I’m not telling you what it was because i don’t care anymore…

(Is this what really happened to the first four Babylons?)

(18) NOT SF. AT ALL. But if you read the Jack Reacher books you might want to see this trailer for Amazon Prime’s Reacher series. If it’s important to you that the new actor be taller than Tom Cruise, they have that covered. However, the trailer makes this Reacher look a bit of a showoff and dipshit, which isn’t his psychology in the books.  

(19) LIKE A DOG WITH A BONE. Can’t let go of it. But why couldn’t his passion project turn out great? Maybe someday. “Guillermo del Toro Wants to Make a ‘Weirder, Smaller’ Version of ‘At the Mountains of Madness,’ Possibly at Netflix” at Yahoo!

Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has long held that his passion project is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” and while he still hopes the opportunity arises to make the film, he now has a different version in mind than the one he nearly got off the ground a decade ago.

Appearing on the Stephen King-centric podcast The Kingcast to discuss “It,” del Toro was asked about the multiyear deal he signed with Netflix in 2020 and whether he might finally make “At the Mountains of Madness” at the streamer. “Take a wild guess which were the first projects I presented, you know?” del Toro replied. “I went through the cupboard and found ‘Monte Cristo’ and ‘Mountains of Madness.’ Those were a couple of the ones I presented first.”

(20) NEUTRON BEAMS, FAITH AND MAGIC.  In today’s Nature: “Neutron Beam Peers Into Medieval Faith And Superstition”.

A Norwegian amulet more than 700 years old has been hiding a runic inscription that holds religious and magic significance.

When archaeologists found the rectangular metal object during an excavation in Oslo’s medieval town in 2018, they saw that it was covered with runes and folded several times. Hartmut Kutzke at the city’s Museum of Cultural History and his colleagues wanted to study what was inscribed inside, but they feared that manually opening the talisman, known as the Bispegata amulet, would damage it. Because it is made out of lead — a heavy metal that blocks most X-rays — using X-ray tomography to make the hidden runes visible would not work either. Instead, the researchers used a neutron beam to peek inside the amulet and create a detailed reconstruction of it.

They found that some of the runes spell out Latin and Greek phrases, whereas others signify repetitive sequences of seemingly meaningless words. Some of the comprehensible phrases might carry religious meaning, whereas the abstruse abracadabra was probably thought to have a magic effect, the researchers say.

(21) IT’S A YOUNG MOON AFTER ALL. From “Robotic sample return reveals lunar secrets” in today’s Nature:

A mission to unexplored lunar territory has returned the youngest volcanic samples collected so far. The rocks highlight the need to make revisions to models of the thermal evolution of the Moon.

The wait is over for more news from the Moon1. Three studies in this issue, by https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04119-5.pdf  Tian et al.   https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04107-9.pdf   Hu et al. and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04100-2.pdf ;Li et al., together with one in Science by Che et al. report data on the lunar samples brought back by China’s robotic Chang’e-5 mission — the first to return samples since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. These data shed light on volcanic eruptions that occurred more than one billion years more recently than those known about previously, and provide information on the cause of the volcanism that cannot be obtained from orbit. The results raise questions about the structure and thermal evolution of the lunar interior, and could help to improve methods for estimating the age of planetary surfaces throughout the inner Solar System.

In December 2020, the Chang’e-5 lander set down in the Rümker region near the northwest corner of Oceanus Procellarum on the side of the Moon closest to Earth (Fig. 1). Like the sites visited by Luna and by NASA’s Apollo missions, the Rümker region consists predominantly of a magnesium-rich volcanic rock known as basalt, but the difference from previous missions is that the Rümker basalts are potentially as young as 1.2 billion to 2.3 billion years old, which makes the Chang’e-5 samples the youngest taken from the Moon so far.

(22) NERD ART. “’Selfie with Godzilla’?! Artist Fuses Reality and Science Fiction in Multimedia Gallery Show” — some entertaining images in Houston City Book.

…Houston artist Neva Mikulicz, a self-described “nerd” with an alter ego named Commodore Mik, who once ordered Kirk to the Star Fleet Fat Farm so she could board and evaluate the condition of the Starship Enterprise, smartly and humorously blurs that line between science and science fiction in her new exhibit, Declassified, a collection of beautifully realized Prismacolor pencil on paper drawings, complemented by archival videos and LED and sound module technology. The show opens Saturday at Anya Tish Gallery.

UFOs, robots, and monsters both prehistoric and imagined are recurring subjects in Mikulicz’s artwork, which radiates with a 1950s “vintage-y” vibe, the decade when the automobile, rock’n’roll and television took hold of the country’s collective imagination.

But Declassified is no nostalgia trip. Some drawings mirror the look of our world as it is photographed and disseminated by handheld consumer gizmos, while other works are composed like panels in a graphic novel, a medium that many contemporary fine artists find inspiring. One features a T-Rex chasing an iconic orange-and-white-striped Whataburger cup; another is titled “Selfie with Godzilla.” Mikulicz also created a comic book to accompany the exhibition….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  No Time To Die,” the Screen Junkies say the film shows that Bond has gone beyond silliness (remember Roger Moore driving a gondola?) to be a movie “about a divorced dad who wonders what to feed a French kid for breakfast.” Also, why should characters care who is 007, since that’s basically “an employee ID number?”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rob Thornton, Bill, Michael J. Walsh, Kevin Standlee, David K.M. Klaus, Will R., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 10/28/21 Benny And The Gesserits

(1) WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS. Exciting opportunity for those communicating about space to be recognized by the European Space Agency, with categories for video, artwork, storytelling, public speaking, and education. How many fans do we know who fall into these categories! “‘ESA Champions’ award initiative launched”. Check out the link for more info, and use #ESAchampion when sharing eligible projects on social media. Full details at the link.

Whether you are hosting a YouTube channel about space or volunteering to speak at your local school, we want to recognise and reward your passion and advocacy for space.

Our new ESA Champions initiative will honour outstanding contributions to communicating about space in Europe with unique awards and give you the chance to become part of an exclusive network of space enthusiasts, as well as win some awesome prizes.

We’ll be monitoring social media over the next few months for creative representations of your passion for space in Europe, in particular on TwitterInstagramFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.

If you’re an artist who paints or draws space-themed pieces, a writer who publishes short stories about space or a vlogger who posts videos, now is your chance to be recognised….

(2) DOCTOR WHO ACTORS IN THE SPOTLIGHT. Mandip Gil tells Radio Times what it feels like to be a companion on the way out.“Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who return is a ‘relief’ says star”.

…“When I started, I didn’t realise how significant it was taking over from other people, but now it’s happening to me,” she tells RT. “You’re not part of it, in that you don’t know what’s happening. Who are the companions? What are they going to do?

“I’m going to watch it, be nosey and think, ‘How’s it different to ours?’”…

But Jodie Whittaker confessed to Radio Times she was tempted not to go after all: “Jodie Whittaker considered going back on her Doctor Who exit plan”.

Speaking exclusively to Radio Times magazine, Whittaker said: “Chris [Chibnall] and I always said we were going to do three series together, but then when you get to it, it’s a very different thing.

“Sometimes it was like… ‘Are we sticking to this decision?’ There’s part of me that could absolutely say, ‘No, let’s keep going! Let’s go back on it!’ But to give the fans the level that they deserve, there has to be some sacrifice. You have to know when you’ve done it.”

Meanwhile their final season is about to air. Radio Times fished for possible surprises: “Doctor Who Thasmin in series 13 – do the Doctor and Yaz get together?”

…However, Gill also cautioned that fans don’t buy a hat for Yaz and the Doctor’s wedding just yet, noting that the duo’s closeness doesn’t necessarily mean they’d become involved romantically.

“At the same time, it could also head down the route of like it being platonic, because two people are allowed to travel together and not have that relationship,” she said.

“People have asked about it, people have wanted it. Me and Jodes have a lovely relationship as people, as actors, and our characters have a really, really nice relationship. And I think it’s been written very naturally.”…

(3) JMS FAQ. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers today:

I’m getting a lot of nearly identical questions on various forums — here, Twitter, elsewhere — so to avoid redundancy, or repeating myself, or saying the same thing more than once in a way that doesn’t exactly sound like a repetition but serves the same purpose, I’ve created a Frequently Asked Questions file to address the issue.

Here’s the link: “JMS POSTING FAQ” from J. Michael Straczynski on Patreon. A few examples:

17) WHAT IS THE NEW BABYLON 5 PILOT/STORY ABOUT? WHAT CHARACTERS ARE IN IT? WHERE IS IT SET? All of that is classified, I can’t publicly discuss any of it. So there’s no point in asking anything about the story for the new pilot, because I can’t tell you.  But patrons here will be the first to get the details as they emerge, long before it reaches the rest of the world.

18) WHY DID YOU HAVE GWEN STACY AND NORMAN OSBORN HAVE KIDS? They were going to be Peter’s kids but Marvel thought Norman was a swell idea and would avoid making Peter seem old. I didn’t know any better. I was an idiot. Here, rub some salt in my wounds….

19) CAN I SUGGEST ACTORS FOR THE NEW SHOW? Technically yes (provided those suggestions don’t come with character names), but really, if you don’t know for sure who the characters are going to be, how can you suggest a suitable actor? Riddle me that, Batman!

(4) NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET. Michael Dirda anoints Ambrose Bierce as “One of America’s Best” in The New York Review of Books.

Ambrose Bierce (1842–1913) is arguably the finest not-quite-first-rate writer in nineteenth-century American literature. Civil War veteran, contrarian journalist, master of the short story, muckraker, epigrammatist, and versifier, he is today most widely known for that word hoard of cynical definitions, The Devil’s Dictionary, and for a handful of shockingly cruel stories about the Civil War.

In those dozen or so “tales of soldiers,” gathered in the collection eventually titled In the Midst of Life (1892, augmented in 1898 and 1909), a brother shoots his brother, a sniper is compelled to kill his father, and a cannoneer obeys the order to destroy his own house, where his wife and child await his return from battle. The best known of these contes cruels, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” has been called—by Kurt Vonnegut, himself a kinder, gentler Bierce—the greatest short story in American literature. Surely, no first-time reader ever forgets the shock of its final sentences….

(5) SANDCASTLES IN THE AIR. John Scalzi registers his take on the epic film: “Dune: A Review” at Whatever.

…To bring Villeneuve himself back into it, it’s fair to say that he is a very fine match for the material. To begin, Villeneuve’s visual aesthetic, and its tendency to frame people as tiny elements in a much larger composition, is right at home with the Dune source material, in which legions of Fremen and Sardaukar and Harkonnens stab at each other, and 400-meter sandworms tunnel through the dunes of Arrakis. To continue, anyone who has seen Villeneuve’s filmography is well aware he is a very very very serious dude; there’s not a rom-com anywhere in his history. Dune’s single attempt at a joke is done and over in the first 20 minutes the film, almost before it even registers. One can argue whether or not Frank Herbert’s prose and story styling in Dune is exhaustingly and pretentiously serious or not, but it is what it is. Given what it is, it needs a director whose own style matches. That’s Villeneuve. I don’t care to see Villeneuve’s take on, say, Galaxy Quest. But Dune? Yup, that’s a match….

(6) 100% ACCURATE PREDICTION. Here’s Ursula Vernon’s reaction. Thread starts here. A few highlights:

HORROR THIS YEAR. Raquel S. Benedict, David Jesudason and Rich Johnson appeared on Connecticut NPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show where the host led a discussion about why horror, as a genre, is particularly resistant to Disneyfication and other topics covered were the current renaissance in Black horror cinema and An American Werewolf in London“Not Necessarily The Nose: The year in horror, 2021”.

This year: Could it be that the one genre with a certain amount of immunity from the Disneyfication, the cinematic universeification of everything… is horror?

And: There’s an ongoing renaissance in Black horror dating back to Jordan Peele’s Get Out in 2017. This year’s best example is probably Nia DaCosta’s Candyman reboot/remake/sequel (co-written by DaCosta and Peele). But horror’s creeping (you see what I did there) reckoning with racism is having its share of ups and downs, too.

And finally: We have a largely arbitrary tradition of spending a chunk of this show on a horror classic that’s celebrating, specifically, its 40th anniversary. Previously, it’s been HalloweenAlienThe Shining. This year: An American Werewolf in London.

(8) AND AT THE NEXT TABLE. CrimeReads’ Molly Odintz convenes a symposium with horror writers, including Alma Katsu, Stephen Graham Jones, and Grady Hendrix. “Horror Fiction In The Age of Covid: A Roundtable Discussion”.

I came to horror the same way I came to Rihanna—later than most, but with the commensurate fiery passion of a true convert. Crime and horror have, after all, been slowly converging for many years, as domestic suspense transformed into the New Gothic, and psychological thrillers took over from procedurals as the dominant trend in the genre. And yet, despite my newfound fandom, I’m about as poorly informed a horror reader as one could be (I’ve only read one Stephen King novel and it was Mr Mercedes). So I invited a whole bunch of authors with horror novels out in 2021 to join me for a roundtable discussion on the genre and its appeal to crime fans, and in which I could stealthily attempt to figure what exactly horror is—and why we’re all enjoying it so much during the pandemic.

(9) COME AND GET MY COPPER. Atlas Obscura tells how the genre got its name, and contends they had a beneficial side-effect: “How Gruesome Penny Dreadfuls Got Victorian Children Reading”.

…As one might expect, no audience was drawn into the world of penny dreadfuls more than children and teenagers. In fact, they specifically targeted young readers. Many of the stories feature young characters, such as the schoolboy Jack Harkaway, who would become as beloved to Victorian readers as Harry Potter is today, according to the British LibraryBoys of England, a periodical marketed to young boys, first introduced the character in the 1871 penny dreadful “Jack Harkaway’s Schooldays,” which details the protagonist running away from school, boarding a ship, and embarking on a life of adventure and travel. Jack even had to battle a 15-foot python when one of his many pranks went awry.

The popularity of penny dreadfuls had another side: They helped to promote literacy, especially among younger readers, at a time when, for many children, formal education was nonexistent or, well, Dickensian. The proliferation of such cheap reading material created “an incentive to require literacy,” says professor Jonathan Rose, author of The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. People were invested in the stories of Jack Harkaway and Sweeney Todd, and there was only one good way to keep up—learn to read.

While some historians credit compulsory education for the increased literacy of the age, “The fact is that most of the increase in literacy happened before you got universal free education,” says Rose. In England, education wasn’t required for all children until 1880, decades into the heyday of penny dreadfuls….

(10) DE PATIE OBIT. Animation producer David DePatie died September 23 at the age of 91 reports Deadline.

…Born in Los Angeles, DePatie, according to Animation magazine, was a self-described “Warner Brat” whose father Edmond DePatie was a longtime WB exec who eventually become vice president and general manager of the studio under Jack Warner. The younger DePatie began working for the studio in 1961 as a Warner Bros. Cartoon production executive.

[NY Times noted, “David started his Hollywood career as a sound and film editor at Warner Bros. He worked on several films for the studio, including “Them!” (1954)…]

According to the magazine, DePatie “oversaw the end days of this iteration of WB animation, ushering the final Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn and Tweety Bird theatrical cartoons to screens.” He would also produce TV’s The Bugs Bunny ShowThe Adventures of the Road Runner and other projects including animated commercials.

In 1963, DePatie and Freleng formed their own company, soon landing a contract that would make their names: the comedy feature film The Pink Panther starring Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The animated opening-credit sequence featuring the panther quickly led to a United Artists commission for a separate cartoon short, which became the Oscar-winning The Pink Phink, launching the durable franchise of theatrical shorts and TV series.

For decades the DePatie-Freleng logo was a familiar sight to any kid watching Saturday morning cartoons or such primetime series as 1969’s My World and Welcome to It and the Seuss specials…. 

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1994 – On this day in 1994, Stargate premiered. It’d be a runner-up at Intersection to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s  “All Good Things…” which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. It was directed by Roland Emmerich and produced by Dean Devlin, Oliver Eberle and Joel B. Michaels. It was written by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin.  Principal cast was Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson and Viveca Lindfors.

It was a box office success earning over two hundred million on a budget of fifty-five million despite some critics not at all being fond of it. Ebert put it on his list of most hated films of all time, but others thought it was an “instant camp classic”. Currently it holds a most excellent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of seventy-three percent. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 28, 1902 Elsa Lanchester. The Bride in 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. In 1928 she appeared in three silent shorts written for her by H. G. Wells: Blue Bottles, Daydreams and The Tonic. Now she actually had a longer career than that as she’ll have roles in Mary Poppins, Blackbeard’s Ghost, Willard, Alfred Hitchcock HourAlice in WonderlandThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Night Gallery. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 70. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep, a American comedy horror film starring Bruce Campbell, is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and  Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns. 
  • Born October 28, 1952 Annie Potts, 69. The original Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II of course but also appeared in HerculesThe Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories series , and The Man Who Fell To Earth film. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the new Ghostbusters film. 
  • Born October 28, 1957 Catherine Fisher, 64. Welsh poet and children’s novelist who writes in English. I’d suggest The Book of The Crow series of which the most recent, Corbenic, won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. Her Incarceron series earned two more Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature nominations as well. 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 63. Writer of four novels over a decade twenty years ago, including Virtual Girl. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories which is edited by Bruce Bethke.
  • Born October 28, 1962 Daphne Zuniga, 59. Her very first role was as Debbie in The Dorm That Dripped Blood, labeled a Video Nasty in the UK.  You know her much better as Princess Vespa in Spaceballs, and she also in The Fly II being Beth Logan. Series work include Nightmare ClassicsBatman BeyondHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Twilight ZoneThe Outer Limits and, no surprise here, Spaceballs: The Animated Series where she voicedPrincess Vespa again. 
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 54. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird  Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think for the sake of you not imagining her as such…
  • Born October 28, 1972 Matt Smith, 49. He’s the current and longest-serving editor of long-running 2000 AD, and also the longest-running editor of its sister title Judge Dredd Magazine. He’s written three Judge Dredd novels plus a number of other genre novels based off the properties he edits. Along with Alan Ewing and Michael Carroll, he’s written the Judge Dredd audiobook, a take on the newly deputized Dredd.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) ABOUT BERNIE WRIGHTSON. Michael Gonzales tells CrimeReads where he first encountered the artist: “Scary Monsters and Spooky Freaks: Bernie Wrightson Unleashed”.

…While comic book shopping in 1972, I spotted The House of Mystery #204. The cover featured a disgusting multi-eyed green blob creeping across the floor in pursuit of a screaming femme. In the lower right hand corner the illustrator’s signature was a simple “bw” that I later learned belonged Bernie Wrightson, the artist who’d soon become my comic book hero as well as a later inspiration for my writing. Wrightson’s cover became my gateway into the world of 1970s horror comics.

Five years later I had the pleasure of seeing the original pen and ink drawing in its entire poetic, grotesque splendor hanging on the wall of the New York Comic Art Gallery. I stared at that image with the same intensity I’d give the the Mona Lisa three decades later. It was scary, yet moving and damn near alive. Wrightson imagined things and made the horror real. However, the rules of the then-active Comics Code stated, “No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title,” so the books were referred to as mysteries or suspense….

(15) IF CTHULHU CALLS, HANG UP! James Davis Nicoll didn’t, but in compensation he got a Tor.com article idea: “Eldritch Abominations for the SFF Soul: Five Works of Cosmic Horror”.

Happy birthday, Call of Cthulhu! Forty years ago on Halloween 1981, the roleplaying world met and grew to love the Lovecraft-inspired game in which characters boldly confront the unknown before being consumed by it! If there’s one thing humans seem to desire, it’s to have their skulls cracked open like walnuts and their minds consumed by entities whose true nature would drive the sanest person mad, were they unlucky enough to understand what had them gripped in its tentacles.

Of course, Lovecraft wasn’t the first author to dabble in cosmic horror nor has he been the last. In honor of Halloween and forty years of Call of Cthulhu, allow me to suggest the following five works of cosmic horror….

(16) IN CONCLUSION. Cinefex, the visual effects magazine, has called it quits. The announcement was made earlier this year, and since then the publication has been doing a few activities to call attention to its winding down.

After 41 years of publication, we are sad to report that Cinefex 172, just off the presses, will be our final issue. We extend heartfelt thanks to our loyal readers and advertisers who sustained us through the years, and to the countless filmmakers and artists who told us their stories, shared their secrets, and trusted us to write and preserve the history of motion picture visual effects. A fond farewell to you all.

(17) MONUMENTAL RESEARCH. At Mystery File, veteran collector Walker Martin reviews Ed Hulse’s new volume, “The Art of Pulp Fiction”.

…Many collectors contributed to this book by lending paperbacks to Ed. Also he visited several art collectors. His visit to my house can serve as an example of his methods in borrowing so many books. One afternoon several months ago, he visited me and we went through the rooms discussing and looking at my paperback collection. We started on the second floor in the room that my wife and kids call “The Paperback Room”. The entire room is devoted to detective and mystery paperbacks including what may be a complete set of the hundreds of Dell mapbacks. Also in the room is some original cover art and several paperback racks which took me decades to find. These wooden racks were made to hold paperbacks for sale and were usually destroyed or lost over the years.

 We then went to my basement where we looked and talked about my science fiction, western, and mainstream paperbacks. Ed ended up borrowing two boxes full of paperbacks, perhaps 75 to 100, of which close to 50 may have been used in the book. By the way, I noticed one paperback lacked the 50 words of comment. If there is a reprint or revised edition in the future. page 116 needs comments for Poul Anderson’s Brain Wave….

(18) NEVER SAY NEVER. “’Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ director Jason Reitman used his ‘complicated’ relationship with his father to take on the franchise he’s avoided his whole life”MSN’s Jason Guerrasio profiles the younger Reitman.

… Reitman’s change of heart began with the idea of a girl in a cornfield, wearing a proton pack.

“A decade ago, I had this vision of a girl shooting a proton pack in a cornfield and suddenly popcorn flying up and her catching and eating it,” Reitman said with a far off look in his eye as he sipped on his morning coffee inside his home office. The sun shined in from his backyard window beside his desk.

“It was just one of those images where I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do with that,'” he continued.

Reitman is the first to admit that he usually doesn’t embrace these types of ideas. His movies, up to this point, have been grounded in reality. He’s preferred the independently-financed dramas that explore the human condition and usually feature women going through challenging times in their lives like a teenaged pregnancy (“Juno”) or a mid-life crisis (“Tully”).

He’s always had the same answer when asked if he’ll ever make a “Ghostbusters” movie: “No.”…

(19) AND IF YOU WANT TO PLAY ALONG AT HOME. Gizmodo reports “Hasbro’s fan-funded Haslab is offering the chance to purchase a full-scale model of the iconic prop” – “Ghostbusters Proton Pack”.

…Furthermore, the prop even has “a metal V-hook bracket that connects to the metal V-hook bracket on the bottom of the Neutrona Wand,” the Neutrona Wand being another Hasbro Pulse item you can preorder here for $125. If you’re not up on your Ghostbusters equipment lingo, the Neutrona Wand… well, it’s the gun that connects to the proton pack, so if you really want to get your cosplay on, you’re looking at dropping $525 for the pair. That is, assuming the Proton Pack project gets fully funded, but I wouldn’t be too worried about that. More than half of the 7,000 backers needed have signed up since the project launched yesterday, and there are still 45 days to go… 

(20) OCTOTHORPE. Time for the 43rd of Octothorpe. Listen here! “Clip That Out, John”.

John Coxon is critically bereft, Alison Scott made a mistake, and Liz Batty is carving papayas. We discuss Hallowe’en and then we move onto discussing problematic Guests of Honour in the context of convention bidding, before wrapping up with quick picks.

(21) TWO CHAIRS TALKING. Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg “celebrate St. Crispin’s Day by discussing recent awards, what they’ve been reading, both non-fiction and fiction, and summarizing their thoughts about this year’s Hugo Award nominees” in episode 64 of Two Chairs Talking: “And gentlemen in England now-a-bed”.

(22) SWEDEN’S SOLAR SYSTEM MODEL. [Item by Ingvar.] In the intermittent “Ingvar investigates planets”, I found the Jupiter model. It is pretty big, and publicly accessible without having to do anything, except walk.

(23) TOO MUCH INFORMATION. In Atascadero, CA “It’s No. 1 For Chills”.

At this haunted house, the ghosts and ghouls sometimes elicit more than screams.

The Haunt in Atascadero keeps extra pants on hand for visitors so frightened that they lose control of their bodily functions.

Two people have requested the pants, said Sandi Andersen-Tarica, the Haunt’s production manager.

And the staff keeps a list of those who wet themselves — at least 31 “confessed pee-ers” in the last two years.

“Some people, when they know what’s happening, they like to sign it as sort of a badge of honor,” Andersen-Tarica said. “And we do have it on a sign that we will provide emergency pants upon request.”

Nestled among coffee shops and restaurants in downtown Atascadero, the Haunt draws about 4,000 visitors each year….

(24) IF YOU THINK YOU’VE FOUND E.T. “Call for a framework for reporting evidence for life beyond Earth”Nature has the details.

Our generation could realistically be the one to discover evidence of life beyond Earth. With this privileged potential comes responsibility. The magnitude of the question of whether we are alone in the Universe, and the public interest therein, opens the possibility that results may be taken to imply more than the observations support, or than the observers intend. As life-detection objectives become increasingly prominent in space sciences, it is essential to open a community dialogue about how to convey information in a subject matter that is diverse, complicated and has a high potential to be sensationalized. Establishing best practices for communicating about life detection can serve to set reasonable expectations on the early stages of a hugely challenging endeavour, attach value to incremental steps along the path, and build public trust by making clear that false starts and dead ends are an expected and potentially productive part of the scientific process….

 [Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Dr. Emma J. King, Sandra Miesel, Raquel S. Benedict, Lise Andreasen, Ingvar, Daniel Dern, James Davis Nicoll, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, StephenfromOttwa, Carl Coling, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, a combiner of Elton John and Dune motifs, who admits Benny And The Gesserits also was a Portland, Oregon band, with at least one song from 2015, “I Guess That’s Why They Call This Place Dune”.]

Pixel Scroll 10/20/21 Roll Over Harkonnen And Tell Shai-Tchovsky The News

(1) KRESS Q&A. DisCon III has posted an “Interview with Author Guest of Honor Nancy Kress” conducted by staff member Dr. Karen Purcell.

(2) FALLEN LEAVES AND HEROES. Brian Murphy shares ten spooky sword and sorcery stories for October:  “Ten Sword-and-Sorcery Tales For the Haunting Season” at Goodman Games.

…Here in New England, I find that as the leaves begin to turn and October shadows lengthen, so too do my thoughts drift from my natural sword-and-sorcery bent toward the nether regions of horror. Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King, classic Hammer movies and bad slasher films, bring it on, all of it.

But I’m also reminded that I need not necessarily choose between the two. Sword-and-sorcery after all is bedfellows with horror. Though he loathed the term, Karl Edward Wagner described S&S as “a fascinating synthesis of horror, adventure, and imagination … the common motif is a universe in which magic works and an individual may kill according to his personal code.”…

(3) FIRST REFLECTIONS. Tom Shapira analyzes how the Holocaust was reflected in 1950s horror comics: “The Dead Come Back: Mid-Century Horror Comics & The Holocaust”.

We’ve come a long way since Art Spiegelman’s Maus. When the first collected edition published in 1986, it appeared to be a singular and wholly unimagined thing: a comic-book — garishly colored, childishly-plotted things that were mostly concerned with muscled men in tights — about the Holocaust. German philosopher Theodore Adorno once claimed that “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”…so how can one justify the writing and drawing of comic-books?!

Flash-forward to 2021 and it’s clear that Maus has long stopped being a singular event. There are many more comics about the Holocaust including two graphic adaptations of The Diary of Anne Frank (one of which recently got a movie treatment), A Family SecretYosselThe BoxerHidden, and even the superhero genre feeling confident enough to take on the subject with the likes of Magneto: Testament….

(4) HE-MAN AND SHE-RA. The Rogues in the House podcast has dedicated an entire episode to “Masters of the Universe”.

(5) START AT THE TOP. And work your way down. Mark Lawrence has finally received a satisfactory result from his recent battles with Kindle Direct Publishing.  The updated saga is here. “My attempts to get sense from KDP”.

… At this point, having aired the first version of this blog post, I get advice from self-publishing experts. Email Jeff Bezos they say. So I do.

I find his email address and email him, explaining that I understand the email will land with one of his team of assistants but that I would appreciate any help in the issue (which I then lay out).

Additionally, I remember that: hey, I’m actually published by Amazon – my Impossible Times trilogy is published by 47North (there’s a story or two in there to be told one day!), one of Amazon’s own publishing imprints. So, I also email one of the people involved in the production of those books, and she very kindly agrees to reach out to someone she knows at KDP.

A day later I get an email from the Executive KDP team! This was on October 7th. A phone call from America follows and I get to speak to a human. A charming and helpful American human called Jeremy. He tells me that both my email to Jeff Bezos and to 47North reached his desk and either one would have prompted the call. So, at least you don’t have to be published by Amazon and sell 100,000+ books for them before they’ll listen.

However – we still had another 13 exciting days to go!…

(6) SKEPTICAL RESPONSE. Following a Last Dangerous Visions progress report, J. Michael  Straczysnki fielded criticisms that the writer list (as so far revealed) lacks diverse representation. His explanations prompted further discussion in a thread Karen Osborne kicked off here.

(7) SET DECORATION. Gaiman’s co-author, the late Terry Pratchett, will be acknowledged again in the sequel: “Good Omens season 2: Neil Gaiman’s tribute to Terry Pratchett on set”Metro News has the story.

…Terry’s scarf and hat also appeared in the first season of the show.

Several Good Omens fans shared how much they loved the dedication to Terry on set, with one writing: ‘It warms my heart to see Terry Pratchett still represented. I miss the wit and wisdom of his books.’

(8) GET YOUR KICKS. Publishers Weekly interviews the master of a comics industry financial model: “Crowdfunding a Publishing House: PW Talks with Spike Trotman”.

…Lots of prose and comics publishers have used crowdfunding to bring out new work, but few have been doing it as long or as well as C. Spike Trotman, publisher/CEO of Chicago-based independent comics publisher Iron Circus Comics. Trotman recently wrapped up her 30th Kickstarter campaign, The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Storiesa new volume of comics stories by indigenous creators which raised more than $330,000 (the goal was $20,000) in September, marking more than $2 million raised by Trotman through the platform since 2009. But beyond the quantitative success, Trotman has led the way in using crowdfunding as part of a scalable publishing business model that brings unique projects from diverse creators into the mainstream comics and trade book distribution system.

… “I have one foot in international distribution through old-fashioned methods and one foot in the world of Kickstarter,” she said. “I’m distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, a division of Ingram that specializes in the quirky small press lines.”

She explained that it is not a prevalent strategy for crowdfunders because book distributors generally expect presses to put out at least 10 books per year. “A lot of crowdfunders can’t manage 10 books for trade bookstores, and I understand because it’s really hard. What got me through the door, in addition to volume, was that I had made the step between exclusively self-distributing through conventions or a website, and a larger company like Ingram. I was already reaching out to comic stores and independent bookstores, emailing them PDFs of my books and my catalog, and giving them special discount codes if they ordered from me direct.”

By the time she approached Ingram, Trotman already had more than 40 retailers placing orders. “We couldn’t fulfill the wholesale orders of 40 or 45 stores and run the business, so it’s good they were able to work with us.”…

(9) END OF THE CYCLE. Hollywood Insider examines  “The Rise and Fall of Young Adult Dystopian Adaptation Franchises”.

The year is 2014, the Oscars release a selfie of the world’s biggest movie stars, Justin Bieber’s mugshot surfaces, Emma Watson speaks at the United Nations for gender equality, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ popularizes the infinity sign; just about everything seems right in the world. As someone who lived and breathed the culture of 2014, everything in the world of pop-culture just seemed easy.

There is a bitter-sweet existence in knowing that decades have passed since the beginning of ‘Harry Potter’ with eight films from 2001-2011 earning 7.7 billion USD from the box office. Or the next successful franchise, ‘Twilight’ with five films from 2008-2012 earning 3.3 billion USD from the box office. Both YA franchises were the kick-start to a rapid incline of young adult dystopian films centered around political impact, connections, love, and loss. Ultimately the success of pop culture, income, and fan-bases from the ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight’ franchises became the reason as to why studios reached out to the most popular young adult novels in order to try and gain that same impact for more films. So much so that the number of franchises that were successful compared to the ones that failed before their sequel is rather devastating. At the same time, some films give off the apparent reason as to why they failed with lousy acting, even poorer attention to storyline adaptation, timing, and in cases simply didn’t work for audiences.

… With the success of the previous films mentioned, studios began to create anything they thought would be comparable or better than the previous successors. But, with the heavy amount of failures as opposed to the successes, the amount of YA dystopian fiction adaptations diminished into almost nothing. Nowadays, studios are choosing to create YA films targeting important meanings or values such as gay relationships, movements such as Black Lives Matter, or the realism of cyberbullying….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1967 – Fifty-four years ago on this evening, NBC first aired Star Trek’s “Doomsday Machine” which was scripted by Norman Spinrad. It was the sixth episode of the second season. The principal guest star was William Windom as Commodore Matt Decker. The episode is considered one of the finest of the series with the TV Guide ranking it the fourth best, and SciFiNow recently ranked it the tenth best episode of the original series. The special effects and much of the episode were digitally remastered fifteen years ago. And yes, it was nominated for a Hugo at Baycon, one of five Trek episodes so nominated that Con with the Harlan Ellison scripted  “The City on the Edge of Forever” being the winner. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film franchise Drácula. He came to hate that he played that character feeling he’d been typecast which he certainly had. Now tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956)
  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. One half with Manfred Bennington Lee of the writing team who created Ellery Queen. ISFDB lists two Ellery Queen novels as being genre, And on the Eight Day and The Scrolls of Lysis, plus a single short story, “ A Study in Terror”. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1916 Anton Diffring, A long career with many genre roles which I’ll note but a few of here. He was Fabian in Fahrenheit 451 who the sixty-eighth anniversary of the novel we noted yesterday, Graf Udo Von Felseck of Purbridge Manor in The Masks of Deaths (a rather well-crafted Holmes film) and he played De Flores, a neo-Nazi in “Silver Nemesis”, a most excellent Seventh Doctor story. (Died 1989.)
  • Born October 20, 1923 Erle Korshak. He’s a reminder of how old fandom is. He discovered SF in 1934 with the August Astounding magazine and became a very serious collector in 1937 according to several sources. By 1939 he was a well-known fan and one of the leaders of the Moonstruck Press publishing house which was created to created a bibliography of all fantasy books.  He was part of the leadership triumvirate of Chicon 1, the 1940 Worldcon. He later founded a publishing house whose first major work was Everett F. Bleiler’s The Checklist of Fantastic Literature in the late Forties, a pioneering work of SF bibliography. This was followed by major works by Heinlein, Bester, Fredric Brown and other SF suthors. He was absent from fandom from the late 50s for thirty years, then rejoined fandom and was attending cons with his children.  He was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996, and won the Barry R. Levin Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Lifetime Collectors Award in 2001. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best remembered  for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had other appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s “The Wax Men” episode. He was even in the Get Smart! pilot as Mr. Big. (Died 1973.)
  • Born October 20, 1937 Emma Tennant. To the manor born and a lifelong supporter of Labour, ISFDB lists nine of her novels as being as SFF. As the Literary Encyclopedia  says “ Her work is feminist, magical and wicked, and uses the fantastic and the Gothic to interpret and explore everyday women’s roles.“ I’ve not read her, so do tell me about her please if you’ve read her! (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1958 Lynn Flewelling, 63. The lead characters of her Nightrunner series are both bisexual, and she has stated this is so was because of “the near-absence of LGBT characters in the genre and marginalization of existing ones.” (As quoted in Strange Horizon, September 2001) The Tamír Triad series is her companion series to this affair. 
  • Born October 20, 1966 Diana Rowland, 55. New Orleans writer with a fascinating job history that includes cop, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant. She’s best known for her Kara Gillian series and White Trash Zombie series. Her only award is a Phoenix Award, a lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, given by DeepSouthCon. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BLACK PANTHER #200. Marvel’s Black Panther comics will reach its milestone 200th issue in January. To celebrate, Black Panther #3 will be an oversized issue with bonus stories celebrating the past and foreshadowing the future of the Black Panther and the world of Wakanda. (Click on gallery for larger images.)

Writer John Ridley will introduce a new hero who rises up to protect the people of Wakanda while T’Challa finds his life and role as Black Panther thrown into turmoil! Fans will be able to witness the beginning of this new hero’s journey before seeing him become a key player of Ridley’s run in future issues.

In addition, the main story in the 200th issue of BLACK PANTHER will see T’Challa face off against the X-Men! With assassins closing in and Wakanda’s faith in him shaken, T’Challa goes to visit Storm on the newly terraformed Mars. But this will not be a happy reunion as T’Challa has ulterior motives for his visit. And back home, Shuri discovers who is behind the attacks on Wakanda’s secret agents — a revelation that will change everything.

(14) SCHWAB Q&A. “V.E. Schwab’s New Graphic Novel Returns to her Villains Series”, and Publishers Weekly did an interview with her.

Publishers Weekly: The power you gave Charlotte is a truly horrifying one: When she looks at someone’s reflection, she can vividly foresee the moment of their death. How did you come up with that?

V.E. Schwab: It’s the very first power I ever created for the Villains universe. In the first iteration of Vicious, I had as my main character a man who arrives in this city and two warring groups of people try to recruit him, the Heroes and the Villains. They’re essentially gangs. This character had this ability to see deaths in reflective surfaces, and I loved that ability. The story didn’t work. I ended up just stopping for a minute to write the backstories for the gang leaders, and that’s where I got the Victor and Eli story which would go on to be the series. But I always was looking for someone to give this power to. The way that the powers work in this world is that they’re tied to near-death experiences. You can’t just give the power to anyone; you almost have to retroactively figure out the person from the power. So I had to figure out what circumstance puts Charlotte into the situation where she has a near-death experience that leads to this ability. 

(15) AT THE SCREENING. At Black Gate, Matthew David Surridge reviews an interesting-looking animated fantasy film called The Spine of Night:  “Fantasia 2021, Part XXXII: The Spine Of Night”

 …The feature film it was bundled with was the movie I’d been most eagerly looking forward to at Fantasia, and it did not disappoint. The Spine of Night, written and directed by the team of Morgan Galen King and Philip Gelatt, is billed as a feature-length animated sword-and-sorcery film for adults in the vein of the Heavy Metal movie. And it very much is that. It’s more serious than Heavy Metal in many ways, but the violence and cosmic scope is if anything even greater….

(16) SPACE CUISINE CHALLENGE. This is not your father’s space ice cream — or — chow, chow, chow — or — “NASA Announces Winners of Deep Space Food Challenge”. (The chosen teams are listed at the link.)

Variety, nutrition, and taste are some considerations when developing food for astronauts. For NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge, students, chefs, small businesses, and others whipped up novel food technology designs to bring new solutions to the table.

NASA has selected 18 U.S. teams to receive a total of $450,000 for ideas that could feed astronauts on future missions. Each team will receive $25,000. Additionally, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) jointly recognized 10 international submissions.

NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website will air a show on the Deep Space Food Challenge at 11 a.m. EST Nov. 9 with details about the competition, winning solutions, and what could be next for the teams.

Special guests during the show will include celebrity chef Martha Stewart and retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who will announce the winners of two awards honoring international teams that demonstrated exceptional innovation. Other participants will include retired CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield and celebrity chef Lynn Crawford…

(17) LIKE THAT WHALE IN OREGON? “The often untold story of cleaning up dead kaiju finally coming to theaters next year” promises SoraNews24. I knew I’ll be holding my breath.

…And coming 4 February, 2022, a truly bold experiment in the genre is set to take place. Daikaiju No Atoshimatsu (lit. “The Great Monster’s Remains“, tentative English title: Kaiju Cleanup) marks the first time veteran film studios Shochiku and Toei have teamed up on a single feature. Perhaps the reason two companies were needed is that this movie boasts the largest monster in Japanese movie history.

However, it’s dead for pretty much the whole film….

That’s because Daikaiju No Atoshimatsu picks up where most tokusatsu films leave off. The evil kaiju collapses in defeat, the hero walks off into the sunset, and credits roll, but also those poor extras who have already been through so much, now have a gigantic rotting corpse to dispose of….

(18) VINTAGE VINELAND. A study published in Nature finds “In tree rings and radioactive carbon, signs of the Vikings in North America” reports NBC News.

… Previous studies have established there was such a cosmic ray event in the year 993 that for a few months caused greater than usual levels of radioactive carbon-14 in the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere.

Trees “breathe” carbon dioxide as they grow, and so the researchers used that radioactive carbon signature to determine which of the annual growth rings seen in cross-sections of the wood was from 993, Kuitems said.

They then used a microscope to count the later growth rings until the bark of the wood, which gave them the exact year the tree had stopped growing — in other words, when it had been felled by the Norse.

To their surprise, each of the three pieces of wood they tested was from a tree cut down in 1021, although they were from three different trees — two firs and probably one juniper….

(19) LOST AND FOUND. Cowboy Bebop’s “The Lost Session” teaser debuts online. The live-action remake arrives at Netflix November 19.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Squid Game Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, confuses the producer, who thinks the game is in the Shark Tales universe.  But why are the bad guys pretending to be PlayStation buttons?

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

Last Dangerous Visions Progress Report

J. Michael Straczynski has partially pulled back the curtain on the The Last Dangerous Visions contributors’ list, and responded to critics of its gender balance. He has also announced the agents who will be taking not just LDV but all three Dangerous Visions anthologies to publishers as a package. (The Twitter thread starts here.)

Big News: The Last Dangerous Visions is now going to publishers via the Janklow & Nesbit Agency (Emma Parry, NY, domestic; Nathaniel Alcaraz-Stapleton, London, foreign), with Dangerous Visions and Again Dangerous Visions included in the purchase price to create a unified edition.

Contributors to The Last Dangerous Visions include Edward Bryant, Stephen Robinette, Max Brooks, DM Rowles, Dan Simmons, Cecil Castelluci, Cory Doctorow, Stephen Dedman, Patton Oswalt, Jonathan Fast, Howard Fast, Robert Sheckley, Adrian Tchaikovsky and James S.A. Corey.

It is very much the living document Harlan had always intended for it to be, bringing together new and established voices to address the profoundly human issues that can only be addressed through speculative stories that take us over the horizon and back.

The wonder has been seeing firsthand the many ways in which the themes, concerns of all these stories are profoundly relevant and important across the span of their creation. The first two Dangerous Visions books changed the genre; I have hopes this will continue that tradition.

So to any publishers out there who would like to get in on this process, see the names appended at the top of this thread. (Janklow & Nesbit is one of the largest and most prestigious agencies in the world, and their belief in and support of this book has been most rewarding.)

The plan is the three books would be released individually as well as together and at standard book prices.

Some immediate responses focused criticism on the contributors list —

Straczynski replied, “The lion’s share of the writers in TLDV were and had to be the ones Harlan selected, from the 70s-90s, or it’s not his vision anymore, with a very few slots set aside for current writers who wanted to show support for the book.”

He also tweeted specifically about two stories by women that had been held back by the author or her estate, and his efforts to increase representation:

On Facebook, he phrased his response to a similar concern this way:

It should also be remembered that the book had to be in line with the stories Harlan bought from the 70s-90s, or it wouldn’t be his vision or his book anymore. I could play at the edges, but that’s all. And had the Willis and McIntyre stories not been withdrawn, along with a couple of others that fell away in the intervening years, the current version would have a much stronger female presence from those original stories.

Also, Stracyznski had a further exchange on Facebook with someone about a story that did not make the cut.

Harlan had over a hundred stories slated for TLDV, which would never ever be sold in a modern market, and likely could not have been done then either, which was part of the problem. Since I had no direct connection to any of the writers other than to be in awe of their work was to pare down to the best of the best, the stories that were the most relevant and timeless and powerful. No, as I think I conveyed to you previously, James [Sutherland’s] story did not make the cut, but his estate is free to sell it elsewhere, as with any and all of the other stories.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/27/21 A Pixel Scroll Title That Turns Out To Have Been Used Before

(1) B5. Variety reports J. Michael Straczynski is working on bringing back his keynote show: “’Babylon 5′ Reboot in Development at The CW From Original Creator”.

… Original series creator J. Michael Straczynski is onboard to write the project. He will also executive producer under his Studio JMS banner. Warner Bros. Television, which produced the original series, will produce the reboot.

The new iteration of the sci-fi series is described as a “from-the-ground-up reboot.” In the series, John Sheridan, an Earthforce officer with a mysterious background, is assigned to Babylon 5, a five-mile-long space station in neutral space, a port of call for travelers, smugglers, corporate explorers and alien diplomats at a time of uneasy peace and the constant threat of war. His arrival triggers a destiny beyond anything he could have imagined, as an exploratory Earth company accidentally triggers a conflict with a civilization a million years ahead of us, putting Sheridan and the rest of the B5 crew in the line of fire as the last, best hope for the survival of the human race.

Which all makes sense of Straczynski’s cryptic tweet of two weeks ago.

(2) LDV NEWS. Today Straczynski also tweeted a brief update about the status of Last Dangerous Visions.

(3) TWO TO TANGO. James Davis Nicoll is there “When Authors Collide: Five SFF Works of Collaborative Fiction” at Tor.com.

The writing of prose is often depicted as a solitary activity, an occupation suited to hermits sealed into poorly lit garrets, sliding their manuscripts out under their front door, receiving flat food under the same door. Now this can be a perfectly functional approach to writing…but it is not the only one…..

(4) READERCON. The Readercon committee announced the next con will be in 2023. Rose Fox will be interim con chair leading their “year of renovation.” Readercon 32 Moved to July 13–16, 2023.

There will be no Readercon in 2022. But don’t panic! We’re not going anywhere! We just need some time to recharge and get our house in order.

The last two years have been a doozy for everyone. We all need some rest. And Readercon as an organization needs an opportunity to revamp back-end processes, update and streamline old systems, and recruit new volunteers to fill key positions. Just as you can’t fix your car’s brakes while you’re driving, we can’t make all those changes at the same time as putting on a convention. So after much behind-the-scenes discussion, we’re officially taking 2022 as a Renovation Year!…

(5) CORFLU. The convention for fanzine fans, Corflu 39 Pangloss, still aspires to run on its March 18-20, 2022 date – and toward that end has published Progress Report #1 with all the info about venue, membership, and who’s on the committee.

We live in parlous times. There is great confusion under heaven, and the conditions are excellent.  Which is to say, thanks to border closures, travel restrictions, economic wobbles, and ongoing pandemic uncertainty, much of what we can tell you about Corflu 39 is aspirational, provisional, or pending better data with the unfolding of future events.  But we step out in hope, and choose to be optimistic that all our Corflu wishes will come true.  Thus, Corflu Pangloss….

(6) CITY PICKS BUTLER BOOK. The city of South Pasadena (CA) has voted its One City One Story book for 2021 – Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. The South Pasadena Public Library will hold an in-person discussion on October 21 and a Zoom discussion on November 10 – register at the links.

One City One Story is the South Pasadena Public Library’s Citywide Reading Program. Community voting took place for a title from September 1-10. The winning book, Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, was announced on September 27. We encourage South Pasadenans to read it to engage with this year’s theme, “Navigating Nature”. Dive even deeper with community discussions and themed programs.

(7) BANKS TV ADAPTATION PLANNED. Producer Matthew James Wilkinson (Yesterday) is teaming up with Poldark and Endeavour exec producer Tom Mullens on a TV adaptation of The Business by Iain Banks – Deadline has the story: “’Poldark’ & ‘Yesterday’ Producers Team For Iain Banks Adaptation”.

The Business follows Kate Telman, a working-class Glaswegian who has risen through the ranks to become a senior executive in a secretive super-corporation, known only as The Business. Telman discovers that The Business is planning to buy a small country in order to secure a seat on the UN and that, despite the benevolent image and democratic structure it presents to the world, the company will stop at nothing to increase its influence. So begins a dangerous personal reckoning as Telman travels the globe from Scotland to the Swiss Alps, the American Midwest, Pakistan and the Himalayas, determined to uncover the conspiracy at the heart of the shady company she works for.

…Mullens and Wilkinson said: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to adapt Iain Banks’ wickedly satirical The Business for television. As relevant today as when it was first published, we look forward to honouring Iain’s work with a powerful, entertaining thriller.”

(8) THE EFFECTS THAT WON THE AWARDS. This ILM look at season 2 of The Mandalorian dropped last week: “The Emmy-Winning Special Visual Effects Of The Mandalorian: Season 2”.

Join Visual Effects Supervisor, Richard Bluff, as he shares a peek behind the curtain of the effects of The Mandalorian: Season 2, winner of 7 Emmy® Awards including Special Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Prosthetic Makeup, Stunt Coordination, Stunt Performance, and Music Composition. For its sophomore outing, Lucasfilm’s hit Disney+ series built upon the groundbreaking technical and artistic achievements accomplished during season one, combining traditional methodologies, with ever-advancing new technologies. The team also increased the physical size of the ILM StageCraft LED Volume which would again be used for over half of all scenes. This season also marked the debut of ILM’s state-of-the-art real-time cinema render engine called, Helios. The high-resolution, high-fidelity engine was used for all final pixel rendering displayed on the LED screens and offers unmatched performance for the types of complex scenes prevalent in today’s episodic and feature film production. Practical creature effects have been a vital part of the aesthetic and charm of the Star Wars universe since 1977, and for season two, the effects team realized over 100 puppeteered creatures, droids, and animatronic masks, which included the beloved Tatooine Bantha, realized as a ten foot-high puppeteered rideable creature. Practical miniatures and motion control photography were used once again for scale model ships, as well as miniature set extensions built for use in ILM’s StageCraft LED volume. Stop motion animation was also utilized for the Scrap Walker at the Karthon Chop Fields. The greater krayt dragon on Tatooine was realized as a six-hundred-foot computer-generated creature that would swim shark-like through the sand environment by way of a liquefaction effect, wherein the sand would behave like water.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1964 – Fifty-seven years ago this evening on CBS, My Living Doll, a SF comedy, first aired. Another production of the Desilu Studios, My Living Doll was rather unusual in that it was purchased by the network without any pilot at the request of CBS’s president, due to the success of Chertok’s previous series, My Favorite Martian. The series starred Bob Cummings as Dr. Bob McDonald, a psychiatrist who is given care of Rhoda Miller, an android who was played by Julie Newmar who would later be Catwoman on Batman. Unlike My Favorite Martian which ran three seasons and over a hundred episodes, it would last a single season of twenty six episodes. It is available on DVD but not on streaming services. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 27, 1927 — Martin Caidin. His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one for the Buck Rogers franchise as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels. The Six Million Dollar Man film was nominated for a Hugo at Discon II which Woody Allen’s Sleeper won, and Marooned was nominated at Heicon ’70 when TV Coverage of Apollo XI was chosen for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 27, 1932 — Roger Charles Carmel. The original Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd as he appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd” and one episode of the animated series as well, “Mudd’s Passion.” I say original because Discovery has decided that they have a Harry Mudd too. He also had one-offs on I-SpyMunstersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Batman. It is rumored but cannot be confirmed that he was going to reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a first-season episode of Next Gen but died before filming could start. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 27, 1934 — Wilford Brimley. His first genre role was as Dr. Blair in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He’s Benjamin ‘Ben’ Luckett in the Cocoon films, and Agency Director Harold Smith in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He made a rather splendid President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisted. And finally I note that he was Noa in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. (Died 2020.)
  • Born September 27, 1947 — Meat Loaf, 74. He has a rather tasty role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  He also has film roles in Wishcraft (horror), Stage Fright (horror) and Urban Decay (yes more horror). He’s also in BloodRayne which is yes, horror. He’s had one-offs on Tales from the CryptThe Outer LimitsMonstersMasters of Horror and was Doug Rennie, a main cast member of Ghost Wars. I think one of his songs, particularly the video version, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” qualifies as genre. 
  • Born September 27, 1956 — Sheila Williams, 65. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction, the past fifteen years. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor at Renovation and Chicon 7. (She’s nominated this year again.) With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s RobotsIsaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing.
  • Born September 27, 1966 — David Bishop, 55. In Nineties, he edited the UK Judge Dredd Megazine (1991–2002) and 2000 AD (1995–2000). He wrote a number of Dredd, Warhammer and Who novels including the Who novel Who Killed Kennedy which is a popular Third Doctor story.  He’s written Big Finish stories in the DreddSarah Jane and Who lines. Dredd audio drams. Huh.
  • Born September 27, 1970 — Tamara Taylor, 51. Best remembered I’d say as Camille Saroyan in Bones which is at least genre adjacent being connect to Sleepy Hollow. Genre wise, she was in season seven of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the primary antagonist, Sibyl. She also appeared in Lost, as the former girlfriend of Michael and mother of Walt, Susan Lloyd. And she has a brief appearance in the Serenity film just listed as Teacher.

(11) TONY AWARDS. The American Theater Wing presented its Tony Awards over the weekend. A Christmas Carol won five of them.  “Tony Awards: The Full List Of Winners”.

(12) DUCK! There’s four days left to bid on the original “Duck with a Pearl Earring” by Omar Rayyan, offered by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver with all proceeds going to benefit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bidding was up to $16,351 last I looked.

This is an original oil on paper painting, commissioned by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

The painting was entered in the 2021 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest, in which the winning entry is turned into a duck stamp and sold to raise funds for conserving the nation’s wetlands and other wildlife habitats. It is a take on a classic painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. But there is one significant difference between the two works of art: ours is good, because it is a duck.

Shockingly this masterpiece did not win, but you can still help conserve habitats for birds and other wildlife in our National Wildlife Refuge System by bidding on the painting here.

(13) START AGAIN. “New Limits Give Chinese Video Gamers Whiplash” reports the New York Times.

China’s video game industry is booming. But it sure doesn’t feel that way to Stone Shi, a game designer in China.

Mr. Shi, 27, got his first job in 2018, when Beijing temporarily suspended approval of new games. The next year, the government placed new limits on minors’ playing time. A few weeks ago, the rules got stricter still. People under 18 can now play just three hours a week, during prescribed times on weekends.

“We never hear any good news about the gaming industry,” Mr. Shi said. “We have this joke, ‘Each time this happens, people say it’s doomsday for the video game industry.’ So we say, ‘Every day is doomsday.’”

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Mr. Shi remains employed and hundreds of millions of Chinese continue to play games each day. Minors still find ways around government blocks. Chinese tech companies, like Tencent, are cornerstones of the global gaming industry. The country has also been quick to embrace competitive gaming, building e-sports stadiums and enabling college students to major in the topic.

(14) MUSH-A-BOOM. Jaya Saxena takes the opening of the Ratatouille ride at Walt Disney World on October 1 as the excuse for a culinary experiment: “Disney Made Me Do It: The Lightning Mushroom From ‘Ratatouille’” at Eater.

…Remy is, of course, an animated talking rat, and this is a movie that presumes, among other things, that a human body is an elaborate marionette operated by hair. I know the lightning cheese mushroom is not realistic. But it looked so enticing, like a crunchy balloon, or like if Eleven Madison Park made a Cheeto. I would very much like to taste an exploded mushroom. So to that end, I nearly set my house on fire.

…There aren’t many recipes for applying lightning to mushrooms, but some people have tried to approximate what this might taste like. My first attempt at distilling the flavor of a storm came from Disney itself, which published a recipe for “Lightning-y Mushrooms” adapted from Fiction-Food Café. Already I saw a problem, though: This recipe calls for fresh, spreadable chevre, which is whipped with herbs and honey and stuffed into mushroom caps. But in the film, Remy is enthralled to find not fresh chevre, but Tomme de Chevre, a semisoft cheese with a grey rind that’s been aged for at least seven weeks. I opted to follow in Remy’s footsteps, and ad-lib where I could.

…I decided I needed to employ some actual electricity. But short of sticking a mushroomed fork in a socket and hoping I didn’t die, I had no idea what to do. So I called Chris Young, co-author of Modernist Cuisine, hoping he had come across something like this in his experiments.

Young explained what I was trying to do is called ohmic cooking, which is actually quite common, especially in the dairy industry. Picture how a power cord plugged into a wall tends to heat up. That’s because it’s a conductor for the electricity, and because a wire is not a perfect conductor, the resistance begins to generate heat. The same thing can happen with food when you essentially make the food the wire…. 

(15) ACRONYMS. Brought to you by Harvard.edu, “Dumb Or Overly Forced Astronomical Acronyms Site (or DOOFAAS)”. This is the kind of thing we’re talking about:

SMIRFSSub Millimeter InfraRed Fiber-feed System (or something)
SMOGSpitzer Mapping of the Outer Galaxy
SMUDGESSystematic Multiwavelength Unbiased catalog of Dwarf Galaxies and Evolution of Structure 

(16) TRAILER TIME. Netflix dropped a trailer for its animated series Arcane.

From the creators of League of Legends comes a new animated series, Arcane. Set in the utopian region of Piltover and the oppressed underground of Zaun, the story follows the origins of two iconic League champions-and the power that will tear them apart.

And while I’m not that wowed by the trailer for Muppets Haunted Mansion people keep sending me the link, so what do I know?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chris Barkley, Marc Criley, Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, Jerry Kaufman, Bill Burns, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/13/21 Headcanon: The Universe Will Come To An End Following The Generation Of Nine Billion Pixel Scroll Titles

(1) THE WAY THEY DO IT DOWNTOWN. Nisi Shawl celebrated a rare moment on Facebook:

My name on a book ad in Times Square! I feel like in that Stevie Wonder song: “New York! Just like I pictured it–skyscrapers an everything!” The Black Stars anthology is now blasting way past cool…

(2) GROWING PAINS. Alyx Dellamonica tells how to diagnose “Is my short story really a novel idea?”

Does it make sense to keep working on short fiction, with the idea of developing my writing skills before moving on to a novel? How do you know when one of your own ideas will be a short story or a novel??

These are two great and related questions that I get a lot, and I have a lecture-length answer to should I work on short fiction before tackling novels? at Clarkesworld, home of several of my writing craft essays as well as a novelette called “The Immolation of Kev Magee.”

What about the second question, though–what do you do if you’ve started writing a story, and now you think it might actually be a novel?

This is an issue that comes up a lot when you’re workshopping. What happens in those cases is that your readers notice that you have a lot going on in the story you’ve submitted. Like, a lot: lots of characters, lots of complexity within the world you’ve built, maybe even multiple story threads. You’ve alluded to a dozen or more incredibly interesting things and none of them feels fully realized, and several readers are calling for you to expand each and every one of those elements. But you’re already pushing 7,500 words!…

(3) NOT BURMA BUT TIBET. “Shaving the Yak — such is life. How do you live your truth in a system…” Marianne de Pierres ponders the answer at Medium.

If someone asked me to reflect on my life, I’d probably say something like “yeah, I’m the woman who missed the moments.” I watched Veronica Mars for the first time in 2017, The OC in 2020, drank my first red wine when I was 50, and learned the meaning of “Shaving the Yak” when I was 60.

Being late to the party is kind of my tribute song. Annoyingly, it means there’s no one to hoot and holler with, about what you’re just discovering/crushing on.

Also, I regularly feel slightly… well… dumb.

So this week I heard the expression “shaving the yak” for the first time. A very polite gentleman I was interviewing, explained to me that it meant wanting to solve a problem, but running into a bunch of other problems you have to navigate, to get to the thing you want to do. It first got wings after a Ren and Stimpy show in the early 2000s. And for those of you that prefer a visual cue, here’s Hal doing it in Malcolm in the Middle, circa 2001….

(4) Q&A WITH BETSY WOLLHEIM. On YouTube, “An Interview with Betsy Wollheim: President, co-Publisher, and co-Editor-in-chief of DAW Books.”

Betsy Wollheim gives us insight into her nearly fifty years of experience in the publishing industry, highlighting her work with author Kristen Britain and the “Green Rider” series.

(5) MILES AND MILES. Book Riot’s Laura Sackton uses Bujold’s Vorkosigan series as the text to discuss “What Makes a Great Long-Running Series?”

… At 34, I was a very different reader than I was at 15, when I first read Shards of Honor. Sure, the series has its flaws. The vast majority of sci-fi published the 1980s has flaws. And I’m not going to pretend that I can be objective about it, because I have a deep emotional connection to the world and its characters. But what struck me, on this most recent reread, was how well the series stands up. I was consistently impressed with Bujold’s mastery of the series as a form. I picked up on small details I hadn’t noticed before. I started to paying attention to the way Bujold plots each novel and to how each book connects to the others. I noticed patterns. Certain things started to jump out at me: how the books end, the ways the characters change over time, the many different kinds of stories contained in the series as a whole….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1974 – Forty-seven years ago this evening on ABC, Kolchak: The Night Stalker first aired. It was preceded by The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler films, both written by Richard Matheson. It was created by Jeff Rice who Mike has some thoughts about here. As you know it has a small cast consisting of Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Jack Grinnage and Ruth McDevitt. It has become a cult favorite which currently carries a not surprising ninety-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes but it was a Nielsen ratings failure and only lasted one season of twenty episodes before being cancelled.  Chris Carter who credits the series as the primary inspiration for The X-Files wanted McGavin to appear as Kolchak in one or more episodes of that series, but McGavin was unwilling to reprise the character for the show. He did appear on the series as retired FBI agent very obviously attired in Kolchak’s trademark seersucker jacket, black knit tie, and straw hat.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1916 — Roald Dahl. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Or did he hosted and wrote for a sf and horror television anthology series called Way Out which aired before The Twilight Zone for a season? He also hosted the UK Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.  My favorite Dahl work is The BFG. What’s yours? (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 13, 1931 — Barbara Bain, 90. She’s most remembered for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible television series in the 1960s as Cinnamon Carter, and Space: 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell.  Her first genre role was as Alma in the “KAOS in CONTROL” episode of Get Smart! She was active as of last year as showed in the Space Command series as Auut Simone in the “Ripple Effect” episode. 
  • Born September 13, 1939 — Richard Kiel. He’s definitely  best remembered  for being the steely mouthed Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Now let’s see what other SFF films he’s been in…  One of his last credits was voicing Vlad in the animated Tangled. He was The Salorite in The Phantom Planet, Eegah in the low budget horror film Eegah,  a giant in House of the Damned, Dr. Kolos in The Human Duplicators, a Psychiatric Hospital Patient in Brainstorm, Bolob in the Italian L’umanoide, internationally released as The Humanoid, and he reprised his Jaws character in Inspector Gadget. Series wise, he’s shown up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Twilight Zone, Kolchak: The Night StalkerThe Wild Wild West (where he worked in a recurring role with Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Loveless), I Dream of JeannieGilligan’s IslandLand of The Lost and Superboy. (Died 2014.)
  • Born September 13, 1944 — Jacqueline Bisset, 77. I never pass up a Bond performance and so she’s got on the Birthday Honors by being Giovanna Goodthighs in Casino Royale even though that might have been one of the dumbest character names ever. As near as I can tell, until she shows up in as Charlotte Burton in the “Love the Lie” episode of the Counterpart series that’s her entire encounter with genre acting. Genre adjacent, she appeared in the Albert Finney fronted Murder on the Orient Express as Countess Helena Andrenyi. 
  • Born September 13, 1947 — Mike Grell, 74. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green ArrowThe Warlord, and Jon Sable FreelanceThe Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne as Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth. Theanimated Justice League Unlimited “Chaos at the Earth’s Core“ episode made use of this story. 
  • Born September 13, 1960 — Bob Eggleton, 61. He’s has been honored with the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist eight times! He was guest of honor at Chicon 2000. There’s a reasonably up to date look at his artwork,  Primal Darkness: The Gothic & Horror Art of Bob Eggleton  which he put together in 2010 and was published by Cartouche Press.
  • Born September 13, 1961 — Tom Holt, 60. Assuming you like comical fantasy, I’d recommend both Faust Among Equals and Who Afraid of Beowulf? as being well worth time. If you madly, deeply into Wagner, you’ll love Expecting Someone Taller; if not, skip it. His only two Awards are a pair of World Fantasy Awards, both for novellas, “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong” and “Let’s Maps to Others”. And yes, I know that he also publishes under the K. J. Parker name as well but I won’t go into the works he publishes there here. 
  • Born September 13, 1974 — Fiona Avery, 47. Comic book and genre series scriptwriter. While being a reference editor on the final season of Babylon 5, she wrote “The Well of Forever” and “Patterns of the Soul” as well as two that were not produced, “Value Judgements” and “Tried and True”. After work on the Crusade series ended, she turned to comic book writing, working for Marvel and Top Cow with J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars series being another place where her scripts were used. She created the Marvel character Anya Sofia Corazon later named Spider-girl. She did work on Tomb RaiderSpider-ManX-Men and Witchblade as well.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows the Scarecrow’s plans to be another Lincoln will have to be postponed.
  • The Argyle Sweater has an Oz-themed joke of its own involving Dorothy.

(9) SEE YOU AT THE RBEM. Wauke-Con – Waukegan’s First Comic Book Convention — will be at the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum on October 16 and 17 at the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum, located at lucky 13 N. Genesee, from 12-6 both days. Buy a ticket here.

(10) HAWKEYE TRAILER. Disney+ shares a look at Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye.

Disney+ and Marvel Studios invite you on an unexpected holiday getaway, unwrapping a brand-new teaser trailer and poster today for “Hawkeye,” a new series set in post-blip New York City. Former Avenger Clint Barton has a seemingly simple mission: get back to his family for Christmas. Possible? Maybe with the help of Kate Bishop, a 22-year-old archer with dreams of becoming a Super Hero. The two are forced to work together when a presence from Barton’s past threatens to derail far more than the festive spirit.

(11) FORBIDDEN ADDRESS. Powell’s Books presents “Caitlin Starling in Conversation With Wendy N. Wagner” on October 6 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for the free Zoom webinar here.

From Bram Stoker-nominated Caitlin Starling, author of The Luminous Dead, comes The Death of Jane Lawrence (St. Martin’s), a new gothic fantasy horror novel. Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man — one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished. Starling will be joined in conversation by Wendy N. Wagner, editor of Nightmare magazine and author of An Oath of Dogs.

(12) MUCHO MOOLA FOR WOOLLY BULLY. Slashdot reports a “Firm Raises $15 Million To Bring Back Woolly Mammoth From Extinction”. How much to bring back two?

… The scientists have set their initial sights on creating an elephant-mammoth hybrid by making embryos in the laboratory that carry mammoth DNA. The starting point for the project involves taking skin cells from Asian elephants, which are threatened with extinction, and reprogramming them into more versatile stem cells that carry mammoth DNA….

(13) B5 DREAMING. Add this to your list of rumors of SF series reboots/sequels. Make of it what you will.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Joyce Scrivner, Dann, Steven H Silver, Marc Criley, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 8/22/21 Ain’t No Mount TBR High Enough

(1) RAY BRADBURY’S 101ST. John King Tarpinian commemorated Ray Bradbury’s birthday, as he does each year, with a visit to the writer’s burial place:

Left Ray some Montag typing paper & a Faber pencil.  Plus a half-bottle of Dandelion Wine & a skate key from the Chicago Roller Skate Company.

(2) CHICAGO HONORS WOLFE. The late Gene Wolfe will be among those inducted to the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame on September 19.  As a former Fuller Award honoree he gained automatic induction upon his death. (Via Locus Online.)

(3) THE PLANETS OF SWEDEN. Ingvar livetweeted his latest tour of the inner planets of Sweden’s Solar System model . Ingvar’s thread starts here. Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are in Stockholm. The rest of the model is spread across the country.  

(4) AUSSIE NATCON CANCELED. Conflux, the annual Canberra convention which was also designated this year’s Australian national convention, won’t be held due to COVID concerns: “Conflux 2021 Cancelled” reports SFFANZ. See the announcement at the Conflux website.

Conflux is a speculative fiction convention held annually in Canberra. Like many conventions, Conflux in 2020 and 2021 have had to be cancelled due to the global pandemic. 

We will refund all registrations in the coming weeks, and the Rydges Hotel cancellation policy includes a full refund as long as you cancel more than 24 hours in advance.

We are currently working on how we can host the Ditmars and will advise further once we have everything in place for that.

(5) TINGLE PROVES LOVE TO HUGO VOTERS. Camestros Felapton’s autopsy of the 2016 Hugo Awards includes one lively memory — “Debarkle Chapter 58: Hugos and Dragons and Puppies Again”.

…If the impact of the Puppies was more ambiguous in 2016 it was still no less visible. There had been hope that the huge numbers of people who had joined Worldcon and voted against the Puppies in 2015 would translate into overwhelming numbers at the nomination phase. However, without a coordinated slate, a large number of people voting for a wide range of different things will not necessarily out vote a much smaller number voting for a slate. Over four thousand nomination ballots had been cast and of those maybe less than 10% were people following the Rabid Puppy slate[6] but in more popular categories, Day included more “hostages” on his slate and concentrated his more controversial picks on down-ballot categories….

With the Sad Puppies largely absent from the fight and with most of the substantive arguments having already played out in 2015, the 2016 award season was less riven with feuding disputes. There was a degree of pressure on some finalist who had been on the Rabid Puppy slate to withdraw but few did. Included in those who had been asked to withdraw was erotic humorist Chuck Tingle whose short story Space Raptor Butt Invasion had been slated by Vox Day in an attempt to mock the Hugo Awards. Tingle didn’t withdraw but instead turned his attention to mocking Vox Day and rolling the whole process of being nominated into his bizarre metafictional book titles….

(6) STINKERS. Buzzfeed lists “18 Movies That Were Completely Worthless” based on a Reddit thread. Would you like to guess how many are sff? Some of them are hard to classify – like the one below.

We all know that feeling. You finish a movie, and you can’t believe you just wasted two hours of your life that you’ll never get back…

8. The Emoji Movie

“It was a soulless corporate husk of a movie built on ads. Literally, ads the movie. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about the movie. It’s morally, creatively, and ethically bankrupt. I’m actually angry remembering I wasted two hours of my life watching that fucking movie.”

(7) RAIN ON YOUR ALIEN PARADE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post Magazine, Joel Achenbach, who wrote a book (Captured By Aliens) about “the search for extraterrestrial life,” takes a deep dive into the evidence for space aliens and conclude we’re alone in the universe and should work on problems we can solve instead of daydreaming about space aliens. “It’s time to stop UFO mania”.

…I’m wary of returning to that strange universe, because anything I write is guaranteed to be unsatisfying for everyone involved. My strong suspicion is that the number of UFO sightings that involve actual alien beings, from deep space, with the tentacles and the antennae and so on, is zero. I would put the likelihood at 0.0000 and then add some more zeros, before eventually, begrudgingly — because I’m so intellectually flexible — putting in a little 1 out there somewhere to the right, a lonely sentinel, because who knows? (Yes, I’m saying there’s a chance.)

This skeptical take, however, is the boring take. A better story would be that, after all these decades as a skeptic, I’ve converted, because the recent rash of UFO sightings has persuaded me that these are, in actual fact, spaceships from somewhere else in the universe, or perhaps from the future, and could even be future humans, such as grad students getting their PhDs in paleoanthropology. Much better story.

Science journalists regularly disappoint people by refusing to confirm really cool things like UFOs, past-life recall, astral projection, telekinesis, clairvoyance and so on. When I wrote my aliens book I made a disastrous marketing mistake by not including any aliens in the story, focusing instead on people who believe in aliens. Thus it was a major disappointment for readers who bought a copy after finding it in the “Occult” section at Barnes & Noble….

(8) ELLISON ON THE AIR. J. Michael Straczynski has made available, in a now-unlocked Patreon post, a recording of one of the Harlan Ellison-hosted episodes of Hour 25 aired in 1986 by LA radio station KPFK.

Meanwhile, here’s an exclusive treat for Patrons who are/were fans of Harlan Ellison: his HOUR 25 interview with best-selling horror author Clive Barker.  (Harlan copyrighted the shows he hosted under the Kilimanjaro Corporation and I don’t believe this has been heard anywhere since its initial airing.)  It’s vastly entertaining, educational for writers, and very funny in places.  This is the broadcast exactly as it went out on at 10 p.m PST, August 30th, 1986, with roughly 90 minutes of the most engaging conversation you’re apt to hear this month.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2001 – On this day twenty years ago, the Legend series ended its very brief run on UPN. A sort of steampunk Western, it was developed by Michael Piller, who is best known for his contributions to the Star Trek franchise, and  Bill Dail who is responsible for Sliders. It really had only two primary characters in the form of Ernest Pratt / Nicodemus Legend as played by Richard Dean Anderson and Janos Bartok as played by John de Lancie. It would run for the briefest of times as I noted, just twelve episodes before being cancelled. Every critic compared it to The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., some favorably and some not. The New York Post critic called it “a gorgeous amalgam of science fiction and old-fashioned Western”.  It, like so many short run series, has no Rotten Tomatoes rating. Nor does it exist on any of the streaming services. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 22, 1907 Oliver McGowan. He played The Caretaker in the “Shore Leave” episode of the original Trek. It must be decades since I’ve seen that episode but I still remember liking it a lot, silly though it be. It’s kind of the ancestor to the holodeck, isn’t it? McGowan has one-offs on One Step Beyond, Wild Wild West, I Dream of Jeannie, The Twilight Zone and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
  • Born August 22, 1919 Douglas W F Mayer. A British fan who was editor for  three issues of Amateur Science Stories published by the Science Fiction Association of Leeds, England. He was thereby the publisher of Arthur C. Clarke’s very first short story, “Travel by Wire”, which appeared in the second issue in December 1937. He would later edit the Tomorrow fanzine which would be nominated for the 1939 Best Fanzine Retro Hugo. (Died 1976.)
  • Born August 22, 1920 Ray Bradbury. So what’s your favorite work by him? I have three. Something Wicked This Way Comes is the one I reread quite a bit, with The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles being my other go to works by him. Though he won no Hugos as his best work predated them, he’s won six Retro Hugos for a best novel, two best short stories, twice for fan writer and one for best fanzine. The Martian Chronicles film was nominated for a Hugo at Denvention Two, the year The Empire Strikes Back won; Something Wicked This Way Comes would go up against the Return of The Jedi which won at L.A. Con II. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 22, 1925 Honor Blackman. Best known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts. She was also Professor Lasky in “Terror of the Vervoids” in the Sixth Doctor’s “The Trial of a Time Lord”. Genre adjacent, she was in the film of Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary as Rita Vandemeyer. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 22, 1931 Douglas Cramer. He produced twenty-four episodes of the original Trek, and he was Executive Producer of Wonder Woman. His only writing credit was for The Cat People. (Died 2021.)
  • Born August 22, 1945 David Chase, 76. He’s here today mainly because he wrote nine episodes including the “Kolchak: Demon and the Mummy” telefilm of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He also wrote the screenplay for The Grave of The Vampire, and one for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Enough Rope fur Two”, which he also directed. And yes, he wrote many of the scripts for Northern Exposure which is at least genre adjacent. 
  • Born August 22, 1955 Will Shetterly, 66. Of his novels, I recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, which were both nominees for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature , and his sort of biographical Dogland. Married to Emma Bull, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing as you’ll spot Minnesota fans in it. Emma as the Elf Queen is definitely something to behold! 
  • Born August 22, 1963 Tori Amos, 58. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams, and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman series is based on her. 

(11) TAKING THE LID OFF. The table of contents has been revealed for What One Wouldn’t Do: An Anthology on the Lengths One Might Go edited by Scott J. Moses. Comes out October 5.

With dark fiction from J.A.W. McCarthy, Avra Margariti, Marisca Pichette, Stephanie Ellis, Christina Wilder, Donna Lynch, Katie Young, Scott J. Moses, Angela Sylvaine, tom reed, Cheri Kamei, Shane Douglas Keene, J.V. Gachs, Tim McGregor, Emma E. Murray, Nick Younker, Jennifer Crow, Joanna Koch, Lex Vranick, Laurel Hightower, Eric Raglin, Eric LaRocca, Daniel Barnett, Bob Johnson, Simone le Roux, Hailey Piper, Bryson Richard, Jena Brown, and Christi Nogle.

(12) NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S ANIMATRONICS. The New York Times wants to know, “Are You Ready for Sentient Disney Robots?”

Not an imitation Groot conjured with video or those clunky virtual reality goggles. The Walt Disney Company’s secretive research and development division, Imagineering, had promised a walking, talking, emoting Groot, as if the arboreal “Avengers” character had jumped off the screen and was living among us.

But first I had to find him. GPS had guided me to a warehouse on a dead-end street in Glendale, a Los Angeles suburb. The place seemed deserted. As soon as I parked, however, a man warily appeared from behind a jacaranda tree. Yes, I had an appointment. No, I was not hiding any recording devices. He made a phone call, and I was escorted into the warehouse through an unmarked door behind a dumpster.

In the back near a black curtain a little wrinkled hand waved hello.

It was Groot.

He was about three feet tall and ambled toward me with wide eyes, as if he had discovered a mysterious new life form. He looked me up and down and introduced himself….

…The development of Groot — code-named Project Kiwi — is the latest example. He is a prototype for a small-scale, free-roaming robotic actor that can take on the role of any similarly sized Disney character. In other words, Disney does not want a one-off. It wants a technology platform for a new class of animatronics….

(13) AS THE STEM IS BENT. NASA entices scholars with a loaded webpage: “Launch Back to School With NASA: Student and Educator Resources for the 2021-2022 School Year”.

As students across the country are saying goodbye to the summer and the new school year is kicking off, NASA is gearing up to engage students in exciting activities and thought-provoking challenges throughout the year ahead. The agency offers many resources to inspire the next generation of explorers, and help educators and students stay involved in its missions.

“Back-to-school season is a really exciting time for NASA. It represents the beginning of a new year of opportunities to connect with students, and the families and teachers who support them,” said Mike Kincaid, associate administrator for NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer this variety of activities and options for students from K-12 to the collegiate level, whether they’re returning to a brick-and-mortar school or a virtual classroom at home.”

Below, NASA has prepared a long list of mission-related resources and opportunities for students, educators, and families to utilize during the 2021-2022 school year. Follow NASA STEM on Twitter and Facebook social media channels using the hashtags #BacktoSchool and #NASASTEM for additional content and updates….

(14) CELEBRATE LANDSAT. At another page, “NASA Invites You to Create Landsat-Inspired Arts and Crafts”.

Share Your Earth-Inspired Art – For 50 years, Landsat satellites have collected images of Earth from space. On Sept. 16, Landsat 9 is scheduled to launch and continue this legacy. Crafters of all ages are invited to share Landsat-inspired art creations.

How?

  1. Search the Landsat Image Gallery for an image that inspires you.
  2. Get crafting! This can be anything from watercolor paintings to knitted accessories to a tile mosaic – whatever sparks your creativity.
  3. Share your creation with us on social media using the hashtag #LandsatCraft

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In 2018, Jay Leno’s Garage did a demo of Jay driving Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

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

Frequently Answered Questions: The Last Dangerous Visions

The following summary is drawn solely from information J. Michael Straczynski has shared with Facebook readers, or has written in unlocked Patreon posts. Additional information, not included here, is available to subscribers of JMS’ Patreon.

HOW WILL THE BOOK FIND A PUBLISHER?

The plan is to take it out to auction in September, and it’s usually about a year before a book goes through all the steps in proofing, printing and the like, so my guess — and that’s all it is at this point pending the sale — would be late Summer/early Fall 2022. But that’s nothing official. (Facebook)  

WHY DID JMS SET THE BOOK’S WORDCOUNT AT 112K?

There were never a million words, at one point it was 700K, but then about half or more were withdrawn by the authors, so now we’re down to 250-300K, and from that it was essential to find the best of the best in order to make sure that this achieved publication that would draw attention to Harlan’s legacy and the work of those writers. This isn’t a weight competition, it’s not about 50 words, it’s about the best words.

Do you want to see 112K words by some of the best writers in the field finally being published? Or do you not want any of them to be seen in anything resembling a proper publication? Because that’s the choice. Pick one.

And all of the stories not being used in TLDV are released and free to be published elsewhere, so there’s no bottleneck at this end.

…The first DV was published in 1967, the second in ’71, and the Year’s Best anthology you mention was published in 1984, when it was not that difficult to get large anthologies in the SF genre out there. In 2021, the field has contracted, and it’s *very* difficult to go for much more of a word-count than we have here for an anthology, especially since the market for anthos is generally considered very weak. We’ve been quietly discussing this with several publishers and that number is actually slightly beyond the hard ceiling they suggested. That being said: the final manuscript definitely contains the very best of the very best…the book is *solid* and the stories are genuinely remarkable and timeless. (Facebook)

WILL HARLAN ELLISON’S INTRODUCTIONS BE IN THE BOOK?

Anything/everything Harlan wrote for TLDV will be included. (Facebook)  

WILL TIM KIRK’S ARTWORK BE IN THE BOOK?

Previously unseen artwork by the phenomenal Tim Kirk commissioned for the original volume to go with these stories will also be included in this volume. (“On Finishing The Last Dangerous Visions”)

WHICH AUTHORS HAVE NEW STORIES ACQUIRED BY JMS FOR THE BOOK?

Three authors who will have a new story in LDV have been named. The first one is —

As noted, several high-profile writers have stepped up to show support for TLDV by offering to contribute stories. The first was announced Monday exclusively to those on Patreon, and can now be conveyed here: the amazing NEIL GAIMAN!

And the other two —

Also: I’d like to announce another significant contemporary writer who has decided to lend his name to THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS by contributing a story: CORY DOCTOROW, who is known as not just an amazing writer but a pioneer in the realm of electronic rights and privacy and a scholar of the internet.

And of the original writers who contributed stories, “Rundown” by the highly regarded SF and fantasy writer John Morressy has been selected to be included in this volume.

WHICH PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED WRITER HAD A STORY ACCEPTED FOR TLDV?

There was a one-day submission window for unpublished writers who wanted to have a story accepted for LDV (Patreon). Only one story would be accepted. JMS has named the author of the chosen story —

  • Kayo Hartenbaum

So though the competition was stiff, the thoughtfulness of the story, the inventiveness of the way in which it was told, and the story’s ability to grab and hold the attention of the reader lifted it out of the ordinary and made it something that definitely belonged in the pages of The Last Dangerous Visions.

[Comments are closed.]

Pixel Scroll 8/20/21 Curse You, Pixel Scroll, For Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal

(1) HOW DRAGON CON IS HANDLING COVID. Atlanta’s Dragon Con, being held September 2-6, devotes an entire webpage to the COVID-related attendance rules at “Updates – Dragon Con”.

Today they also sent members an informational email which says they’re considering offering onside testing (for a fee, see below) to facilitate compliance with their entry requirements.

All 2021 attendees will need to provide proof of full vaccination – OR – a negative Covid-19 test that has been administered within 72 hours of badge pickup. 

Please see our updates page at https://www.dragoncon.org/updates/ for additional details on all health and safety guidelines including the indoor mask mandate.

We are currently working with an outside vendor to potentially offer onsite testing to attendees for a fee of $25 – $40 collected directly by the provider…. 

(2) SHATNER Q&A. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a chat with Shat, because William Shatner is going to be a guest at Awesome Con (the Washington, D.C. media con) this weekend. Shatner shares news on his latest projects, including his new album Bill and spending five days with StoryFile “for interactive conversational-video technology” so fans can ask questions of the William Shatner hologram! “William Shatner, at 90, keeps seeking that next personal frontier”.

…Shatner, a veteran performer of spoken-word tunes, has an album due out next month simply called “Bill.” Some of the songs are inspired by events in his life, and his collaborators included They Might Be Giants songwriter-musician Dan Miller.

He also enjoyed teaming with the L.A.-based company StoryFile to spend five days recording answers for interactive conversational-video technology. He was filmed with 3-D cameras so his words can be delivered via hologram.

The idea, he says, is that people will be able to push a button and ask questions of a virtual celebrity — like “asking Grandpa questions at his gravestone,” but with technologically advanced replies.

(3) JOB APPLICANT. “Babylon 5 boss has ‘contacted’ BBC over Doctor Who showrunner job” reports Radio Times.

Last month, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski threw his hat into the ring to become the new Doctor Who showrunner, tweeting his interest in replacing Chris Chibnall when the latter steps down in 2022.

And now Straczynski has issued an update on the situation, revealing that contact has been made with the BBC about the soon-to-be vacancy for Doctor Who showrunner.

Replying to a fan who asked what the situation was on Twitter, he wrote, “Contact with the BBC has been made. They’re going through their own process, which began before my tweet, and that has to run its course, but if those don’t pan out and there’s a discussion to be had, they will reach out.”…

(4) OUT OF JEOPARDY! Meanwhile, Jeopardy! jettisoned Mike Richards as the replacement host after some troubling quotes from his old podcast were publicized. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Mike Richards Out as ‘Jeopardy!’ Host After Podcast Comments”. Whether this reopens LeVar Burton’s candidacy remains to be seen.

…Sony released the following statement which confirmed that Richards will continue on as the show’s executive producer, if not as Alex Trebek’s successor: “We support Mike’s decision to step down as host. We were surprised this week to learn of Mike’s 2013/2014 podcast and the offensive language he used in the past. We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward. Mike has been with us for the last two years and has led the Jeopardy! team through the most challenging time the show has ever experienced. It is our hope that as EP he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect.”

Sony also confirmed the episodes Richards shot on Thursday will still air during the upcoming season as scheduled, followed by a rotation of guest hosts until a new permanent host is selected….

(5) MAGAZINE DEBUTS. The first issue of Witch House, a new magazine of cosmic and gothic horror, is now available.

Witch House Issue 1 is now available. You can download it here. This issue includes several great stories and poems. Thanks to Chase Folmar (Associate Editor), Luke E. Dodd (Associate Editor), and all our great contributors for helping us release this issue. We hope you enjoy it!

(6) SCHASCARYZADE. Netflix dropped a trailer for Nightbooks, with Krysten Ritter.

Scary story fan Alex must tell a spine-tingling tale every night — or stay trapped with his new friend in a wicked witch’s magical apartment forever.

(7) BUTLER BIO. “Octavia E. Butler Biography Reveal: Star Child by Ibi Zoboi”Gizmodo previews the cover at the link. The book will be released January 25; it’s available for preorder now.

An author as distinctive as Science Fiction Hall of Fame member Octavia E. Butler (KindredThe Parable of the Sowerdeserves an equally distinctive biography—which is exactly why Ibi Zoboi’s Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler is so exciting. Described as “a poignant biography in verse and prose,” the book, which is aimed at middle-grade readers but is truly universal, explores Butler’s childhood and how it informed her award-winning, influential literary career.

Zoboi—a National Book Award finalist for her YA novel American Street—actually studied with Butler at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop before Butler passed away in 2006. Star Child showcases Butler’s “own words and photos of documents from her childhood,” bolstered by Zoboi’s research on Butler’s papers at Los Angeles’ Huntington Library. 

(8) LISTEN IN. Stephen Graham Jones, who’s already won several awards this year, will do an author talk about his book My Heart is a Chainsaw on August 31 at 7:00 p.m. Mountain time. Free livestream, register here.

(9) MURPHY OBIT. Jill Murphy, author of the Worst Witch series of children’s books, died August 18. The Guardian has a profile: “Jill Murphy, children’s author and illustrator, dies aged 72”.

… Murphy started writing The Worst Witch while still at school, completing her first manuscript at the age of 18. Her mother once commented that Murphy and her two friends looked like witches in their dark school uniforms, which gave the author the idea for her first book.

Murphy initially struggled to publish her first novel, as many publishers at the time worried that children would find the book about witches too frightening. But the tale of clumsy young witch Mildred Hubble and her adventures at Miss Cackle’s Academy stole the hearts of generations of children, selling more than 3m copies and becoming one of the most successful Young Puffin titles.

Murphy’s books went on to win many major awards, including the Smarties prize for The Last Noo-Noo. Peace at Last and All in One Piece were both commended for the Kate Greenaway Medal. She was also an honorary fellow of Falmouth University….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1974 – Forty seven years ago at Discon II where andrew j. offutt was Toastmaster, Arthur C. Clarke won the Hugo for Best Novel for Rendezvous with Rama. Other nominated works that year were Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, Larry Niven’s Protector, Poul Anderson‘s The People of the Wind and David Gerrold‘s The Man Who Folded Himself. It was a popular choice as it would also win a BSFA, John W. Campbell Memorial Award, a Locus Best Novel Award and a Nebula Award. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 20, 1883 Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text yet more; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. Is there a full, unedited version? (Died 1931.)
  • Born August 20, 1932 Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors.  It is noted that enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 78. The Seventh Doctor and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won a Nebula Award, and a Hugo Award at L.A. Con II in its original novelette form is a amazing read. His novels Moving Mars and Darwin’s Radio are also Nebula winners, and he has other short fiction award winners. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 60. Australian writer who does exist though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent  Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award  and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Ausiecon Three. And he’s won a lot of Ditmar Awards.
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 59. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures, and she’s recently written Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End where Ace meets the Thirteenth Doctor. 
  • Born August 20, 1963 Justina Vail Evans, 58. Olga Vukavitch in Seven Days, a series I thought was extremely well-crafted. She shows up in other genre undertakings such as Super ForceConanJourney to The Center of The EarthThe Adventures of SuperboyThe X-FilesCarnosaur 3: Primal SpeciesConan and Highlander: The Series

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Onion is dead on about the intersection between climate change and space travel! But didn’t someone already write Garbage Planet?
  • The Oatmeal did this comic to commemorate Gene Roddenberry’s 100th birthday yesterday.

(13) TURNING THE CAMERA AROUND. After reading The Oatmeal linked above, you realize there’s a lot more material to work with than just his career in TV: “Gene Roddenberry Biopic In Works With ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ Scribe Adam Mazer” – details at Deadline.

Roddenberry Entertainment has been working quietly on a feature biopic of the sci-fi TV icon, and there is a script by Adam Mazer, whose credits include the Emmy-winning script for the 2010 HBO movie You Don’t Know Jack which starred Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Producers include Star Trek caretakers Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth, who executive produce all current franchise series including Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. Next up the development will be finding a director and actors.

… There’s no shortage of subject matter surrounding Roddenberry, the fighter pilot-turned-LAPD cop-turned-TV writer who survived two plane crashes and the rough waters of Hollywood to create Star Trek, one of the world’s most enduring sci-fi franchises, with the original 1966-69 TV series eventually spawning spinoffs, movies, books and a legion of hard-core fans.

(14) THE THREE BLAHS OF ROBOTICS. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] Not satisfied with developing cars that can drive themselves (HINT: not there yet), Elon Musk is now saying he intends to develop humanoid robots to do dangerous and boring tasks. So far he seems to have this mission statement, a slide deck, plus someone dressed in a skintight suit and wearing a helmet. “Tesla Bot: Elon Musk Unveils Humanoid Robot to do ‘Boring’ work” at Bloomberg.

… The Tesla Bot, a prototype of which should be available next year, is designed to eliminate “dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks,” like bending over to pick something up, or go to the store for groceries, Musk said. “Essentially, in the future, physical work will be a choice.”…

(15) THE CLOCK IS RUNNING. Filers might find today’s New Yorker “Name Drop” puzzle of interest.

(16) INSIDE A PERRIN GAME. James Davis Nicoll tells how “Steve Perrin’s Worlds of Wonder Changed the Game for RPGs” at Tor.com.

Emmet Asher-Perrin’s worthy obit for Steve Perrin mentions such Perrin-related projects as StormbringerCall of CthulhuThieves’ WorldElfquestRobot Warriors, and (of course!) Superworld. One fascinating Perrin work that often goes unmentioned, probably due to the fact that it has become a comparatively obscure work, is 1982’s groundbreaking Worlds of Wonder. You may not have encountered it, but odds are that you’ve seen and played later games that it inspired or influenced.

The 9½ x 12 x 1 inch box for this game contained four 16-page booklets: Basic Role-PlayingMagic WorldSuperworld, and Future World.  Assisting Steve Perrin were Steve Henderson, Gordon Monson, Greg Stafford, Lynn Willis and others. Roleplaying game design tends to be a team effort….

(17) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. This week’s PBS Space Time looks at the end of everything, including beyond File 770… The universe is going to end. But of all the possible ends of the universe vacuum decay would have to be the most thorough – because it could totally rewrite the laws of physics. How terrified should you be….? 

(18) MOONING PEOPLE. The Old Farmer’s Almanac encourages us to look: “Full Moon August Appears to Shine All Weekend”.

On all three nights, the Moon will be tangled together with the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Very close to Saturn on Friday night, right amidst both brilliant Jupiter and less-bright Saturn on Saturday, and forming a line with them when it’s full on Sunday. Read about super-bright Jupiter which is at its best right now….

And there are more reasons at the link.

(19) A PERTINENT PEW POLL. Pew on belief in space aliens. Graphs at the link. “Religious Americans less likely to believe intelligent life exists beyond Earth” at Pew Research Center.

….This is evidenced by a variety of measures of religious engagement. For example, U.S. Christians are far less likely than religiously unaffiliated Americans to say that their “best guess” is that intelligent life exists on other planets (57% vs. 80%). And U.S. adults who attend religious services on at least a weekly basis are considerably less likely than those who seldom or never attend services to say that intelligent life exists elsewhere (44% vs. 75%).

Similarly, around half of Americans who say religion is very important to them (49%) say their best guess is that intelligent life exists on other planets. By comparison, roughly three-quarters of those who say that religion is less important in their lives (76%) say that intelligent life exists elsewhere. …

(20) HOW DOGS THINK. So far, it appears that no dog has learned how to cheat at their version of the Kobayashi Maru test. ”How dogs think, learn, communicate and problem-solve” in the Washington Post.

…By way of example, he talked about dogs he has worked with for the U.S. Marine Corps, compared with dogs he has worked with for Canine Companions for Independence in California. The Marines needed dogs in places like Afghanistan to help sniff out incendiary devices, while the companions agency needed dogs that were good at helping people with disabilities.

Just looking at both types of purpose-bred dogs, most people would think they’re the same — to the naked eye, they all look like Labrador retrievers, and on paper, they would all be considered Labrador retrievers. But behaviorally and cognitively, because of their breeding for specific program purposes, Hare said, they were different in many ways.

Hare devised a test that could tell them apart in two or three minutes. It’s a test that’s intentionally impossible for the dog to solve — what Star Trek fans would recognize as the Kobayashi Maru. In Hare’s version, the dog was at first able to get a reward from inside a container whose lid was loosely secured and easy to dislodge; then, the reward was placed inside the same container with the lid locked and unable to be opened. Just as Starfleet was trying to figure out what a captain’s character would lead him to do in a no-win situation, Hare’s team was watching whether the dog kept trying to solve the test indefinitely, or looked to a human for help.

“What we found is that the dogs that ask for help are fantastic at the assistance-dog training, and the dogs that persevere and try to solve the problem no matter what are ideal for the detector training,” Hare said. “It’s not testing to see which dog is smart or dumb. What we’ve been able to show is that some of these measures tell you what jobs these dogs would be good at.”…

(21) SMASHING DISCOVERY. Nature reports “Exotic Four-Quark Particle Spotted At Large Hadron Collider”.

Rare tetraquark could help physicists to test theories about strong nuclear force.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is also a big hadron discoverer. The atom smasher near Geneva, Switzerland, is famous for demonstrating the existence of the Higgs boson in 2012, a discovery that slotted into place the final keystone of the current classification of elementary particles. But the LHC has also netted dozens of the non-elementary particles called hadrons — those that, like protons and neutrons, are made of quarks.

The latest hadron made its debut at the virtual meeting of the European Physical Society on 29 July, when particle physicist Ivan Polyakov at Syracuse University in New York unveiled a previously unknown exotic hadron made of four quarks. This brought the LHC’s hadron bounty up to 62, according to a tally kept by Patrick Koppenburg, a particle physicist. Tetraquarks are extremely unusual: most known hadrons are made up of either two or three quarks. The first tetraquark was spotted at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Tsukuba, Japan, in 2003, and LHCb has seen several more. But the new one is an oddity. Previous tetraquarks were likely to be pairs of ordinary quark doublets attached to each other like atoms in a molecule, but theoretical physicist Marek Karliner thinks that the latest one could be a genuine, tightly bound quadruplet. “It’s the first of its kind,” says Karliner, who is at Tel Aviv University in Israel and helped to predict the existence of a particle with the same properties as Tcc in 2017.

(22) REFERENCE DIRECTOR. Today’s Scroll title was inspired by this Firefly clip. Which doesn’t mean we’re going to start explaining the titles, it is just a good excuse to include a moment from the series.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Honest Trailers: The Suicide Squad” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the one thing that every character in the film has “traumatic parent issues,” that director James Gunn replaced the overlong character introductions in Suicide Squad with no introductions at all, and Viola Davis has “way too much talent and elegance to be in a film with Pete Davidson in it.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, John A Arkansawyer, James Davis Nicoll, David K.M. Klaus, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 8/18/21 Science Fiction Grand Pixel Banned From Scroll

(1) WHEN SHALL I MAKE AN END. Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the authors who answers the question “When should writers return to old, abandoned work?” for The Writer. Can you guess the story she’s discussing? Click through to see if you’re right.

Mood as a factor

Mood can take two forms – the mood of the story or novel you abandoned and the mood you’re in when you try to get back into it – that is, your emotional state of mind. As any writer can tell you, the mood you’re in makes a great difference when you tackle any work of fiction. But let’s say this project’s been gathering dust for several years. Are you charged up enough to take it on? Do you have the right inspiration?

Lois McMaster Bujold, speculative fiction writer and four-time winner of the Hugo Award, can speak to these very questions. She returned to an abortive novella after a seven-year hiatus. In 2011, she had completed 15,000 words on a “high-concept tale” about bioengineering, which she nicknamed Radbugs! Then she ran into a brick wall: “Radbugs, and then what?”

Plot-wise she had drawn up short: “The internal problem was that of making the Radbug bioengineering project central, as semi-realistic science (fiction) – it didn’t have a novella-like time frame or structure.” She considered two options, the first being a story that concentrated more on the research. “But scientific research like that is just a whole lot of tedious back-and-forthing on experiments and data collection for several years until the concept either becomes viable or is proved not to work.” Her second option didn’t seem viable, either. “Letting the story focus instead on some of the human problems encountered in those first 15,000 words seemed too much like another story I’d written. I eventually stopped and went on to other things, thinking I’d finally own a trunk story. But it itched. It was half done.”

In 2018, she was in the right frame of mind to return to it….

(2) FIFTY SENSE. NPR has posted its choices for “The 50 Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Books Of The Past Decade”. I’ve read 17 of these. Which doesn’t sound like a good score, yet is higher than I expected. My favorite book of them all happens to be the first one listed, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

This year’s summer reader poll was also shaped by a series of “what ifs” — most importantly, what if, instead of looking at the entire history of the field the way we did in our 2011 poll, we only focused on what’s happened in the decade since? These past 10 years have brought seismic change to science fiction and fantasy (sometimes literally, in the case of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series), and we wanted to celebrate the world-shaking rush of new voices, new perspectives, new styles and new stories. And though we limited ourselves to 50 books this time around, the result is a list that’s truly stellar — as poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi put it, “alive.”…

How We Built This

Wow, you’re some dedicated readers! Thanks for coming all the way down here to find out more. As I said above, we decided to limit ourselves to 50 books this year instead of our usual 100, which made winnowing down the list a particular challenge. As you may know, this poll isn’t a straight-up popularity contest — though, if it were, the Broken Earth books would have crushed all comers; y’all have good taste! Instead, we take your votes (over 16,000 this year) and pare them down to about 250 semifinalists, and then during a truly epic conference call, our panel of expert judges goes through those titles, cuts some, adds some, and hammers out a final curated list….

(3) SHAUN TAN ART. Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book Week runs August 21-27 with the theme “Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds.” The campaign includes this poster by Shaun Tan.

(4) DODGY PRACTICES. Smashwords informed Nigerian writer and editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki that they cannot pay him outstanding e-book royalties, because he doesn’t have a PayPal account – which is due to PayPal not operating in Nigeria.

(5) WRITING MODULE. Speculative Literature Foundation’s video interview “Paolo Bacigalupi: Values Fiction” comes with a set of discussion questions.

In this clip, author Paolo Bacigalupi discusses how he writes fictional solutions into the personas and experiences of the characters that populate his novels

Discussion Questions

(1) Ecological message fiction provides a space for authors to imagine inspired, inventive technology for the future. Bacigalupi believes that crafting these ideas for a better life within dystopian settings ultimately creates a more powerful message for his readers. Do you agree? Why or why not? Can you think of any examples of message fiction that are not set within a dystopian context?

(2) The focus on a ‘chosen one’ or set of heroes as the solution to the problems presented in values fiction can be limiting for a narrative’s overall message. Why do you think this would be? Are there any broader societal implications for ‘chosen one’ style-plots? Is there a situation in which this narrative structure would be useful?

(3) Bacigalupi says that writing fully “lived-in”, interesting characters with varied perspectives on the topic at hand is more effective in getting your message across than creating characters who specifically espouse your values. Do you agree with Bacigalupi? As a reader, what do you find you relate most to in the characters you read?

(4) Bacigalupi cites Gene Wolfe’s claim that those who want to write values fiction need to be able to argue all sides of the argument they’re engaging with in order to make their own point as strong as possible. Can you think of any topic in which arguing all sides would completely contradict your own values as a writer? Would you do it anyway? 

(6) ARC MARKET. The return of the sale of of ARCs. From the Wall Street Journal: “Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Others Whose ‘Not-for-Sale’ Books Are Fetching Thousands”. Andrew Porter recalls, “I sold a bound galley of a Stephen King Doubleday book for $500 in 1984.” (The WSJ is usually paywalled, but this was open to read today.)

“Not for sale,” reads the fine print on the back of an advance reader copy (ARC) of Sally Rooney’s forthcoming novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, which days ago sold on eBay for $79.99 (with tote bag). Another advance copy sold earlier this summer for around $200—roughly 10 times what it costs to preorder the hardcover. An ARC of Jonathan Franzen’s forthcoming Crossroads was recently listed on eBay for $165. 

Free copies of forthcoming books—in the form of ARCs, galleys and uncorrected proofs—are typically sent by publishing houses to authors, reviewers, bookstores and, increasingly, celebrities and influencers months before publication. The copies can draw a bidding frenzy, especially inside the literary world. One publicist described Rooney’s galleys, along with Ottessa Moshfegh’s, as “almost like trading cards” among junior publishing employees. 

Early, unfinished versions of classic novels have long been collectible, with some fetching astronomical prices. This is especially true for early-20th-century books, when advance copies were rare and tended to be made with higher-quality materials. They can also provide a window into a canonical author’s process—highlighting revisions made between drafts, say—and may include handwritten corrections.

An uncorrected advance copy of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row is currently available for $35,000; an early version of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is on sale for $28,000. More recent releases from bestselling authors—such as an uncorrected proof of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, on sale for $3,000—typically sell for less. And then there’s Harry Potter. This May, an uncorrected version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold for over $29,000….

(7) NEW B5 COMMENTARY. J. Michael Straczynski has released another Babylon 5 commentary, on the episode “Signs and Portents”. These commentaries originally were only available through his Patreon page.

(8) YOUNGSON OBIT. Jeanne Youngson, founder of the Vampire Empire (originally the Count Dracula Fan Club), has died reports Nancy Kilpratrick. The Free Dictionary’s article about her accomplishments notes:

…In 1960 she married Robert G. Youngson, a renowned movie producer and historian, and that same year she launched a career as an independent filmmaker, winning numerous prizes as an animator. She also produced medical documentaries, including “My Name Is Debbie,” about the life of a post-operative male to female transsexual. The film is still being shown at Gender Identity conferences in tandem with a Canadian documentary featuring the actual operation.

The idea for a Dracula Club came to Youngson in 1965 while on a trip to Romania. Society Headquarters were set up in London, England, and New York City upon her return; and by the beginning of the 1970s the club had become a growing concern. In the meantime she found it necessary to give up filmmaking to devote her energies to the Dracula and Bram Stoker genres….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1950 – Seventy-one years ago on this date, Destination Moon, produced by George Pal, premiered in the United Kingdom. It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson,  Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. Mainstream critics usually didn’t like it but Asimov said In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.”  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating though the critics overall give a sixty four percent rating there. It is not in the public domain but the trailers are and here  is one for you.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 18, 1925 Brian Aldiss. Fiction wise, I’ll single out his Helliconia series, Hothouse and The Malacia Tapestry as my favorites. He won a Hugo at Chicon III for “The Long Afternoon of The Earth”, another at Conspiracy ’87 for Trillion Year Spree which he co-authored with David Wingrove. He’s edited far too many collections to know which one to single out. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 18, 1929 Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 18, 1931 Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he did have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course he shows up in Outer Limits where he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”.  And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.)
  • Born August 18, 1934 Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence on writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read it so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement as it doesn’t seem like there’s any connection. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 18, 1954 Russell Blackford, 67. Writer resident in Australia for awhile but now in Wales. Author of Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles, and editor of the Australian Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. With Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, he wrote Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction, and Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics which is just out.
  • Born August 18, 1958 Madeleine Stowe, 63. She’s in the Twelve Monkeys film as Kathryn Railly, and she’s in the Twelve Monkeys series as Lillian in the “Memory of Tomorrow” episode. Her only other genre work was a one-off in The Amazing Spider-Man which ran for thirteen episodes nearly forty years ago. She was Maria Calderon in “Escort to Danger” in that series, and she also played Mia Olham in Impostor which scripted off Philip K. Dick’s “Impostor” story. 
  • Born August 18, 1966 Alison Goodman, 55. Australian writer who’s won three Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Speculative Fiction for Singing the Dogstar BluesThe Two Pearls of Wisdom and Lady Helen and the Dark Days PactThe Two Pearls of Wisdom was nominated for an Otherwise Award. 
  • Born August 18, 1967 Brian Michael Bendis, 54. He’s both writer and artist, a still uncommon occurrence. Did you know he’s garnered five Eisner Awards for both his creator-owned work and Marvel Comics? Very impressive! He’s the primary force behind the creation of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, launching Ultimate Spider-Man which is an amazing series which I read on the Marvel Unlimited app. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater shows a robot leaving an autograph in an unexpected place.
  • Half Full is about a kind of house that I didn’t think needed an energy saving plan.

(12) VOTING WITH DOLLARS. “Tabletop Game Makers Crowdfund New Projects” Publishers Weekly charts the successes.

…Anya Combs, director of games outreach at Kickstarter, says one of the key reasons that 2020 was such an explosive year of growth for tabletop gaming was the Covid pandemic, which forced everyone indoors for months on end.

Last year, the global board games market grew by 20% over 2019, according to DW, an international news and media site. The market research firm Arizton Advisory and Intelligence predicted that board games would see a compound annual growth rate spurt of approximately 13% from 2020 to 2026—a surge driven in part by Covid-related lockdowns.

But to chalk up all of tabletop’s recent success to the pandemic would be shortsighted. Tabletop gaming has been enjoying expansion for years. In 2019, Grand View Research estimated that the playing cards and board games market would reach $21.56 billion by 2025.

“Tabletop has been having a moment for a long time,” Combs says. “A lot of it stems from this retro nostalgic aspect, and many point to Stranger Things and the resurgence of role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. Tabletop provides a level of play that people needed during Covid. There’s something very genuine about sitting with your friends and sharing in a communal way.”…

(13) PICARD TO ENTERPRISE. You don’t have to wait for Starfleet to issue yours if you’re willing to order it from Amazon: Star Trek Next Generation 2021 Bluetooth Communicator  Combadge with Chirp Sound Effects, Microphone & Speaker. And there are several styles.

  • Presenting the Star Trek the Next Generation Bluetooth Communicator Badge! Since its debut in 1987 the TNG Communicator Badge has been a sought-after future tech we all wish we had. Now available, a few centuries early, connect to your phone, tablet or computer to enjoy hands and ear. The Star Trek TNG ComBadge features an accurate on-screen matte gold with black outline & silver delta plate. High quality ABS & Zinc materials.
  • The Star Trek Communicator connects to all phones or tablets that have Bluetooth (any modern phone) with Bluetooth version 5 for longer range and extended payback time. It features a built-in Microphone and Speaker for phone calls and music playback. Strong magnet backplate so no holes in your clothes! | 2 hours constant music or phone usage / 48 hours Cos-play “Chirp” mode.
  • HIGH QUALITY SOUND | Plays the classic Star Trek TNG ComBadge chirp sound effect when you press it for Cosplay, when you receive phone calls or enable Siri, Google, Cortana or Alexa! With 30 to 300 foot Bluetooth “Badge to phone” range you can keep your phone in your pocket while you make phone calls, listen to music or use voice your voice assistant.

(14) FLIPPER. A pair of Boston Dynamics robots run a complicated course.

Parkour is the perfect sandbox for the Atlas team at Boston Dynamics to experiment with new behaviors. In this video our humanoid robots demonstrate their whole-body athletics, maintaining its balance through a variety of rapidly changing, high-energy activities. Through jumps, balance beams, and vaults, we demonstrate how we push Atlas to its limits to discover the next generation of mobility, perception, and athletic intelligence.

(15) KEEPS ON TICKING. Ars Technica says Ingenuity is still buzzing Martian skies: “After a dozen flights, NASA’s chopper has yet to come a cropper”.

NASA’s tiny Mars helicopter, which has a fuselage about the size of a small toaster, has successfully flown above the planet for the 12th time.

Nearly half a year after the Perseverance rover landed on Mars, the Ingenuity helicopter is still going strong on the surface of the planet. The small flyer has done so well that it has been separated from Perseverance for some time as it scouts ahead on the red planet….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Old Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, the producer, when he learns that the aging powers of the mysterious beach enables two six-year olds to mature so fast that they have a baby that dies 20 minutes after it is born, says “I could have been a doctor!”  The shocking third act plot twist is SO ridiculous that George makes you very glad you didn’t spend any money on this stinker.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Cliff, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]