Pixel Scroll 8/8/19 Damnit, Captain, I Am A Doctor, Not A Pixel-Scroller

(1) CODE OF CONDUCT INCIDENT. The Armadillocon 41 committee has posted an “ArmadilloCon Incident Report” about an event that happened August 3. The person removed from the con was not identified, nor have I found any statement of their own.

There was an incident at ArmadilloCon on Saturday night. A program participant who had gone significantly off-topic on a panel subsequently laid hands on another attendee. Several other attendees intervened and separated the two. 

The convention was notified of the incident and proceeded to suspend the program participant from programming pending the outcome of the investigation.  After speaking to several witnesses of this public incident and the program participant, the convention committee concluded that the program participant had violated the ArmadilloCon Code of Conduct.

The program participant was removed permanently from the programming schedule, their membership was revoked, and they left the convention without incident. 

ArmadilloCon cannot and will not tolerate violations of our Code of Conduct at the convention. Respect toward fellow attendees is paramount. 

(2) JMS. Yesterday’s Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with the Babylon 5 creator is available to read: “I’m J. Michael Straczynski, AKA JMS and we’re having an AMA to commemorate the release of my autobiography Becoming Superman we’re here to have a freewheeling back-and-forth on the TV series movies and comic books I’ve worked on.” Here’s his answer to “How fast can you write?”

I generally try to avoid writing something until it’s all right there in my head, and I have to get it all down before it disappears, so I end up writing in white heat, but only after a prolonged period of just thinking about it really hard. I’ve written hour-long TV scripts in 48 hours or less when there was an urgent need to do so, and I once rewrote an outside movie script in 72 hours when there was, again, a crisis situation and someone needed my help.

(3) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL. Symphony Space, a performing arts center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan presenting hundreds of music, literary, family, film, theatre, and dance events each year, will offer “Selected Shorts: Ray Bradbury Centennial Celebration” on May 20, 2020.

Selected Shorts salutes science fiction icon Ray Bradbury, credited as “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream” by The New York Times. Host Neil Gaiman (Good Omens) takes the stage with Bradbury admirers who pay tribute to the legendary author’s unearthly short fiction and its enduring influence.

(4) MELVILLE BICENTENNIAL. The Argonaut’s Bliss Bowen describes Ray Bradbury’s contribution to the whale tale: “A celebration of “Moby Dick” recalls the sci-fi icon’s Venice-inspired take on Melville’s classic”.

“It’s not often in the life of a writer lightning truly strikes. And I mean, there he is on the steeple, begging for creative annihilation, and the heavens save up spit and let him have it. In one great hot flash, the lightning strikes. And you have an unbelievable tale delivered in one beauteous blow and are never so blessed again.”

That’s how Ray Bradbury described creative inspiration in his 1992 book “Green Shadows, White Whale.” It’s a lightly fictionalized account of six months he spent adapting Herman Melville’s 1851 novel “Moby Dick” into a screenplay for mercurial director John Huston’s 1956 film, when tensions between them were bristling because literary lightning bolts were not striking. Bradbury had by then published “The Martian Chronicles” (1950) and “Fahrenheit 451” (1953) but was not yet the science fiction master he became before his death in 2012…

(5) WE’LL JUST KEEP THIS OUR LITTLE SECRET. Seanan McGuire has an unusual way of avoiding publicity. Thread starts here.

(6) THE COLD-BLOODED EQUATION. As part of his dinosaur-themed series of posts, Camestros Felapton reacts to the ethical conflicts in an award-winning novelette: “Hugosauriad 3.7: Think Like a Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly”.

…The idea that a teleport is actually a machine that kills you and makes a living copy of yourself somewhere else has been explored in fiction including by Stanislaw Lem. The most famous philosophical example though is in Derek Parfit’s 1984 book Reasons and Persons*. In Chapter 10 “What we believe ourselves to be” Parfitt opens with a sci-fi vignette…

(7) FIELD OF DREAMS. Surprisingly enough, if you build it they will come. “MLB Sets 2020 Game at ‘Field of Dreams’ Location”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

…The Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees will play a regular season game Aug. 13, 2020 in Dyersville, Iowa, at the site of the beloved baseball flick. What’s more, the league will begin construction on a temporary 8,000-seat ballpark on the Dyersville site that neighbors the iconic movie location. A pathway through a cornfield will take fans to the ballpark, which will overlook the famed site. The right field wall will include windows to show the cornfields beyond the ballpark. Aspects of the ballpark’s design will pay homage to Chicago’s Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox from 1910 to 1990, including the shape of the outfield and bull pens beyond the center field fence.

The game, which will be broadcast by Fox and begin at 7 p.m. ET, marks the first-ever MLB game ever held at the location as well as in the state of Iowa. That the White Sox are participating is fitting, given that the 1919 squad featuring Shoeless Joe Jackson and dubbed the Black Sox for throwing the World Series (against the Reds) were featured in Field of Dreams. The game is being staged with the participation of Field of Dreams producers Universal Studios.

(8) THIRTEENTH DOCTOR. Titan Comics will have a new issue of Doctor Who on sale August 28.

DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR VOL. 2 TP – This second collection of the new Doctor’s adventures sends her to medieval Europe, where bloodsucking aliens are making a dent in the tourist trade…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 8, 1919 Dino De Laurentiis. Maker of Dune obviously but less obviously also a lot of other genre including Conan the Barbarian, Flash GordonKing KongHalloween II and Halloween III, Dead Zone and The Last Legion. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for The Avengers, The Champions andMacGyver. (Died 1997.)
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 84. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold MonkeyAirwolf and of course that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. OK, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. 
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 82. Ahhh, Captian Hook, the man who got swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah, I like that film a lot. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (not a film I love), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda
  • Born August 8, 1950 John D. Berry, 69. Editor of myriad fanzines, notable as one of featured a column in the Eighties written by his longtime friend, William Gibson. “The Clubhouse”which he wrote from July 1969 to September 1972 for Amazing Stories reviewed fanzines. His last published piece was “Susan Wood: About and By”, an appreciation of the late author. Partner of Eileen Gunn.
  • Born August 8, 1961 Timothy P. Szczesuil, 58. Boston based con-running fan who chaired chaired Boskone 33 and Boskone 53. He’s also edited or co-edited several books for NESFA, Strange Days: Fabulous Journeys with Gardner Dozois and His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth.
  • Born August 8, 1974 Dominic Harman, 45. Wandering through the Birthday sources, I found this UK illustrator active for some twenty years. He’s won three BSFA Awards, two for Interzone covers and one for the cover for 2011 Solaris edition of Ian Whates’ The Noise Revealed. My favourite cover by him? Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon cover, the 2006 Del Rey / Ballantine edition, is an outstanding look at his work.
  • Born August 8, 1987 Katie Leung, 32. She played Cho Chang, the first love interest for Harry in the Potter film series. Her only other genre appearance to date is as Dou Ti  in Snow in Midsummer at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Dou E Yuan, often also translated as The Injustice to Dou E,  is a Chinese play written by Guan Hanqing (c. 1241–1320) during the Yuan dynasty with serious bloody magic realism in it. End of your history lesson. 
  • Born August 8, 1993 Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, 26. She’s an Kahnawake Mohawk. Why I mention that will be apparent in a moment. Her most recent role is recurring one as Sam Black Crow on American Gods but she has a very long genre history starting being Monique on the Stephen King’s Dead Zone series. From there, she was Claudia Auditore in Assassin’s Creed: Lineage, a series of three short films based on the Assassin’s Creed II video game before showing up as Ali’s in Rhymes for Young Ghouls which is notable for its handling of First Nations issues. She’s Daisy in Another WolfCop (oh guess which monster), an unnamed bar waitress in Being Human, Nourhan in Exploding Sun and Sam in the The Walking Dead: Michonne video game. Out soon is Blood Quantum about a zombie uprising on a First Nations homeland.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield plays a variation on a familiar sci-fi movie theme.
  • Life on Mars? Well, sure, if you can call this life: Close To Home.

(11) RADIO 4. Two more episodes of Stranger Than Sci-Fi are available for listening on BBC Radio 4 for the next few weeks. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says, “Last week’s episode included a fair bit on Sue Burke’s Semiosis about the science (compared with the SF) of plant intelligence, communication etc.  Apparently, they (plants) can hear bees buzzing! (By the way, we – in our SF2 Concatenaton team annual round robin – cited Semiosis as one of the ‘Best SF Novels of 2018’ – though this is a bit of annual fun for us, we do seem to get a few that go one to be shortlisted and/or win awards. See our past year’s performance here ‘Best Science Fiction of the Year’).”

In this episode, Jen and Alice investigate the science behind Sue Burke’s book, Semiosis, about a mysterious breed of intelligent plants. They talk to Sue about how watching her houseplants formed the inspiration for the book. Then they ask the linguist Dr Hannah Little if we could ever learn the language of something that has a completely different understanding of what communication means. Finally, Professor Lilach Hadany explains how a radical new study might show plants are listening to each other – and maybe even to us.

Jen and Alice explore one of the oldest questions in science and science fiction – why should we travel into space? At a time when Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are promising space colonies in the next fifty years, is it time to rethink our relationship with space? They talk to the astro-biologist Dr. Louisa Preston about whether there is life out there on other planets. Then they find out how we might already be endangering that potential life. The space archeologist Dr Alice Gorman explains how we are polluting our solar system, why we should worry about space junk and what a manifesto for sustainable space travel might look like.

(12) SFF ON STAGE. Prize-winning play Machine Learning got a live reading – “Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards: VoxFest 2019”.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science awarded the second annual Neukom Literary Arts Award for Playwriting to Francisco Mendoza. Mendoza was presented with a $5,000 honorarium and his award at this summer’s VoxFest, a week-long festival hosted at Dartmouth College and co-produced by Dartmouth’s department of theater and Vox Theate…

Daniel Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science, left, congratulates Francisco Mendoza. “When we first read Francisco’s play we were taken by its thoughtful and moving treatment of the possible effects of our relationships with machines and each other. It was clear from the performance that great strides were made with just one week’s worth of development and we very much look forward to see how Francisco’s continued work with VoxFest will strengthen an already strong and imaginative vision. I was thrilled with the reading and am excited by this continued collaboration between the Neukom Institute, Dartmouth’s Department of Theater, and Northern Stage,” said Rockmore.

(13) WHAT ARMADILLOCON IS ABOUT. Marshall Ryan Maresca’s “ArmadilloCon 41 Toastmaster Speech” was so good it got a shout-out from Martha Wells (“Toastmaster Marshall Ryan Maresca did a wonderful opening ceremonies speech about acknowledging the problematic past of fandom and SF/F and moving into the future, and how ArmadilloCon and the writers workshop give us the chance to pay forward to the next generations:”)

…Because—and this is so important—this isn’t just a place that celebrates what’s happening now in all the tremendously geeky and fannish things we love. Nor is it a place that just looks to the fascinating and problematic past of those things.  It is a place that fosters the people who will make those things tomorrow.  We do that with our writers workshop, with the multiple panels on craft and business.  We do that by filling the room with people who want to share, who want to pay it forward, who want to hold out a hand to the person behind them and say, “Hey, let’s go.”

If you are a person who ever whispered to yourself, “Maybe I could do that.  Maybe I could write that.  Maybe I could make that.  Maybe I could be that.” 

This is a place that opens its doors to you.

You are seen.

You are heard.

You are believed in.

(14) BEING A REAL WRITER. Tobias Buckell exhorts writers to remember that a successful writing career doesn’t look only one way. His terrific thread starts here.

(15) IT’S THE POLICE FORCE, LUKE. The Hollywood Reporter noticed the suspect has familiar name – so did the actor who plays the character: “Mark Hamill Responds to Warrant Being Issued for Luke Sky Walker”.

Mark Hamill is again having some fun after a man named Luke Sky Walker seems to still be getting in hot water.

It was reported on Wednesday that the 22-year-old Walker had a warrant issued for his arrest in Carter County, Tennessee, concerning a charge of property theft over $1,000, according to the sheriff’s office. 

Just as he did last year when Walker was arrested for violating probation after a felony theft charge, the Luke Skywalker actor took notice and had some quips.

(16) WOULD YOU DRINK IT FOR A QUARTER? BBC explains why it’s rare — “Chernobyl vodka: First consumer product made in exclusion zone”.

“It’s the only bottle in existence – I tremble when I pick it up,” says Prof Jim Smith, gingerly lifting a bottle of Atomik grain spirit.

The “artisan vodka”, made with grain and water from the Chernobyl exclusion zone, is the first consumer product to come from the abandoned area around the damaged nuclear power plant.

The team started the vodka project by growing crops on a farm in the zone.

“Our idea then was [to use that rye grain] to make a spirit,” they say.

As well as Prof Smith, who is based at the University of Portsmouth, UK, the team behind the spirit is made up of researchers who have worked in the exclusion zone for many years – studying how the land has recovered since the catastrophic nuclear accident in 1986.

They hope to use profits from selling it to help communities in Ukraine still affected by the economic impact of the disaster.

(17) EYES ON THE PRIZE. “Staring at seagulls helps protect food, say scientists”. (Or you could always just eat it.)

The secret to protecting your seaside chips from scavenging seagulls is to stare at them, scientists have said.

The birds are more likely to steal food when they can avoid the gaze of their victims, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Exeter put a bag of chips on the ground and timed how long herring gulls took to approach when they were being watched.

They compared this to how long it took for the gulls to strike when the person looked away.

(18) FERAL BARD.  A mashup of Shakespeare and D&D — thread starts here.

[Thanks to Lise Andreasen, Karl-Johan Norén, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Avilyn, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 7/26/19 Scroll-Fly Pie And Pixel-Pan Dowdy

(1) MARY SUE ORIGIN STORY. [Item by Jerry Kaufman.] This recent article from the London Review of Books is about fandom, or fandoms as the case may be, the woman who identified the “Mary Sue”, and her recent writing. (I am the real Jerry Kaufman – accept no other) – “On Sophie Collins”. (Registration required to read full article.)

A ‘Mary Sue’ is an implausibly skilful, attractive or successful protagonist who seems to be a stand-in for the author, especially in fanfiction. The term comes from Paula Smith’s parodic story ‘A Trekkie’s Tale’ (1973), originally published in a mimeographed journal for Star Trek fans. In mocking ‘Mary Sue’, Smith was not attacking fanfiction but trying to bolster its literary quality against fans who used it naively for wish fulfilment. Most of these fans were (like Smith) female. As the term, and the critique, became more common, some fans, and some feminist critics, pushed back. They saw fan communities, and the defiantly unprofessional cultural production that emerged from them, as a kind of safe space, where the rules imposed by a patriarchal outside world about what one can say, and who one can be, could be ignored.

(2) ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE. “City Council Votes to Name Bronx Street ‘Stan Lee Way’ in Honor of Comic Book Genius, Spider-Man Creator” — New York TV station NBC-4 has the story.

Council Member Fernando Cabrera’s proposal aims to honor Stan Lee’s Bronx roots by co-naming a section of University Avenue between Brandt Place and West 176th Street after the comic book genius.

The city council voted Tuesday to approve the proposal.

… “Stan Lee was a Bronx native who grew up in my district,” said Cabrera. “Stan Lee was a creative genius who co-created iconic super heroes including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther and more. Mr. Lee’s amazing talent brought joy and entertainment to countless children and adults and he deserves to be permanently memorialized in his home borough, the Bronx.”

(3) BUILDING A STORY WITH MAGIC. Juliette Wade’s new Dive Into Worldbuilding introduces readers to “Julie Czerneda and The Gossamer Mage. View the video interview, and/or read the summary notes at the link. 

…I asked her where the idea for the book started, and she said it started with a pen – and proceeded to show us the pen in question! She brought a lot of cool props to show us, so I encourage you all to check out the video if you’re curious about them.

One of the things that Julie explored while writing this was the history of ink. Battles were fought over areas of the world that provided good ink ingredients, and pirates stole ink as well as other things.

I’ve always found constrained magic systems very interesting, so I asked her to tell us about the magic system she used in The Gossamer Mage. Julie said she agreed with me that she liked constrained systems. She said she liked it when everyone knows how to use the magic, but wait, it’s not so simple. This particular magic system is constrained in part because it requires writing, which means it requires a particular type of scholarship. You have to be able to write words that are not human words, and to intend them. Further, this magic can only be done in the one place in the world where magic remains. One important ingredient here is that magic used to be in more of the world, but is no longer present except in one region, ringed with mountains.

Thus, magic is constrained physically, and it is constrained to scholars….

(4) BOOK MAKER. Shelf Awareness does a Q&A with Babylon-5 creator, who recently published his autobiography Becoming Superman: “Reading with… J. Michael Straczynski”.

On your nightstand now: 

Rereading A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I believe that an appreciation of poetry is essential for any writer in any field. That economy of language reminds you of the importance of choosing exactly the right word, not the word next to the right one on the shelf. On a conceptual level, I admire Ferlinghetti’s writing which comes at you from a right angle with a huge impact, so I reread his work every couple of years to keep my brain flexible.

(5) HE WHO OVERCOMES. Then, Cory Doctorow does an epic review of “J Michael Straczynski’s “Becoming Superman”: a memoir of horrific abuse, war crimes, perseverance, trauma, triumph and doing what’s right” at BoingBoing.

And so, drip by drip, crumb by crumb, inch by inch, Straczynski manages to become a writer, and it turns out that not only can he write to deadline, he’s really good at it. Even projects that seem silly or trivial on their face, like writing for He-Man or The Real Ghostbusters, are treated with such intense seriousness that they just kill.

But this being Hollywood, where, famously, nobody knows anything, every success that Straczynski ekes out is eventually scuttled by venality, cowardice, grift, or all three, as greedy execs and bullshit-slinging consultants demand that he compromise on what he knows is right. And Straczynski being Straczynski — being the survivor of a campaign of terror visited upon him by a literal Nazi — refuses to back down, because despite the mountain of shit he’s climbed to get where he is, the prospect of falling down to the bottom is incapable of scaring him beyond his threshold of tolerability.

And, remarkably, despite industry concentration and a thousand variations of “you’ll never work in this town again,” Straczynski continues to work. His story is a beautiful parable about how luck is made: the way it’s told, it seems like Straczynski has a horseshoe up his ass, with opportunities dropping appearing over the horizon just a little faster than the burn-rate of the bridges he’s torched behind him, but when you look a little closer, you realize that the most improbable thing here isn’t the opportunities, but rather Straczynski’s relentless, singleminded determination to seize them, writing (for example) entire seasons of his TV shows when the studios’ dumb mistakes leave them shorthanded.

(6) REVOLUTIONARY DATA. Can you imagine Brent Spiner playing John Adams in 1776? There’s a concept. He’s the guest on the latest Maltin on Movies podcast.

Forever to be remembered as Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek: the Next Generation and other treks to follow, Brent Spiner is a versatile actor and performer with notable Broadway credits—and two fervent fans in Leonard and Jessie, who saw him play John Adams in a masterful revival of 1776. He’s happy to discuss all facets of his career, from musical theater to his memorable role in Independence Day. Even longtime fans may learn things they didn’t already know about Brent in this delightful chat.

(7) THIS IS COOL. The earth seen from outer space —  here is a visualization of how Planet’s satellites assemble swatches of remote sensing tiles to complete a global observation in 24 hours:

In four years, Planet has flown on 18 successful launches and deployed 293 satellites successfully into low Earth orbit. With more than 150 satellites currently in orbit, Planet has the largest constellation of Earth imaging satellites in history.

As you may notice, the satellites are not always taking photos (or sending / “beaming” the data down to Earth). Parts of the landmass can also be missing due to complete cloud cover that day. See the Amazon, Central Africa, or Northern Australia for example.

A companion piece reveals more about the satellites themselves; the “doves”, “RapidEyes”, and “SkySats”. Explaining their sizes, the numbers out there already and the types of images they capture. Check out the story here!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 26, 1883 Edwin Balmer. Together with author Philip Wylie, he penned When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide. The first was made into the 1951 movie by George Pal. He also wrote several detective novels and collaborated with William MacHarg on The Achievements of Luther Trant, an early collection of detective short stories. The latter are not genre, despite being listed as ISFDB as I’ve read them. (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 26, 1894 Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class decades ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? (Died 1963.)
  • Born July 26, 1919 James Lovelock, 99. Just shy of a century now in life, the Gaia theorist wrote a genre novel with Michael Allaby, The Greening of Mars, of the transformation of the red planet into a green one.  His newest work, Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, thinks that hyperintelligent machines are coming into being by our own hand and that we better be prepared for their arrival. 
  • Born July 26, 1928 Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 74. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s not published deep in digital form at this time.
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 74. She first graces our presences as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers’ last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Born July 26, 1957 Nana Visitor,62. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the best of the Trek series to date. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit.
  • Born July 26, 1971 Mary Anne Mohanraj, 48. Writer and editor. Founder of Strange Horizons, a genre fiction magazine. She has one genre novel, The Stars That Change, and two stories published in the Wild Cards Universe, “Low Chicago” and “Ties That Bind”. She also an anthology, Without A Map, co-edited with Nnedi Okorafor.
  • Born July 26, 1978 Eve Myles, 41. She’s a a Welsh actress from Ystradgynlais, convenient as she played Gwen Cooper on Torchwood which was set in and shot in Cardiff. She previously played the servant girl Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” during the Ninth Doctor’s time. She and the full Torchwood cast did an an BBC 4 Radio Play called  Golden Age in which they time travelled back to Imperial India. Highly recommended. 

(9) THE BOYS. According to NPR’s Glen Weldon, “Superhero Satire ‘The Boys’ Doesn’t Have Much New To Say, But Says It Loudly”.

…Amazon’s new 8-episode series The Boys – about a team of non-powered mercenaries determined to take down the world’s premier team of evil, corrupt, soulless-corporate-shill superheroes – chooses to play in a sandbox that’s seen its share of use. A sandbox that’s been sitting out in the sun and rain and wind for decades, filling up with cigarette butts and cat poop and old toys left by previous storytellers, who’ve hit precisely the same themes.

This is even more true today than it was in 2006, when the comics series The Boys, by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson – from which the Amazon show has been adapted, freely – first debuted.

…What The Boys was, at the time — especially if you’d been reading comics for years — was tiresome, more than anything else: Really? We’re still doing … this?

I’m happy to report that the Amazon series improves on its source material. It does so by taking the comics’ lazy inciting incident – the accidental death-by-superhero of the girlfriend of its main character Hughie (Jack Quaid) – and treating it as something more than solely a plot trigger. The series gives Hughie time to absorb, to grieve, to soak in the brutal incident so – even though it is depicted, lovingly, in garish slow-motion – it becomes something more than another nihilistic gag.

That’s a hallmark of the show, as it turns out. Where the comic was content to steer headlong into bloody spectacle and smugly snicker, the show serves up the spectacle (on a budget) and then … takes the time to inspect it, examine it, unpack it. To legitimately honor it, in other words. In its way.

(10) NEW TENANT IN THE WHITE HOUSE. Zombieland: Double Tap comes to theaters October 18.

A decade after Zombieland became a hit film and a cult classic, the lead cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) have reunited with director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) and the original writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Deadpool) for Zombieland 2: Double Tap. In the sequel, written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham, through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family.

(11) CHANNELING TRADER JOE. Fast Company appreciates why “The Trader Joe’s YouTube channel is unexpectedly amazing—and very weird”.

Although wackiness levels vary from video to video, the run times are all wisely kept brief. The only things that run longer than the time it takes to decide between regular avocados and organic ones are the cooking tutorials. Everything else—including charm-infused shorts like Christmas in Germany, produced by Condé Nast Traveler, which mixes traditional animation with stop-motion footage of Pfeffernüsse cookies and other German delicacies—runs at around the one-minute mark, making for a thoroughly undemanding watch.

This one’s very stfnal –

While this one’s just plain funky –

(12) NASFIC/WESTERCON IN UTAH. Rodford Edmiston has posted an album of photos from Spikecon at Flickr. Whether intentionally or not, the photographer showed a genius for standing at the back of a hall in which the only people were in the front row and on the platform.

(13) REUBEN AWARD. Stephan Pastis won the 2018 Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year given by the National Cartoonists Society. The award was announced during the NCS Annual Reuben Awards Weekend in May.

STEPHAN PASTIS is the creator of the daily comic strip Pearls Before Swine, syndicated by Andrews McMeel Syndication. Stephan practiced law in the San Fransisco Bay area before following his love of cartooning and eventually seeing syndication with Pearls, which was launched in newspapers beginning December 31, 2001. The National Cartoonists Society awarded Pearls Before Swine the Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2003 and in 2006. Stephan is also the author of the children’s book series Timmy Failure. Stephan lives in northern California with his wife Staci and their two children.

(14) CHERNOBYL. BBC digs into “The true toll of the Chernobyl disaster” in a long meaty article. Here is a brief excerpt:

Covered up by a secretive Soviet Union at the time, the true number of deaths and illnesses caused by the nuclear accident are only now becoming clear.

Springtime was always the busiest time of year for the women working at the wool processing plant in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine. More than 21,000 tons of wool passed through the factory from farms all across the country during the annual sheep shearing period. The April and May of 1986 were no exception.

The workers pulled 12-hour shifts as they sorted the piles of raw fleece by hand before they were washed and baled. But then the women started getting sick.

Some suffered nosebleeds, others complained of dizziness and nausea. When the authorities were called to investigate, they found radiation levels in the factory of up to 180mSv/hr. Anyone exposed at these levels would exceed the total annual dose considered to be safe in many parts of the world today in less than a minute.

Fifty miles away was the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. On 26 April 1986 reactor number four at the power plant suffered a catastrophic explosion that exposed the core and threw clouds of radioactive material over the surrounding area as a fire burned uncontrollably.

But Chernihiv was regarded to be well outside the exclusion zone that was hastily thrown up around the stricken plant and readings elsewhere in the town had shown it to have comparatively low levels of radiation.

(15) HAUER’S MASTERPIECE. Bilge Ebiri explains why “Even Now, Rutger Hauer’s Performance in ‘Blade Runner’ Is a Marvel” in the New York Times.

…Had Hauer played Batty as another stone-faced Eurobaddie, “Blade Runner” itself might have been a more comfortably classifiable genre effort, the kind of movie that many viewers expected in 1982, the kind that promised to pit Ford, the star so familiar to us as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, against a new kind of futuristic nemesis. Instead, audiences were thrown off by the knotty neo-noir that Scott and the screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples delivered, the film flopped, and a cult masterpiece was born.

Look no further than Batty’s extended final battle with Deckard to see both the evidence of the movie’s idiosyncratic tone and how Hauer’s remarkable performance enhances it, practically deconstructing the simple plot before our eyes. The replicant chases the beleaguered, frightened Deckard around an abandoned building, toying with the cop and playing singsong children’s games. But there’s still a catch in Batty’s words, slight pauses scattered in unusual places. Seeing that Deckard has killed his replicant lover, Pris (Daryl Hannah), Batty offers, “I thought you were good. Aren’t you the … good man?” The awkwardness of the words, combined with the pause before “good man” seems to question the film’s very moral universe…

(16) X MARKS THE PLOT. ScreenRant fires up another Pitch Meeting – this one for Dark Phoenix.

The X-Men franchise has been running for nearly two decades, and it all culminates with Dark Phoenix, a storyline that the movies already covered in 2006. Once again, Jean Grey goes absolutely bonkers with power, but this time Wolverine isn’t around to stab her. The movie has a pretty awful score on Rotten Tomatoes and definitely raises a lot of questions. Like what’s the deal with the aliens, are they bulletproof or not? Why was Quicksilver dismissed from the movie so quickly? What was up with that Phoenix moment in X-Men Apocalypse? Why do these movies keep jumping forward a decade each time? Is Magneto supposed to be 62 years old, and if so, why is a 42-year-old with no make-up playing him? Why did they show Mystique dying in the trailer?

[Thanks to Jerry Kaufman, Juliette Wade, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, mlex, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/19/19 You’ve Got Mule!

(1) GREEN EYED MONSTER. Elizabeth Bear’s “Jealousy part two: what if it isn’t a friend?” is a public post from her subscription newsletter.

In response to my previous newsletter on dealing with jealousy for the career successes of friends and colleagues, I’ve had a couple of conversations about how one might deal with an even more difficult form of jealousy: jealousy for the successes of people you just can’t stand—or, even worse, who have done you some personal harm. Sometimes abusers, toxic exes, harassers, or people who got you fired go on to have brilliant careers and amass great amounts of personal power.

And that’s a hard thing to take. Especially if, every time you go to an industry event, somebody is telling you how awesome that person is.

If there’s one thing that the #MeToo movement has made evident, it’s that this isn’t a problem unique to publishing. It’s a terrible situation to be in—triggering, traumatizing, and grief-provoking. It can make you doubt your own experience, memories, and senses. It can prove a constant reminder of violation.

It’s also (if there’s another thing the #MeToo movement has made evident) a depressingly common situation.

So how does one deal with it, when one finds one’s self in a situation like that?

(2) BECOMING SUPERMAN. J. Michael Straczynski previews his forthcoming autobiography. Thread starts here.

(3) TWO-COUNTRY PROBLEM. Jiayang Fan profiles Liu Cixin for The New Yorker: “Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds”

… When the first volume of the series was published in the United States, in 2014, the models for Trisolaris and Earth were immediately apparent. For the Chinese, achieving parity with the West is a long-cherished goal, envisaged as a restoration of greatness after the humiliation of Western occupations and the self-inflicted wounds of the Mao era. As Liu told the Times, “China is on the path of rapid modernization and progress, kind of like the U.S. during the golden age of science fiction.” The future, he went on, would be “full of threats and challenges,” and “very fertile soil” for speculative fiction.

In the past few years, those threats and challenges have escalated, as China’s global ambitions, especially in the field of technology, have begun to impinge upon America’s preëminence.

…As the standoff has intensified, Liu has become wary of touting the geopolitical underpinnings of his work. In November, when I accompanied him on a trip to Washington, D.C.—he was picking up the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s Award for Imagination in Service to Society—he briskly dismissed the idea that fiction could serve as commentary on history or on current affairs. “The whole point is to escape the real world!” he said. Still, the kind of reader he attracts suggests otherwise: Chinese tech entrepreneurs discuss the Hobbesian vision of the trilogy as a metaphor for cutthroat competition in the corporate world; other fans include Barack Obama, who met Liu in Beijing two years ago, and Mark Zuckerberg. Liu’s international career has become a source of national pride. In 2015, China’s then Vice-President, Li Yuanchao, invited Liu to Zhongnanhai—an off-limits complex of government accommodation sometimes compared to the Kremlin—to discuss the books and showed Liu his own copies, which were dense with highlights and annotations.

(4) CHANGING EXPECTATIONS. Why didn’t the latest Men In Black movie take off? Is it the chemistry of the leads, the script, or a third cause proposed by The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Men in Black’ and When Spectacle Isn’t Enough”.

There’s another potential explanation as to why Men in Black: International has failed to click with audiences, and it has to do with spectacle. Spectacle has long been a key part of the draw of big-budget Hollywood films. And for a long time, spectacle in terms of what films were using the most cutting-edge technology — had the most lifelike monsters, the most extensive battle sequences and so on — quite often corresponded with what films did well.

Think of a film like Avatar (2009). No one was writing home about the story. In spite of the various box office records it broke, the actual content of the film has left little lasting impression on popular culture in comparison to other comparable box office successes. While Jaws lives on in references like, “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” and the characters of the Star Wars films or the Marvel Cinematic Universe are household names, a lot of people would have a far more difficult time recalling any characters or lines of dialogue from Avatar. And this is because Avatar is the sort of film that reached the heights it did by merit of technical spectacle — immersing the audience in what, for many, was a compellingly photorealistic alien world.

(5) AUDIO FURNITURE. The new Two Chairs Talking podcast, in which David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about sff books and movies, takes its name from the pair’s history as Worldcon Chairs — David: Aussiecon Two; and Perry: Aussiecon Three and co-chair of Aussiecon 4.

The fifth episode, “Episode 5: An Incomplete History of Serious Events”, features guest Leigh Edmonds talking about how he became a historian, and about his project to write a history of science fiction fandom in Australia.  It also features Perry on Greg Egan, and David, as he says, “talking probably for too long about the tv series A Series of Unfortunate Events.

(6) CALLING DOUGHNUT CONTROL. Krispy Kreme is cashing in on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by launching a new type of doughnut. (John King Tarpinian, who sent the link, promises he’ll be sticking to his traditional Moon Pie.)

One small bite for man. One giant leap for doughnut-kind! As America prepares for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Krispy Kreme is making a giant leap for doughnut-kind by introducing a whole NEW interpretation of the brand’s iconic Original Glazed. This will be the FIRST TIME Krispy Kreme has offered another version of the Original Glazed Doughnut on the menu PERMANENTLY.

(7) GOAL EXCEEDED. The Dennis Etchison Memorial Fund at GoFundMe raised $5,445 to help Kristina Etchison with costs incurred to have Dennis laid to rest. (The target amount was $4,000.)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 19, 1954 Them! released on this day.
  • June 19, 1964 The Twilight Zone aired its series finale: “The Bewitchin’ Pool”, penned by Earl Hamner.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as  Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which including some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two tv horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known for his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd. : Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available in digital format. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 Salman Rushdie, 72. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1953 Virginia Hey, 66. Best known for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fabulous Farscape, series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film.
  • Born June 19, 1954 Kathleen Turner, 65. One of her earliest roles was in The Man with Two Brains as Dolores Benedict. Somewhat of a Fifties retro feel with that title. Of course, she voiced sultry Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of my favorite all time films. I still haven’t seen all of the Roger Rabbit short films that were done. She voiced Constance in Monster House a few years later, and was in Cinderella, a television film where she was the lead of the Wicked Stepmother Claudette.
  • Born June 19, 1957 Jean Rabe, 62. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Rogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok, I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer.  
  • Born June 19, 1978 Zoe Saldana, 41, born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the  new Trek series and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Off the Mark could be the pilot for CSI: Springfield, if you know what I mean.

(11) SIGHTING. The commemorative Moon Landing Oreos have hit the markets. John King Tarpinian snapped this photo in a Target store.

(12) HUGH JACKMAN. Ahead of his live show in Houston, Hugh Jackman visited NASA, something he’s been dreaming about doing since childhood:

Also, in the opening number of the second act of his show, channeling Peter Allen, he brought a NASA salsa dance instructor up on stage with him. Who even knew NASA had salsa dance instructors? It’s a real thing apparently! 

“I don’t know about you guys! I’m going to Mars!” … “I’m gonna sign up to be an astronaut tomorrow!”

(13) THANKS FOR PLAYING. Kotaku: “Amazon Lays Off Dozens Of Game Developers During E3”.

Yesterday, as the video game industry’s attention was focused squarely on the final day of the E3 convention in Los Angeles, Amazon’s video game division quietly laid off dozens of employees.

Amazon Game Studios, which is currently developing the online games Crucible and New World, told affected employees on Thursday morning that they would have 60 days to look for new positions within Amazon, according to one person who was laid off. At the end of that buffer period, if they fail to find employment, they will receive severance packages.

Amazon also canceled some unannounced games, that person told Kotaku.

(14) FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND. BBC now knows “Why are Nike trainers washing up on beaches?”

Over the past year, from Bermuda and the Bahamas to Ireland and Orkney, hundreds of pairs of unworn shoes have washed up on beaches. But how did they get there, and why are scientists so interested in where they are being found?

…The source of all these shoes is believed to be a single ship.

“Through the research I have done,” Mr Ribeiro says, “everything indicates they may have been from some of the 70 to 76 containers that fell overboard from the Maersk Shanghai.”

…Despite the environmental damage, scientists can salvage something from such incidents – a better understanding of our oceans and the currents that drive them.

While many of the shoes from the Maersk Shanghai have been washing up on beaches, far more are likely to be doing laps of the North Atlantic ocean, stuck in a network of powerful currents.

…Even more enlightening, Dr Ebbesmeyer says, is how the shape of the shoes seems to dictate where they end up.

“The left and the right sneakers float with different orientation to the wind,” he explains. “So when the wind blows on them they will go to different places. So on some beaches you tend to get the left sneakers and on others you get the right.”

(15) VLOGBRO NOVEL. Ana Grilo’s “Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green” appears at The Book Smugglers:

…This book is a cool mixture of puzzle-solving, personal story and world-changing events.

What strikes me the most about it though is the choice of having this particular type of protagonist because April? Not exactly a super great person. She is kinda of a jerk, she is flawed, full of contradictions, she well and truly fucks up on numerous occasions. She loves AND hates all the attention and fame she receives – especially in a world that mirrors our own in terms of how social media shapes the lives of people. There is good in it, but there is also bad and there is certainly the ugly too and at different times April embodies all of these possibilities.

(16) KEEP ON DOWN THE ROAD. Andrew Liptak praises Rebecca Roanhorse’s next novel — Storm of Locusts is like American Gods meets Mad Max: Fury Road. (Beware spoilers in the body of the review.)

In her debut novel Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse introduced readers to a compelling future in which climate change and wars have wrecked North America, resulting in some fantastical transformations to the country. Native American gods walk alongside mortal humans, some of whom have developed fantastical clan powers, and magical walls have grown around the traditional Navajo homeland Dinétah. In her next adventure, Storm of Locusts, Roanhorse ups the stakes for her characters and the world….

(17) KEEPING THE SRIRACHA IN SF. This is Jason Sheehan’s advice for NPR readers: “Regular Old Sci-Fi Not Weird Enough For You? Try ‘FKA USA'” (Reed King’s new book.)

Hey, you. Did you really like A Canticle For Leibowitz but think it needed more robot hookers and a talking goat? Then FKA USA is the book for you.

Did you think The Road suffered by not having enough gunfights with Mormons? Do you have a fondness for The Wizard Of Oz but believe, deep in your weird little heart, that it suffered a crippling lack of footnotes, bad language and fart jokes? Yeah, me, too. Which is (maybe) why I liked FKA USA so much.

(18) SAVAGE BUILDS. The Verge invites everyone to “Watch Adam Savage make a flying Iron Man suit in his new show, Savage Builds.

For a limited time, the first episode of Savage Builds—in which Adam Savage (late of Mythbusters) constructs and tests an Iron Man suit—is available free on the Discovery Channel website.

Adam Savage became a household name as the cohost of Mythbusters, and now, he’s returned to the Discovery Channel with a new show: Savage Builds. In each episode of the series, Savage goes out and builds something, consulting with other experts and builders. The series just began airing on Discovery, and the first episode, in which he builds a flying Iron Man costume, is available for free online (at least in the US) for the next two weeks

Think of it like a builder’s version of Mythbusters: take a thing from pop culture or history, and make a version that functions as closely as possible to its on-screen counterpart. In the show’s first episode, Savage sets out to build a real, flying Iron Man costume that’s also bulletproof. 

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Woke Up Looking” on Vimeo is a love song Gideon Irving sings to his robot.

[Thanks to Kat, Irwin Hirsh, Contrarius, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/1/19 Scroll Over Beethoven

(1) A WISE SAYING TO SUIT THE DAY.

(2) APRIL FOOLISHNESS. Here’s a prank that was hard to miss – because the perpetrators e-mailed me the link to the Haines in 2021 Westercon bid.

Haines in 2021 is the byproduct of several days of post-travel exhaustion and mild annoyance at all of the kvetching about the Tonopah bid. You want a bid somewhere that isn’t dry and hot, has no risk of you wandering out into the desert, and that you don’t have to drive several hours to get to? Fine, then! Haines, Alaska solves ALL of those problems!

What we lack in experience, we make up for in location! What we lack in location, we make up for in…well, you didn’t want the experienced team putting together your Westercon, so that’s on you.

Getting there is twice the fun of being there:

By Road: The Alaska Marine Highway System accepts cars for transport. However, if you want to avoid a long ferry ride you can drive from Seattle to Haines in only 34 hours (entering and exiting Canada) via Skagway, involving a short ferry ride.

(3) A MORE OBVIOUS JOKE: Nerdbot gets into the spirit of the day with a news flash — “BREAKING: George Lucas to Film New Star Wars Trilogy”. Clever artwork accompanies the rumor “of a new Jar Jar Binks story line, including the confirmation of him being the one, true Sith lord and the current Emperor of the New Galactic Empire.”

(4) DIVE INTO THE PACIFIC. Juliette Wade’s latest Dive Into Worldbuilding interview is with Vida Cruz about Philippine mythology.

…We started by discussing Vida’s story “Odd and Ugly,” which she describes as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Spanish colonial Philippines. In this tale, the Beast is a Kapre, a kind of hairy giant who lives in a tree and smokes cigars, while Beauty is a farm girl. The story is told in second person from the Beast’s point of view. Vida told us that she had written about these two characters in different iterations, and the Beauty and the Beast portion of the story came last.

Since the Spanish were in the Philippines for over 300 years, education has been heavily influenced by them. There is a dearth of good literature about the early colonial period. When Vida attended Clarion workshop in 2014, she did more research for that story….

Read the summary and/or watch the interview video:

(5) BACK TO THE HAGUE. Here’s a new flyer for Reunicon 2020, the celebration planned for the 30th anniversary of the Worldcon in the Netherlands.

In short, we have now organized a World Science Fiction Congress in The Hague 28 years ago (and 30 years in August in 2020), in which we had rented the congress building and also many hotel rooms in The Hague, including the then Bel Air hotel was our headquarters. The SF congress lasted five days and had around 3500 visitors from around the world, in addition to thousands of so-called “supporting” members, who could not come but did support our congress. More information via: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/48th_World_Science_Fiction_Convention

It was a huge success at the time. And they have been asked for a follow-up for years. As remaining committee members, we have decided to respond to this at the 30th anniversary in 2020 in the form of a kind of reunion meeting, a so-called REUNICON 2020.

(6) TIPTREE CORRECTION. Ben Roimola, Editor-in-chief and publisher of the only Swedish language sf-fanzine in Finland, Enhörningen (www.enhorningen.net) spotted something in the Tiptree Award press release that needed correcting. He contacted Pat Murphy, who shared it with me, and you may find the explanation equally interesting. He writes: 

I am thrilled and extremely happy to see Maria Turtschaninoff’s novel ”Maresi” on the Tiptree Honor List! It’s such a great novel (as are all her novels) for readers of all ages from YA upwards. Thank you for choosing it among the honor list!

BUT, there is a small error in the text about the novel. On the web page (https://tiptree.org/2019/03/gabriela-damian-miravete-wins-2018-tiptree-award-honor-and-long-list-announced) your write ”This young adult novel was translated from Finnish.”, but the novel was actually translated from Swedish. You see, Finland is a bilingual country with Finnish and Swedish as the official languages (and Sami as a third one in the northern parts). Maria Turtschaninoff is part of the minority of Finns who have Swedish as their main language. Yes, she is a Finn and the novel is published in Finland and it is a Finnish novel, BUT it is written and published in Swedish. ”Maresi” has been translated in Finnish, but the English translation is, of course, made from the original Swedish language novel.

We Swedish speaking Finns are such a small minority (anly about 5% of the population), that it is understandable to make an error such as the one you made, but we do exist and want to point out the fact that we do. 🙂

(7) EYES WIDE SHUT. At The Believer, B. Alexandra Szerlip revives one of Hugo Gernsback’s enthusiasms in “Vintage Tech: Learn While You Sleep (Hypnopaedia)”, about programs that allegedly educate you while you are sleeping.

“Hypnopaedia aka Sleep Learning had been thrust upon the world in 1921, courtesy of a Science and Invention cover story. Echoing Poe, Hugo Gernsback informed his readers that sleep ‘is only another form of death,’ but our subconsciousness “is always on the alert.’  If we could ‘superimpose’ learning on our sleeping senses, would it not be ‘an insatiable boon to humanity?/’ Would it not ‘lift the entire human race to a truly unimaginable extent?’

Gernsback proposed that talking machines, operating on the Poulsen  Telgraphone Principle (magnetic recordings on steel wires) be installed in people’s bedrooms.  The recordings library would be housed in a large central exchange; subscribers could place their orders by radiophone.  Then, between midnight and 6 AM,requests would be ‘flashed out’ over those same radiophones, onto reels, each with enough wire to last for one hour of continuous service.  Eight reels would give the sleeper enough material for a whole nights’ work!”

(8) AH! SWEET IDIOCY! “Laney himself would not allow it to be reprinted during his lifetime, evidently fearing lawsuits,” says Fancyclopedia 3. What fan can resist that bait? Today David Langford added Francis T. Laney’s Ah! Sweet Idiocy! to his free ebook page – download it here. And chip in a bit for fan funds if you please.

This infamous memoir and polemic about the 1940s Los Angeles fan scene was published in 1948. This first ebook edition was added to the TAFF site on 1 April 2019. Cover painting of Laney by Dan Steffan. 85,000 words of Laney plus 18,000 of additional material for a total of 103,000 words.

Please be warned that a few passages display a level of homophobia perhaps excessive even by 1948 standards.

Francis Towner Laney’s many brief and often affectionate character sketches of contemporaries may be of more interest now than all the fiery rhetoric about political machinations and (gasp) homosexuality in and around the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, a gigantic arena of controversy in which world-shaking elections could be deadlocked with 8 votes to 8. Still-remembered subjects of Laney “vignettes” include Forrest J Ackerman (alternately a close friend and deadly rival), Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith and A.E. van Vogt, while among his offstage correspondents were Anthony Boucher and August Derleth. Ah! Sweet Idiocy! has always been controversial: Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “Canadian faned Beak Taylor reportedly quit fandom after reading it. Laney himself would not allow it to be reprinted during his lifetime, evidently fearing lawsuits.”

David Langford has added brief notes on abbreviations never or only belatedly explained in the text; with help from Robert Lichtman, a summary of its reissues since Laney died; and from Rob Hansen’s photo archive, contemporary snapshots of Laney and many other featured fans. Also included are Harry Warner Jr’s 1961 appraisal and Alva Rogers’s 1963 rebuttal of Ah! Sweet Idiocy!, “FTL & ASI”.

Rob Hansen has posted a page of photos from the 1930s and 1940s that are in addition to those he supplied for the ebook: “LASFS & Others, 1930s/40s”.

(9) TAILS OF THE TEXAS RANGERS. In “A Dinosaur Tried To Throw The First Pitch at a Rangers Game And It Did Not Go Well” on mlb.com, Andrew Mearns says the Texas Rangers had Roxy the dinosaur throw out the first pitch at Globe Life Park to promote Dino Day at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  But Roxy didn’t do well because dinosaurs have very weak arms!

(10) WHERE THE SCARES COME FROM. NPR’s Linda Holmes discusses how “Fears Are Forever In Jordan Peele’s ‘Twilight Zone'”. SEMI-SPOILER WARNING — lots of context/spoilers for older work; spoiler-free for first four new episodes.

What is the scariest thing you can imagine?

The Twilight Zone ran from 1959 to 1964. It was adapted into a film in 1983, then revived on television for brief runs in 1985 and 2002. Now, it returns on CBS’s streaming service CBS All Access, hosted and executive produced by the man who may be America’s most exciting filmmaker, Jordan Peele. He developed the new version alongside a team of executive producers including Simon Kinberg and Glen Morgan (Morgan was one of the primary writers behind The X-Files). Peele, in his films Get Out and Us, has spent a lot of time thinking about one of The Twilight Zone’s central questions, going back to original creator and host Rod Serling: What is the scariest thing you can imagine?

It’s true that Serling’s show was always connected, both in text and in subtext, to events of the moment. The fear of nuclear annihilation was ever-present in characters who built shelters and feared missiles. Allegories connected to the civil rights movement and other efforts to escape systemic injustices were common. Space travel was everywhere, both as opportunity and threat. The human legacy of endless war hung over the world always. Not-fully-trusted technology, like robots and large airplanes, held dangers, while technology that felt like it might arrive soon, like time travel, perhaps held even more.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 1, 1885 Wallace  Beery. He starred in the first adaptation of Doyle’s The Lost World, filmed in 1925. He’d be Long John Silver in a 1930s adaptation of Treasure Island, and he was in Robin Hood with Douglas Fairbanks. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 1, 1926 Anne McCaffrey. I read both the original trilogy and what’s called the Harper Hall trilogy oh so many years ago. Enjoyed them immensely. No interest in the later works she set here. And I confess that I had no idea she’d written so much other genre fiction! (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 1, 1930 Grace Lee Whitney. Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek. She would reach the rank of Lt. Commander in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Folks, I just noticed that IMDB says she was only on eight episodes of Trek. It seemed like a lot more at the time. Oh, and she was in two video fanfics, Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 1, 1942 Samuel R. Delany, 77. His best works include Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection and the Return to Nevèrÿon series. He is one of the most honored writers in the history of the genre, a well-deserved accolade. My short must read list for him includes The Jewels of AptorDhalgrenBabel-17 and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
  • Born April 1, 1953 Barry Sonnenfeld, 66. Director of The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values (both of which I like), the Men in Black trilogy (well one out of three ain’t bad), and Wild Wild West (what a piece of shit that is). He also executive produced Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve not seen, and is the same for Men in Black: International, the forthcoming possible reboot of that series. 
  • Born April 1, 1960 Michael Praed, 59. Robin of Loxley on Robin of Sherwood which no doubt is one of the finest genre series ever done of a fantasy nature. He also played Phileas Fogg on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, an amazing series that think ever got released on DVD. 
  • Born April 1, 1963 James Robinson, 56. Writer, both comics and film. Some of his best known comics are the series centered on the Justice Society of America, in particular the Starman character he co-created with Tony Harris. His Starman series is without doubt some of the finest work ever done. His screenwriting not so much. Remember The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Well that’s him. 
  • Born April 1, 1964 Marcus Hutton, 55. He’s making the Birthday list because he played Sgt. Leigh In “The Curse of Fenric” story on Doctor Who during the Seventh Doctor. It’s one of the best stories done in the Sylvester McCoy years. 
  • Born April 1, 1997 Asa Butterfield, 22. He played the young Mordred in the Merlin series and Norman in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, also was in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as Jacob “Jake” Portman. He was Gardner Elliot, a Martian boy who travelled to earth in The Space Between Us. 

(12) SIGNAL BOOSTED. Wow – we made the big time!

(13) THE HORROR. I Like Scary Movies is making its first stop in Los Angeles. Ticket info at the link.

I Like Scary Movies is a groundbreaking interactive art installation celebrating some of your favorite films, including the first chapter of IT, The Shining, The Lost Boys, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Beetlejuice!

• We have timed entry every 15 minutes so that you aren’t waiting in line just to get in! Visitors can expect to spend an average of 90 minutes on their quest to capture their own iconic moments as they explore the rich worlds that have come to life.

• This first-of-its-kind exhibit spans 25,000 square feet (nearly half a football field!) and features amazing large-scale photo opportunities!

• Come play with us! “Sink” into the infamous carpet from the The Shining’s Overlook hotel and explore “redrum” hedges. Swallow your fear as you pass through the jaws of IT’s Pennywise and explore the clown’s sewer lair. Have a seat in the throne of Freddy Krueger and step into his boiler room to become snatched by his giant glove from A Nightmare on Elm St. Then have a turn as recently deceased guests in the Netherworld waiting room before visiting Beetlejuice’s graveyard. Test your strength as you hang from the Santa Clara train tracks before becoming part of a “noodle” dinner from The Lost Boys. These are just a few things that fans will interact with on their way to the Gift Shop at the end of the journey, where we’ll have exclusive merchandise for you to take a part of your experience home with you!

• The exhibit does not feature “scare actors” or strobe lights.

(13) HERLAND AUTHOR. Kate Bolick, in “The Equivocal Legacy of Charlotte Perkins Gilman” at the New York Review of Books website, praises Gilman’s pioneering horror short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and her dystopia Herland, but also notes her support of racism and eugenics.

… There is a snake in this garden, however—not in the plot, but in Gilman’s conception of this utopia-in-her-time: a desire for racial purity. For all her progressiveness when it came to equality for the sexes, Gilman was a xenophobe, a regrettably common response at the turn of the last century to the waves of immigrants resettling in urban areas. This prejudice dovetailed with her simultaneous embrace of eugenics, then a respectable academic field and a widespread enthusiasm even among, or especially among, social reformers. Between her passion for science and sociology and her constitutional faith in the forward march of progress, Gilman was quick to adopt the idea that some human populations are genetically superior to others, and that by playing to the strengths inherent to each race, poverty could be eradicated and society vastly improved. 

Moreover, at a time when sex education and effective birth control weren’t widely available, Gilman saw in eugenics an answer to the scourges of sexually transmitted diseases (a major public-health issue until penicillin was found to treat syphilis in 1943) and involuntary motherhood. Feminists and activists in general were divided over eugenics: Margaret Sanger, Emma Goldman, and Olive Schreiner all shared Gilman’s views, while Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, and Florence Kelley fought against them.

(14) BE HISTORY. Marquette University, which has a huge J.R.R. Tolkien collection, wants to hear from fanboys and girls for an oral history project about the author. 

Check out this story on USATODAY.com: “Here’s your chance to become part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s oral history”.

Marquette is kind of a pilgrimage site for Tolkien fans. I thought we should collect their voices,” says William Fliss, curator of Marquette’s Tolkien collection.

Fans are given just three minutes to briefly expound on why they love Tolkien. To help people distill their thoughts, Fliss asks them to answer three questions:

When did you first encounter the works of J.R.R. Tolkien?

Why are you a Tolkien fan?

What has he meant to you?

(15) AFRO FANTASY ALBUM. NPR’s Michel Martin reports that “Fantasy Collides With African Culture In Blitz The Ambassador’s ‘Burial Of Kojo'”.

On his 2014 album, Afropolitan Dreams, hip-hop artist Samuel Bazawule, also known as “Blitz the Ambassador,” vividly describes his journey from wide-eyed immigrant to multinational success story. In one song he declares: “I think I’m relocating back to Ghana for good.”

And, he did.

Taking leave from his home in Brooklyn and returning to the country of his birth was a fateful decision that Bazawule credits as the inspiration for his first feature film, The Burial of Kojo. The modern fable of a young girl navigating the spirit realm to find her father after his mysterious disappearance, the film takes place entirely in Ghana, using a cast and crew made up almost entirely of locals.

The Burial of Kojo caught the eye of producer and director Ava DuVernay , who acquired it earlier this year for distribution by her production company, ARRAY. On Sunday, the film makes its premieres on Netflix — the first original film from Ghana to be released on the streaming platform.

(16) THRONE FOR A LOOP. “A Game of Thrones Fan Traveled To The Arctic As Part Of A Worldwide Scavenger Hunt”. Chip Hitchcock comments, “As someone who works convention logistics, I want to know how the throne got there without everyone noticing the activity.”

Some fans watch Game of Thrones. Others live it.

The final season of the HBO hit television series premieres in two weeks. But some fans got an early treat this month when the TV network challenged people to a worldwide scavenger hunt.

For those who don’t watch the show, the ultimate symbol of power in the fictional Game of Thrones kingdom of Westeros is the Iron Throne. So, HBO placed six of them in different locations around the world and tweeted the hashtag #ForTheThrone, along with a cryptic 12 second video. Fans could also view hour-long 360-degree videos of the thrones in various terrains.

Soon after, fans around the world began their quests.

One of those individuals was Josefine Wallenå, a 25-year-old gamer and project manager from Sweden.

After looking at one of HBO’s tweeted clues closely and its caption, she realized one of the thrones might be nearby.

(17) LIVE! FROM THEIR MOTHER’S BASEMENT. “Dead Pixels: A comedy ‘about gamers for gamers'” — looks like this is UK-only for now, but most UK content seems to get spread around eventually.

Dead Pixels is a new comedy about gamers that promises to be “on their side”.

One of the stars of the show, Alexa Davies, tells Newsbeat: “It’s about fully understanding where people who play come from.”

Part live action and part computer animation, the show is based on a fictional game called Kingdom Scrolls.

“A lot of the funny bits are about characters’ frustrations with the balance between real life and the game,” says Alexa.

(18) WELL, DID IT? The question in Rowan J. Coleman’s headline is a tad blunt – “Crusade – Did It Suck?”

Following the landmark Babylon 5 is no easy task, but J.Michael Straczynski took a stab at it with Crusade. Was it any good?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Pat Murphy, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Gray Anderson, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 3/16/19 Hit Me With Your Pixel Stick, One Weird Fandom Click Click Click

(1) FANS LOSE THEIR SHIRT OVER ELLISON DESIGN. A Harlan Ellison Facebook Fan Club member pointed out that a Hawaiian shirt seller on Etsy was offering a colorful fractal collage of Ellison images.

The first fan to respond made the mistake of saying admiringly, “I think I’m going to order it” and was instantly schooled how outraged Ellison would have been to discover someone attempting to profit from unlicensed sales of his image (nor without paying the photographers who took the pictures). Fans shared their ire with Etsy store owner Ed Seeman and the Ellison shirt was taken down. However, Seeman’s hundreds of other similar designs involving movie and TV celebrities, famous scientists, and classical composers, are still on offer. These include William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, John Williams, and “Stephan” King.

(2) THINGS WRITERS HAVE TO DO BESIDES WRITE. Jeff VanderMeer came up with one I haven’t heard before:

It looks like a hawk got a dove on the ground near one of the feeders while we were out. From the spread of feathers and lack of body or any parts, I think it’s a hawk rather than a cat. Honestly, I sure hope it was a hawk, because if it was a cat I have to get out the supersoaker, fill it with orange juice, and spend a lot of time quietly waiting in the shadows and I have so much else to do.

(3) JEDI FASHION STATEMENT. The Orange County Register blabs practically everything about one of Disneyland’s forthcoming Star Wars experiences: “Step-by-step preview of the lightsaber-building experience coming to Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

Padawan learners strong with the Force will be able to build their own lightsabers using scavenged parts from fallen Jedi temples inside a covert workshop hidden from the watchful eye of the First Order when the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland.

The build-your-own lightsaber experience will take place in Savi’s Workshop — Handbuilt Lightsabers when the 14-acre land debuts May 31 at the Anaheim theme park.

The new Galaxy’s Edge themed land will be set in the Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, located on the outer rim of the “Star Wars” galaxy. Every shop and restaurant in the village will have an extensive backstory and proprietor from the “Star Wars” universe.

The handbuilt lightsaber workshop will be run by Savi, who owns a space junkyard near the main entrance to Black Spire Outpost. The scrapper has been collecting lightsaber pieces from throughout the galaxy in hopes a true hero with the ability to assemble the parts would one day enter his shop. That day is today and that hero is you.

… Builders will choose from four lightsaber styles:

  • Peace & Justice, reflecting the Jedi style from the Republic era
  • Power & Control, a Sith style reflective of the Dark Side of the Force
  • Elemental Nature, using natural components like Brylark trees, Cartusion whale bones and Rancor teeth
  • Protection & Defense, incorporating components with ancient and mysterious motifs and inscriptions

(4) E.B. WHITE AWARD. “‘Bridge to Terabithia’ author Katherine Paterson wins E.B. White Award for literature” – the Burlington Free Press has the story:

Children’s-book author and Montpelier resident Katherine Paterson was announced Monday as the winner of the E.B. White Award, given once every two years by the American Academy of Art and Letters “in recognition of an exceptional lifetime body of work.”

Paterson, best known as the author of “Bridge to Terabithia,” receives $10,000 for the award that is given for achievement in children’s literature. The most recent winner, in 2017, was Judy Blume.

According to the biography on her website, Paterson has written more than 30 books, including 16 novels for children and young people. She won the Newbury Medal for American children’s literature in 1978 for “Bridge to Terabithia” and in 1981 for “Jacob Have I Loved.” She received the National Book Award in 1977 for “The Master Puppeteer” and 1979 for “The Great Gilly Hopkins.”

The Award jury members were Judy Blume and Alison Lurie.

(5) NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON SHOWS TO GO BACK ON AIR. Variety reports “Neil deGrasse Tyson Will Return to National Geographic After Assault Investigation” although little is said about what the investigation learned.

National Geographic Channel has completed its investigation into “Cosmos” and “StarTalk” host Neil deGrasse Tyson, and will move forward with both shows. The channel didn’t elaborate on its findings, however.

“‘StarTalk’ will return to the air with the remaining 13 episodes in April on National Geographic, and both Fox and National Geographic are committed to finding an air date for ‘Cosmos,’” the network said in a statement. “There will be no further comment.”

“Cosmos: Possible Worlds” and “Star Talk” have been in limbo for months, since Nat Geo launched an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against the famed astrophysicist.

Fox had originally scheduled the new season of “Cosmos” to premiere on Sunday, March 3, while Nat Geo had slated a second window to begin on Monday, March 4. Both networks later had to scrap those plans.

 (6) 2020 WORLDCON WEBSITE UPDATE. CoNZealand will unveil its changed website design on St. Patrick’s Day.

New Membership Site coming!

We are about to release our new Membership site. Barring any problems, we expect to open the site on March 17th, 2019, around 3PM NZST.

Our new system will include some new features.

  • New accounts will be created for Pre-supporting Members;
  • Membership upgrades will become available for Pre-supporting Members;
  • Lay-by instalment payments will become available for the purchase of new Memberships and to upgrade existing Memberships;
  • Existing membership numbers from our current online system will be increased by 2000. So if you are member #19, you will become member #2019. Because it’s the future. 
  • New fields will be added to the form to give people registering online the same options as those who registered on the paper form.

(7) DITILLIO OBIT. Writer Larry DiTillio, who became well-known to fans while serving as executive story editor on Babylon 5, has died at the age of 71. Before Babylon 5 he wrote for many TV shows, several of them also run by J. Michael Straczynski who recalled for Facebook readers their years of friendship and its end:

…Larry never pulled his punches, and that frankness requires stating that we did have our differences from time to time. Larry could be fractious, and I think he sometimes resented being brought on by me as a lieutenant. He was talented enough to be a show-runner on his own, and being constantly a second-in-command chafed to the point that he began carving out his own pocket universe in B5. He wanted to show that he could do what I was doing, which for me was never even a question, I just didn’t want him doing it when I was trying to tell a story in a straight line in a way that no one had ever done before. But things became increasingly difficult between us, the friendship strained and broke, and we parted ways after season two.

We didn’t speak again for nearly ten years. And that was very hard for me. I don’t make friends often or easily, and Larry was probably my closest friend, right alongside Harlan Ellison. We’d celebrated birthdays and went to conventions together, shared a love of comics and terrible movies and he even got me to do some gaming for a while, which was his greatest love, and we had dinner together more times than I can even begin to count. And now all that was gone, and I was lost.

Straczynski and DiTillio co-hosted local Pacifica radio show Hour 25 from 1987-1989, and I met him in the studio when I was there to promote Loscon. (I’d first met Straczynski when I recruited him to be on the 1980 Westercon program).

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Sonic More Music wants to show you the picture:

In the early days of The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed and John Cale had a day job playing Batman and Robin at birthday parties.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 16, 1961 –Walt Disney released The Absent Minded Professor to U.S. audiences.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 16, 1920 Leo McKern. Long involvement in the genre so I’ll be selective here. You probably know from his non-genre role in Rumpole of the Bailey where he was Horace Bailey, but I’m fond of him in three roles, the first being Professor Moriarty In The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, the second when he played, and this is a slight pun, Number Twothe chief administrator, of The Village in The Prisoner series, and the third being the great Swami Clang In Help!, a Beatles film which should be genre even if it’s not. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 16, 1943 Susan Bay, 76. Also known as Susan Nimoy, wife of that actor. She portrayed Admiral Rollman in two episodes of Deep Space Nine: “Past Prologue” in the first season and “Whispers” in the second. Her only genre appearance, I believe, was in the Mr. Merlin series.
  • Born March 16, 1951 P. C. Hodgell, 68. Her best known work is the  Chronicles of the Kencyrath series with The Gates of Tagmeth being the current novel. She has dabbled in writing in the Holmesian metaverse with “A Ballad of the White Plague” that was first published in The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as edited by Marvin Kaye. 
  • Born March 16, 1952 Alice Hoffman, 67. Best known for Practical Magic which was made into a rather good film. I’d also recommend The Story Sisters, a Gateway story, The Ice Queen, an intense riff off of that myth, and Aquamarine, a fascinating retelling of the mermaid legend. 
  • Born March 16, 1961 Todd McFarlane, 58. Best known for his work on The Amazing Spider-Man and Spawn. And let’s not overlook McFarlane Toys whose product could be fantastic or shitty depending on the mood of Todd on a given day. And, of course, Todd reached a deal after decades with Neil on unpaid monies due on books that Todd had done with him.
  • Born March 16, 1963 Kevin Smith. He was a New Zealand actor who was best known for being  Ares in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and in its two related series – Xena: Warrior Princess and Young Hercules. He also voiced Ares for Hercules and Xena: The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus. And it looks like his last role was as Valdemar in the abysmal Riverworld movie. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 16, 1964 Gore Verbinski, 55. He is best known for directing the first three films of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. I see he’s also responsible for Mouse Hunt (a delightful film), Rango (ok going downhill here) and hitting rock bottom, The Lone Ranger
  • Born March 16, 1966 David Liss, 53. Writer of Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, novelization of Marvel’s Spider-Man whichis a 2018 action-adventure game. Comics writer, Black Panther: The Man Without Fear and Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty Lives series. Not at all genre but his trilogy of novels starting with A Conspiracy of Paper and featuring Benjamin Weaver, a retired bare-knuckle boxer, now a thief-taker, a cross between a PI and bounty hunter, are highly recommended by me. 
  • Born March 16, 1971 Alan Tudyk, 48. Best known, I think, as Hoban “Wash” Washburne in the Firefly metaverse. His current role is the very, very irritating villain Mr. Nobody in the excellent Doom Patrol series on the DC Universe streaming service. For at least the first several episodes, he narrated the episodeswhich was really annoying as it included references to everything meta including Grant Morrison and universe creating goat farts. They dropped that aspect mercifully. 

(11) BESIDES THE WRINKLE. At The Paris Review, Frankie Thomas’ YA of Yore column recalls “The Creepy Authoritarianism of Madeleine L’Engle”. It’s L’Engle’s mainstream YA novels that inspire the title.

…It was strange to go to school at night, and in a taxi with my father instead of on the bus. The book-signing took place in the elementary school gymnasium, noisier and more crowded than I’d ever seen it during the day; the event was open to the public and full of strangers. I carried two books for L’Engle to sign. One was my mother’s childhood copy of A Wrinkle in Time, which embarrassed me—surely everybody would bring that one!—but my mother had insisted. To correct for this, I also brought Troubling a Star, my favorite L’Engle novel and no one else’s. I hoped it would communicate to L’Engle that I was a different caliber of reader.

The line to meet L’Engle was so long, and I was so short. I couldn’t see her until it was my turn—then I was face to face with her. She was older than I’d expected. Her gray hair was cropped shorter than in her author photo. In my memory she looms quite tall even while seated at the book-signing table; I’ve always assumed this was the exaggerated perception of a very small nine year old, but apparently she was indeed very tall.

She smiled an impersonal smile at me, the same smile she must have smiled at thousands of other kids. She wrote her name, nothing more, inside my books. She did not say, “Wow, Troubling a Star? That’s an unusual choice!” She did not say “You are to be a light-bearer” or “You see things invisible to lesser mortals” or “I love you, Frankie, love you like my daughter.” If she said anything at all, I don’t remember what it was. The whole thing was over so quickly…

(12) SHH, IT’S A SECRET. Rebecca Lewis, in “Black Panther cast had no idea they were auditioning for a Marvel movie” on Metro was told by Winston Duke he auditioned for Black Panther using fake sides for a non-existent movie, and it wasn’t until Ryan Coogler showed up at his third audition that he began to realize he was auditioning for a Marvel movie.

(13) MEAN CUISINE. Clearly the demand is there!

(14) LOOK AT THE PRETTY PICTURES. SYFY Wire assembled an “Emerald City Comic Con Day 2 cosplay gallery”.

(15) EVOLUTIONARY ADAPTATIONS. For those keeping score at home, Adam Whitehead tells what all the Love, Death & Robots episodes are based on:

(16) FINDING 451. Parvati Sharma revels in the feeling of “When a book finds you” at The Hindu BusinessLine.

For a lover of second-hand books, buying a book pales in comparison to the sheer delight of chancing upon one

I was dying to read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I’d discovered him through my mother and a cover-less paperback that contained her favourite Bradbury short story The Veldt, about two kids so addicted to their virtual reality (VR) nursery that they feed their parents to VR lions. But even at his most gruesome (and prescient?), Bradbury has a sheer open-mouthed enjoyment of the strange and unexpected — from him, I learned to love dystopia. I even tried to write it. “He chocked. He was chocking. He would be chocking until death,” I wrote, aged 11, before taking things to a grim conclusion: “Then suddenly his head burst”.

A world in which books were crimes? It was a dystopian vision that held a particular thrill — in such a world, I might be a criminal.

So I was burning to read it, Bradbury’s novel about a book-less future, but it did not occur to me to look for it in a bookshop. I was sure I would find it on the book-strewn pavements of Daryaganj in Delhi….

(17) THE SWARM. BBC explores “How swarming drones will change warfare”.

The swarm robots are coming and they could change the way wars are fought.

In February, the defence secretary said “swarm squadrons” will be deployed by the British armed forces in the coming years.

The US has also been testing interconnected, co-operative drones that are capable of working together to overwhelm adversaries.

Low-cost, intelligent and inspired by swarms of insects, these new machines could revolutionise future conflicts.

From swarming enemy sensors with a deluge of targets, to spreading out over large areas for search-and-rescue missions, they could have a range of uses on and off the battlefield.

But just how different is “swarm” technology from the drones that are currently used by militaries across the globe? The key is self-organisation.

(18) BEFORE YOU BUY. Looking for book reviews? There are links to all of these at Todd Mason’s  Sweet Freedom: “Friday’s ‘Forgotten’ Books and More”. The reviewer’s name comes first, then book title and author’s name.

  • Patricia Abbott: Sleep While I Sing by L. R. Wright; What It Might Feel Like to Hope by Dorene O’Brien
  • Paul Bishop: the Gunships series by “Jack Hamilton Teed” (Christopher Lowder) 
  • Les Blatt: Three Witnesses by Rex Stout 
  • John Boston: Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction Stories, April 1964, edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli 
  • Ben Boulden: Snowbound by Richard S. Wheeler; Things to Come, January/February 1955, the catalog of the (Doubleday) Science Fiction Book Club 
  • Brian Busby: The Bright Path to Adventure by Gordon Sinclair 
  • Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: Warren Comics (Creepy and Blazing Combat), October to December 1965, edited by Archie Goodwin
  • Will Errickson: The Manitouby Graham Masterton 
  • José Ignacio Escribano:Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks by John Curran
  • Curtis Evans: Swing, Brother, Swing by Ngaio March
  • Paul Fraser: The Great SF Stories 5 (1943) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg; Unknown Worlds, June 1943, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. 
  • Barry Gardner: Kahawa by Donald Westlake
  • John Grant: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig; The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
  • Aubrey Hamilton: Death in the Quadrangle by Eilis Dillon
  • Rich Horton: Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley; PITFCS: Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies edited by Theodore R. Cogswell; Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart;
  • Jerry House: The Select (aka The Foundation) by F. Paul Wilson 
  • Kate Jackson: three novels by Michael Gilbert; 
  • Death in Store by Jennifer Rowe 
  • Tracy K: Turncoat by Aaron Elkins
  • Colman Keane: Cast the First Stone and Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin
  • George Kelley: The Great SF Stories 7 (1945) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • Joe Kenney: Cold Iron by “Robert Stone Pryor”
  • Margot Kinberg: The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson
  • Rob Kitchin: Winston’s War by Michael Dobbs
  • B. V. Lawson: The Port of London Murders by “Josephine Bell” (Doris Collier Ball)
  • Evan Lewis: Half Past Mortem by John A. Saxon
  • Jonathan Lewis: Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler
  • Steve Lewis: The Goodbye Look by “Ross Macdonald” (Kenneth Millar); “Eurema’s Dam” by R. A. Lafferty; Lemons Never Lie by “Richard Stark” (Donald Westlake); “Schroedinger’s Kitten” by George Alec Effinger
  • Mike Lind: Dashiell Hammett, Man of Mystery by Sally Cline
  • Todd Mason: best of the year horror fiction annuals for 2016
  • Jess Nevins: some women writers of horror from around the world 
  • John F. Norris: The Flight of the Doves by Walter Macken
  • Patrick Ohl: In the Best Families by Rex Stout (hosted by Kevin Tipple)
  • Scott D. Parker: Weird Western Tales, December 1973, edited by Joe Orlando
  • Matt Paust: The Trail to Seven Pines by Louis L’Amour; Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood
  • James Reasoner: “Blitzkrieg in the Past” by “John York Cabot” (David Wright O’Brien), Amazing Stories, July 1942, edited by Ray Palmer
  • Richard Robinson: A Blaze of Glory by Jeff Shaara
  • Gerard Saylor: Murdaland, #1 (2007), edited by Michael Lagnas
  • Jack Seabrook: “One More Mile to Go” by F. J. Smith, Manhunt, June 1956, edited by Scott Meredith 
  • Steven Silver: Convergent Series by Larry Niven
  • Victoria Silverwolf: Fantastic: Stories of Imagination, July 1963, edited by Cele Goldsmith-Lalli
  • “TomKat”: Challenge the Impossible: The Final Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne by Edward D. Hoch
  • David Vineyard: The Seven Sleepers by Francis Beeding

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Todd Mason, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 4/20/18 A Fool And His Pixels Are Soon Parted

(1) SF IN NYT. Amal El-Mohtar’s latest Otherworldly book review column for the New York Times covers “Princesses, Priestesses and Time Travel: What’s New in Science Fiction and Fantasy”

What does it mean to retell a story? Does it mean dressing up a familiar tale in different clothes? Reading it against its grain? Replacing parts of a story like boards in a ship, until an old story’s shape is built of entirely new wood? This month, I’m looking at recent books that are all retellings of one sort or another.

(2) EDITORS YOU RECOGNIZE. Amber Troska pays tribute to two editors in “Shaping the Speculative Fiction World: Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling”.

It is difficult to overestimate the tremendous value of editors. The contributions that authors make to their respective fields, and their impact on the readers that encounter their work, can’t be overstated either, of course—but it is equally important to remember that no truly great author goes it alone; there are always strong editors behind the scenes, shaping the individual stories themselves as well as the publishing world at large. The Hugo Awards are named for an editor, after all.

Yet I can count most of the editors I recognize by name on one hand. Even with such a limited group to choose from, only two have had an extremely significant, identifiable impact on me as a reader: Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. I could never hope to cover everything the two have contributed to the publishing world—their careers have stretched too far and are too varied and far-reaching for me to do them full justice. However, there are several projects that are worth looking at in order to appreciate their impact and get a sense of how influential their work has been, and continues to be.

(3) AFRICAN SF EDITORS. From The Minnesota Review: “Editor Interview: Mazi Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu and Chinelo Onwualu of Omenana”.

Mazi Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu and Chinelo Onwualu are co-founders and editors of Omenana, a web-based literary magazine dedicated to publishing speculative/sci-fi/fantasy fiction by African writers. In this interview with Uche Okonkwo, Mazi Chiagozie and Chinelo talk African speculative fiction, life lessons, and writing and publishing as a labour of love.

UCHE OKONKWO: This idea that Africans don’t write sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction is, I believe, part of the reason you started Omenana. Where do you suppose this idea comes/came from and why did/does it persist?

MAZI CHIAGOZIE: I think it comes from that general misconception that Africa is a backward place that hasn’t played any notable role in man’s journey to the stars. So even Africans look at Africa as this place whose people only concern themselves with war, famine, dancing, and procreation. It’s a view that has been propagated for a long time and has now come to offer a copout for people who don’t want to do the work needed to unravel the complexity that is Africa and her varied nations and peoples. We are doing our bit to change the perception, but it continues to persist. And with Wakanda being a fictional place, will continue to persist.

CHINELO ONWUALU: I think the idea that Africans don’t write speculative fiction is born out of the rather racist definitions that limit what speculative fiction is to the sorts of things written by white men in North America and Europe. Thus, when Africans write speculatively, it’s often dismissed as folklore or fable telling.

I feel many of us have adopted this same attitude as part of the deep-seeded practicality that is common with a lot of oppressed groups. Because our systems are so broken – often by colonialist design – we don’t see a lot of value in imaginative endeavours that might divert our energies from the struggle for daily survival. Combined with the devaluation of cultural artefacts like our stories, traditions and beliefs, many of us end up dismissing creative pursuits as wastes of time.

(4) ONCE LESS IN THE BREACH DEAR FRIENDS. David Langford tells about a program Terry Pratchett asked him to write in “The Silicon Critic” at the Milford SF Writers blog

Milford participants often have distinctive personal crotchets when commenting on stories, and John Brunner’s (as I remember from the 1980s) was a particular sensitivity to repetition. Sometimes it seemed that the unintended re-use of a significant word too soon after its last appearance pained him more than a gaping plot hole. The “deliberate repetition for effect” card could be played only so often, especially if you hadn’t noticed the repetition of “repetition” and the fact that it’s now appeared four times in one paragraph.

Terry Pratchett was another author who worried about such things. In 1998 he invited me to write a little Windows application to monitor his own use of favourite words. This, he stipulated, was to be named Bicarb because the idea was to stop you repeating….

(5) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. The Hollywood Reporter picked up the con’s Twitter announcements: “Universal FanCon Suddenly Postponed a Week Before Event”

The Baltimore convention created to celebrate diversity has not been rescheduled.

A week out from its announced debut, organizers have confirmed that Universal Fan Con, the new convention created to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in fandom, will not take place and has been postponed to an as-yet unspecified date.

In a series of tweets, organizers said that they were “devastated to make this postponement decision,” and shared that there is a “contingency plan” for those whose travel to Baltimore next week was already booked and are unable to reschedule their trip.

Although no official reason has yet been given for the sudden postponement — social media accounts for the event were promoting the show as recently as yesterday — a source told Heat Vision that the event “has a financial deficit.” In January, Heat Vision talked to Universal FanCon executive director Robert Butler, who said that the Kickstarter campaign to fund the show had been “a greater success than we could have imagined,” raising twice the amount initially asked for….

One committee member announced her resignation:

One dealer publicized how the cancellation is affecting him financially – start the thread here.

The con committee now has posted a FAQ on their website: http://www.universalfancon.com/. They claim the con will be held at a later date.

Why are you postponing FanCon?

Currently we are in a financial deficit that will not allow us to operate the convention within budget. Accordingly, we have made the decision to postpone and reschedule FanCon so we can put forward the type of event our fans deserve.

Why did you wait so long to postpone the event?

The FanCon team worked really hard up to the last minute to put forward an amazing event. However, it became clear in our last team meeting that we would not be able to deliver the event the fans deserved without more time.

How long will the event be postponed?

Once we are able to fully assess our options, we will make an announcement.

(6) ANDERSON OBIT. Harry Anderson (1952-2018): US actor and writer, died April 16, aged 65. Genre roles include Tales from the Darkside (one episode, 1985), Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme (1990), Tales from the Crypt (one episode, 1990), It (1990), Harvey (1996), Lois & Clark (one episode, 1997), Nightmare Ned (voice for video game, 1997), Noddy (one episode, 1998). He also wrote one 1992 episode of Tales from the Crypt.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 20, 1937 – George Takei
  • Born April 20, 1939 – Peter S. Beagle
  • Born April 20, 1964 – Andy Serkis

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lise Andreasen discovered it’s not all play time when you’re a werewolf.

(9) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you will “Share spring rolls with Stoker Award-winning author Elizabeth Massie” in Episode 64 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Elisabeth Massie

It’s time to head to Providence, Rhode Island for the final episode of Eating the Fantastic recorded during this year’s StokerCon, following my Italian lunch with Paul Di Filippo and a Portuguese dinner with Victor LaValle.

This episode I wandered off with one of the con’s Guests of Honor, Elizabeth Massie, for lunch at Apsara, a restaurant which serves up Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese cuisine. Massie made her first professional fiction sale 35 years ago, and since then has won two Bram Stoker Awards for the critically acclaimed novels and short stories which followed.

We discussed why Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner is the one to thank for her Stoker Award-winning first novel Sineater, how reading Robert Bloch’s Psycho at a young age was like a knife to her heart, which episode of Twilight Zone scared the crap out of her, why you’ll probably never get to read her Millennium and Law & Order novels, her nearly impossible task of writing one spooky book for each of the 50 states in the U.S, why Kolchak: The Night Stalker was her favorite franchise to play in, the great-great grandfather who cut off his own head with a homemade guillotine, which Dark Shadows secret was only revealed in her tie-in novel, and much more.

(10) NO B5. “J. Michael Straczynski Says With Current Warner Bros. Execs, Babylon 5 Never Going to Happen”Bleeding Cool has the story:

During an extended series of tweets on Thursday evening, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski expressed at length that the award winning science fiction series’ current television rights holder Warner Bros. has no intention of either doing anything with the license themselves, or of letting anyone else do anything with it….

(11) HELP WANTED. Hugo nominee nerds of a feather has put out a call: “New Contributors Wanted: 2018”.

Who we’re looking for: we are looking for people who (1) write well and don’t need extensive copyediting, (b) appreciate our brand of humor, (c) understand and are ready to abide by our established format and scoring system and (d) are otherwise good fits with our voice and style. We are not, however, looking for automatons who agree with the rest of us on anything and everything.

We would also like to note that one of our goals is to feature a diverse range of voices on the topics that matter to us. As such, we encourage writers of all backgrounds to apply.

Caveat: we know lots of you have awesome projects you want everyone to know about, but since these are regular contributor positions, we would like to emphasize that this would not be an appropriate forum to use for promoting that awesomeness (aside from your blogging awesomeness, of course).

(12) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? Here’s a no good very bad article for everyone to disagree with: Olivia Ovenden asks “What’s Going Wrong With Sci-Fi?” at Esquire.

“One of the problems with science fiction,” said Ridley Scott back in 2012 ahead of the release of Prometheus, “is the fact that everything is used up. Every type of spacesuit, every type of spacecraft is vaguely familiar. The corridors are similar, the planets are similar. So what you try to do is lean more heavily on the story and the characters.”

Great science fiction has always done just that. So why have a recent string of releases shown less interest in the story than the spaceships? Is sci-fi a genre in trouble?

(13) PUNCH BROTHERS, PUNCH WITH CARE. Declan Finn says his personal solution would be what Asimov described as “the last resort of the incompetent” — “The John Ringo and ConCarolinas issue”.

I’ve been scratching my head for a while about whether or not I was going to do a blog post for the whole ConCarolinas debacle.

You know, how they told John Ringo that they couldn’t guarantee his safety, etc. THEN the announcement they released about his not attending seemed … poorly managed.

To be honest, I’d never heard of them until this fashla happened. So they made a great first impression on me.

So much so that they convinced to never attend their convention, as a guest or even as just an attendee.

And no, it’s not necessarily “Oh, look what they did to Ringo.”

I am doing something radical. I will take them ENTIRELY AT THEIR WORD that they can’t guarantee the safety of one of their own guests against the angry hordes of Social Justice Zombies.

On THEIR OWN TERMS, I should be concerned to even walk the halls as a regular attendee carrying a John Ringo book. While I have no problem defending myself, I to go conventions to have a good time. I don’t want to spend the majority of the con in cuffs because some dickheads decide “You’re a Ringo fan, therefore you’re [insert cliche lefty insults here]” and therefore I have to beat them senseless.

(14) ERASURE. Sarah A. Hoyt rehashed Sad Puppy history in “Of Conservatives And Conventions” [Internet Archive link] at PJ Media.

…I went over to John Ringo’s page and read about it.  As far as I could tell, a bunch of people on Twitter had been badgering both the con-committee and the other (very leftist) guest about inviting someone who was… what the heck was he?  I don’t know.

In the beginning, the accusation against him was that he was “Puppy Adjacent.”

For those of you wanting to follow this at home, the score card is this: Five years ago, my friend Larry Correia started a movement called Sad Puppies, which was a half joking attempt to get books not of solid leftist bent (not even right wing, just not preachy left) nominated for the Hugo, which used to be one of the most prestigious fan awards in science fiction.

When Larry tired of the game after two years, my friend Brad Torgersen took it over…

Vox Day was a little offended to find that he and the Rabid Puppies have been erased from Hoyt’s version of history — “SJWs in SF: Sad Puppy version” [Internet Archive link.]

I find this rather fascinating for what it omits. The Baen cum Sad Puppies crowd is in an uncomfortable position not terribly different from that of Never Trump and the cuckservatives. They are accustomed to being the sole opposition to the SJWs in science fiction, and viewing themselves as the proper and respectable opposition, so they really don’t know what to do about the Rabid Puppies or the considerably less accommodating opposition that is now represented by Castalia House, Arkhaven, and Dark Legion. Nor do they understand how various trends favor the growth of our influence, in part at their expense.

So, they push a narrative to the public in which we don’t exist, even though without us, Sad Puppies would have remained what it was prior to our involvement, a minor bump in the road that didn’t even require any suppression outside of the usual routine. This is not to say that what they did was not admirable, and indeed, their construction of the Dragon Awards will likely prove to be more significant in the long run than our demolition of the Hugo Awards. I merely observe that their efforts would have been insufficient in our absence.

But unlike the SJW narrative, the Sad Puppy narrative does not harm us at all. I am content to let them push it in peace; after all, they are not the enemy. Right now, we are marshaling our forces and preparing to engage in offensives on multiple fronts, some of which are known and others which will prove to be unexpected….

Let the others trail in our wake at their own pace. As long as they refrain from either attacking us or getting in our way, they are not part of the problem. They are trying to be part of the solution, even if they go about it in different and suboptimal ways.

[Hat tip to Camestros Felapton.]

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in Stems, Scottish animator Ainslie Henderson shows how he takes found objects and turns them into stop-motion animation.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Steve Green, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mark Hepworth, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Pixel Scroll 1/17/18 You’re A Little Short For A Pixel Scroll, Aren’t You?

(1) STRACZYNSKI MEMOIR COMING. Harper Voyager US has acquired the imprint’s first memoir, written by J. Michael Straczynski. The book will be published in 2019.

Straczynski is one of the most successful writers of comics, TV, graphic novels, and movies in modern pop culture, and has emerged as one of the most respected voices in science fiction today, selling millions of comics, winning dozens of awards and working with such luminaries as Clint Eastwood, Angelina Jolie and Kenneth Branagh. He is famed for his work on the recent Netflix hit Sense8, his work on Babylon 5, Changeling, World War Z, Thor, and a seven-year stint on The Amazing Spider-Man. But despite forty years of twelve-hour writing days, there’s one story Straczynski could never tell: his own. This memoir chronicles the author’s struggle growing up surrounded by poverty, violence, alcoholism and domestic abuse. The result is an inspiring account of how he wrote his way out of some of the most harrowing conditions.

(2) COINCIDENTAL PROPHET. Henry Farrell takes the measure of the author and this age in “Philip K. Dick and the Fake Humans” at Boston Review.

Standard utopias and standard dystopias are each perfect after their own particular fashion. We live somewhere queasier—a world in which technology is developing in ways that make it increasingly hard to distinguish human beings from artificial things. The world that the Internet and social media have created is less a system than an ecology, a proliferation of unexpected niches, and entities created and adapted to exploit them in deceptive ways. Vast commercial architectures are being colonized by quasi-autonomous parasites. Scammers have built algorithms to write fake books from scratch to sell on Amazon, compiling and modifying text from other books and online sources such as Wikipedia, to fool buyers or to take advantage of loopholes in Amazon’s compensation structure. Much of the world’s financial system is made out of bots—automated systems designed to continually probe markets for fleeting arbitrage opportunities. Less sophisticated programs plague online commerce systems such as eBay and Amazon, occasionally with extraordinary consequences, as when two warring bots bid the price of a biology book up to $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping).

In other words, we live in Philip K. Dick’s future, not George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s. Dick was no better a prophet of technology than any science fiction writer, and was arguably worse than most. His imagined worlds jam together odd bits of fifties’ and sixties’ California with rocket ships, drugs, and social speculation. Dick usually wrote in a hurry and for money, and sometimes under the influence of drugs or a recent and urgent personal religious revelation.

Still, what he captured with genius was the ontological unease of a world in which the human and the abhuman, the real and the fake, blur together.

(3) BLACK LIGHTNING. The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Flenberg praised the new series: “‘Black Lightning’: TV Review”.

It could be argued that what The CW needs least is another superhero show, much less another murky superhero show.

The pleasant surprise, then, is that Black Lightning, based on yet another DC Comics property, is smart and relevant and full of an attitude that’s all its own. It takes its characters and their world seriously, but thus far doesn’t take itself too seriously. And, best of all, it’s ostensibly entirely separate from Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl, so the risk of time-consuming crossovers or key plot points delivered on a different show is currently nil.

(4) NINE IS TEN. This month io9 is celebrating its 10th anniversary, too. io9 and the File 770 blog started the same month and it’s easy to see which got the most mileage out of that decade. Congratulations io9! Here’s a video made by the founding alumni —  

(5) STARVING IN THE CITY OF THE FUTURE. Slate has published Charlie Jane Anders’ story of future hunger: “The Minnesota Diet”. The future isn’t that far away.

This short story was commissioned and edited jointly by Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and CSI about how technology and science will change our lives—will publish a story on a new theme. The theme for January–March 2018: Home.

North American Transit Route No. 7 carves a path between tree silhouettes like wraiths, through blanched fields that yawn with the furrows of long-ago crops. Weaving in and out of the ancient routes of Interstates 29 and 35, this new highway has no need for rest stops or attempts to beautify the roadside, because none of the vehicles have a driver or any passengers. The trucks race from north to south, at speeds that would cause any human driver to fly off the road at the first curve. The sun goes down and they keep racing, with only a few thin beams to watch for obstacles. They don’t need to see the road to stay on the road. The trucks seem to hum to one another, tiny variations in their engine sounds making a kind of atonal music. Seen from above, they might look like the herds of mustangs that used to run across this same land, long ago….

(6) POLL. Uncanny Magazine has opened voting for readers to pick their three favorite original short stories from the works they published last year — “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2017”.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2017. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 17 to February 7, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

So please spread the word! And don’t forget, EVERY VOTE COUNTS!

(7) GENRE DESTRUCTION. Also, Uncanny is taking submissions to a special issue through February 15 — “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Guidelines”

We welcome submission from writers who identify themselves as disabled. Identity is what matters for this issue. What kinds of disabilities? All of them. Invisible and visible. Physical disabilities, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental health disabilities, and neurodiversity.

Yes, even if your disability is a recently acquired one.

Yes, even if your disability is static, or if it isn’t.

Yes, even if you’ve had your disability since birth.

Yes, even if you use adaptive devices only SOME of the time.

Yes, you.

Reading Elsa’s essay “Disabled Enough” from our Kickstarter may help if you have any doubts.

So, if you identify as disabled across any of these definitions or others, we want to hear from you!

(8) LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE WORDSMITH. L. Ron Hubbard couldn’t do it. andrew j. offutt couldn’t do it. So it’s up to Matthew Plunkett to tell you “How to Write 100,000 Words Per Day, Every Day” (from McSweeney’s.)

Relationships

My first blog post appeared online in 2008 when I explained how I attained my top ranking on a popular worldwide online game. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing. If you’re wondering whether this level of output will hinder your relationships with friends and lovers, let me set you straight. Life is about decisions. Either you write 100,000 words a day or you meet people and develop ties of affection. You can’t do both.

(9) GENTLER PACE. Concatenation has posted its “Newscast for the Spring 2018” – an aggregation of sff and pop cuture news issued at a not-quite-quarterly rate.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 17, 1982 – The Ray Bradbury-penned The Electric Grandmother premiered on television.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DARTH

  • Born January 17, 1931 – James Earl Jones

(12) BIAS AT WORK. Sarah Hollowell, who calls her blog “Sarah Hollowell, Fat Writer Girl and Her Fat Words”, was not added to the Midwest Writers Workshop’s organizational committee after her appearance was made an issue.

A week ago The Guardian covered the initial stages of the story in “Roxane Gay calls out writing group for ‘fatphobic’ treatment of Sarah Hollowell”.

An American writers’ workshop that has counted Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Deaver and Clive Cussler among its faculty has been called out by Roxane Gay for “fatphobia”, after a writer’s appearance was criticised during a vote to give her a public-facing role.

Gay, who has herself been on the faculty for the Midwest Writers Workshop (MWW), turned to Twitter on Tuesday to lay out how the workshop’s organisers treated the writer Sarah Hollowell. According to Gay, Hollowell has worked for MWW for five years, and was voted to be on its organisational committee. But when her appointment was being discussed, “someone said ‘do we really want someone like her representing us?’ That person elaborated ‘someone so fat. It’s disgusting’,” claimed Gay.

Gay, the author of essay collection Bad Feminist and the memoir Hunger, said that only two people in the room defended Hollowell, and that the author was not then brought on to the committee. “This is unacceptable. And cruel. And cowardly, Midwest Writers Workshop. And you thought you could get away with it. You very nearly did,” wrote Gay, calling on the workshop to issue a “public and genuine” apology to Hollowell, and forbidding it to use her name as a past faculty member in its promotional materials again. “I’m too fat and disgusting to be associated with you,” she wrote.

Hollowell herself said that “there are a lot of good people” at the MWW, but that “I have been hurt in a very real way and I don’t think it should be hidden”.

The workshop subsequently issued an apology to Hollowell on Wednesday, in which its director Jama Kehoe Bigger said: “We screwed up.”

The apology and offers to attempt to “make it right” have not panned out. Instead, here’s what’s happening —

Hollowell responded with a full thread, which includes these tweets —

(13) NOW YOU SEE IT. Nothing magical about this disappearing act — “Rare first edition Harry Potter worth £40,000 stolen”.

A hardback first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone worth about £40,000 was one of a number of rare books stolen during a burglary.

The book, J.K Rowling’s maiden novel of the globally successful series, was stolen from SN Books in Thetford, Norfolk, between 8 and 9 January….

The Harry Potter book was made even more “unique” by being in a custom red box, the force added.

(14) TRAIN TRICKS. The BBC reports a “Japanese train barks like a dog to prevent accidents” — it scares away deer who lick the tracks to get iron.

Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports that the combination of sounds is designed to scare deer away from the tracks in a bid to reduce the number of animal deaths on the railway.

Officials from the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) say that a three-second blast of the sound of a deer snorting attracts the animals’ attention, and 20 seconds of dog barking is enough to make them take flight.

(15) EVEN IF YOU DO EVERYTHING RIGHT. An interesting thread by Alex Acks who argues that maybe it’s not a conspiracy….

(16) WHAT DOESN’T PAY. And Shaun Duke has his own argument against the conspiracy theory.

(17) FILL ‘ER UP. This sounds like the beginning of a nice 1950s sf story —  “UK firm contracts to service satellites”.

Effective Space says its two servicing “Space Drones” will be built using manufacturing expertise in the UK and from across the rest of Europe.

The pair, which will each be sized about the same as a washing machine and weigh less than 400kg, are expected to launch on the same rocket sometime in 2020.

Once in orbit, they will separate and attach themselves to the two different geostationary telecommunications satellites that are almost out of fuel.

 

(18) HIRSUTE. Chip Hitchcock says, “As the proud possessor of a handle bar mustache, I’m pleased to see ’Moustached monkey is separate species’.”

A monkey from Ethiopia and Sudan with a “handlebar moustache” has been identified as a distinct species.

Scientists took a fresh look at the distribution and physical appearance of patas monkeys in Ethiopia, confirming there were two species rather than one.

It was originally described as a separate species in 1862, but was later folded in – incorrectly – with other patas monkeys to form a single species.

(19) WHEN THE BOOKS WERE WRITTEN. Brenton Dickieson has published an epic tool for scholars – “My Cheat Sheet of C.S. Lewis’ Writing Schedule” — at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

For those who study authors of the past, you will soon discover that the publication lists and bibliography of an author are not always terribly helpful. After all, writing, editing, and publishing a book are stages that can each take years. Knowing something is published in 1822 or 1946 tells us little about the writing process. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien each had books that took nearly two decades to write….

Over the last five years, then, I have developed a habit of speaking about when C.S. Lewis or one of the Inklings wrote a book, rather than when they published it. I haven’t been perfectly consistent with this on the blog, but have generally put the writing period in brackets rather than the publication date.

To do this, I discovered that I was slowly building myself a cheat sheet to help me remember when Lewis was writing a book so that I can connect it with what was going on at the time. The cheat sheet includes completed books and incomplete fragments of what would have been a book. I’ve decided to share this cheat sheet with those of you who are interested. This might save you time or inspire you to make connections between Lewis’ work and his life patterns. And, perversely, I’m hoping to draw more people into the project of reading Lewis chronologically, and have provided resources here, here, and here.

(20) HYPERBOREAN AGE. Black Gate’s Doug Ellis says it’s “Time to Revise Your Lin Carter Biography”, though “bibliography” may be the intended word. Either way — Ellis tells about a 1967 fanzine, The Brythunian Prints, published by some Toledo fans.

The most interesting content is two pages of poetry by Lin Carter, under the general heading “War Songs and Battle Cries,” apparently reprinted with Carter’s permission from The Wizard of Lemuria and Thongor of Lemuria. The remaining content is taken up with editorials, limericks by John Boardman (four of which were reprinted from Amra) and a book review of The Fantastic Swordsmen edited by de Camp. The back cover is Tolkien related, as it pictures “Baggins and Trinket” (the Ring).

(21) MORE PAST FUTURES. Let MovieWeb tell you “10 Back to the Future Facts You Never Knew”.

THE POTENTIAL DOC BROWNS

Christopher Lloyd, part of the ensemble of the TV series Taxi which ran from 1978 till 1983, seems irreplaceable as Doctor Emmett Brown in the minds and hearts of fans around the world. But before he landed the role, some other big names were considered for the part, including John Lithgow, Dudley Moore, and Jeff Goldblum. Imagine those memes!

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 11/18/17 It’s Beginning To Scroll A Lot Like Pixelmas

(1) THE PHENOMENA BEHIND LEGENDS. Kim Huett has added two new posts to Doctor Strangemind.

The first is about the Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio transmission: “The Great Radio Hoax”.

As appealing as I find the idea of Wells’ story taking in so many thousands of people who had been looking down their noses at science fiction I can’t bring myself to believe it. The prosaic alternative, that the supposed mass panic was in reality a beat-up by a newspaper industry hoping to scare advertisers away from radio back to print by labelling the former ‘irresponsible and untrustworthy’, seems far more likely to me. (Not surprisingly while CBS was keen to refute such newspaper claims Orson Wells was happy to play along in return for the massive amount of personal publicity it gave him.)

Now as it happens I recently discovered a small piece of evidence to back up my preferred assumption. In the March 1942 issue of Leprechaun is an article by Gerry de la Ree all about this incident. This is the Gerry de la Ree who later went on to publish books such as The Book of Virgil Finlay, A Hannes Bok Sketchbook, and Fantasy by Fabian: The Art of Stephen E. Fabian by the way. In his article de la Ree repeats most of the claims that appeared in the papers; injured people were admitted to hospital in New York, Minneapolis switchboards were inundated by calls, hundreds were fleeing by car in New Jersey. However amongst all this second-hand reporting Gerry de la Ree describes his own encounter with The Mercury Theater’s Halloween production. I suspect this hits closer to the mark than any of the newspaper hysteria.

The second is about the Flying Dutchman and sheep: “Far Beneath, the Abysmal Sea”.

The first reference in print to the ship appeared in 1795, when George Barrington mentioned the matter in his book, Voyage to Botany Bay. According to Barrington sailors had told him of a story about a Dutch ship that was lost at sea during a horrendous storm. This it was claimed was due to Captain Bernard Fokke for he was known for the speed on his trips from Holland to Java. The story went that Fokke was aided by the Devil and that he and his crew eventually paid the price for dealing with Old Nick and so were consequently doomed to sail the seas forever more despite their demise. Sighting the Flying Dutchman was said to be very bad luck.

Now what strikes me most about all this is how late in the piece this legend comes. The general agreement seems to be that the Flying Dutchman legend originated in the eighteenth century and that my friends is passing strange. If the Flying Dutchman obeys the principle of reality conservation in fiction then what changed to make such a story suddenly possible? Clearly some new phenomena was needed because mysteriously abandoned boats drifting with the currents is a scene as old as sailing itself. If it was simply a matter of sailors wanting to explain boats apparently travelling by themselves then I can’t imagine they would wait till the eighteenth century to invent the Flying Dutchman story.

Huett also says he’s working on a revised edition of his John Brosnan collection You Only Live Once for Dave Langford to add to the ebook page of TAFF freebies.

(2) JOT AND TITTLE. You’ve heard of the Oxford comma. Now there’s the Straczynski period.

(3) LOVE AMONG THE RAYGUNS. SyFy Wire names “The 26 greatest romances in science fiction’s last two decades”.

07 Amelia Pond and Rory Williams, Doctor Who

The Ponds are two of The Doctor’s most beloved companions. Amy (Karen Gillan) is best remembered for her eagerness to see every inch of every universe but her most compelling story arcs always foregrounded her relationship with Rory (Arthur Darvill). For example, when a trickster time lord traps the three time travellers in two potential realities and asks them to determine which is real lest they die, it’s up to Amy to sort them out. But she doesn’t rely on logic to guide them, she uses her heart; when Rory dies in one timeline Amy decides that it must be the fake one because for her no world without Rory could be real.

(4) JOHN GARTH AT OXFORD. The author of Tolkien and the Great War will speak this coming week at Oxford.

I have exciting things to reveal about Tolkien’s extraordinary Creation myth in a talk to the Oxford Tolkien Society (Taruithorn) in Lecture Room 2, Christ Church, Oxford, at 8pm next Thursday, 23 November. Non-members £2.

(5) MARVEL’S WORST PARENTS. Could it be the criminal Pride, or a negligent Hero? Find out in Marvel’s Top 10 Bad Parents!

(6) CROWDSOURCED HELP PAYS OFF. Last April the Scroll gave a signal boost for to a GoFundMe for a young writer’s medical expenses. Nick Tchan has sent along a good news update about Lachlan:

Scans and meeting with surgeon and oncologist today.

Lachlan is officially cancer-free!

Thank you for initially posting the GoFundMe link to File770.

Tchan wrote about the appeal in April:

“The 17-year-old son of a woman in my writing group has been diagnosed with an osteosarcoma in his right shoulder,” writes Nick Tchan, a Writers of the Future winner and Aurealis nominated author. “It’s an aggressive and rare form of bone cancer. At the very least, he’s going to have an extensive regime of chemotheraphy and a bone replaced in his right arm.

“Both he and his single mother are keen speculative fiction fans and writers. I’m putting together a GoFundMe to help pay for the time she’ll have to take off work as well as the other costs that tend to accumulate. Any funds left over from cost-of-living and treatment expenses I’m hoping to put towards something like Dragon Dictate so that he can write even if they have to amputate his arm.”

(7) HOME SAVED. And the GoFundMe to Help Mike Donahue keep his home has succeeded.

I’m overwhelmed. Thank you all. In just two days! I’m writing individual thank you cards to everyone but I want to post today that you have filled me with a tremendous sense of hope. If all the money comes in, this, along with what I have saved, will reinstate my mortgage. I’ve arranged for my attorney to talk with Ditech and verify the demand letter and make sure it will all work properly.

(8) FRIES WITH THAT. Nicola Griffith hunts for sff that passes “The Fries Test for disabled characters in fiction”:

…Most readers will be familiar with the Bechdel Test. Today I want to talk about the Fries Test for fiction:

Does a work have more than one disabled character? Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character? Is the character’s disability not eradicated either by curing or killing?

…There are more novels in which the main character is disabled and isn’t cured or killed, such as the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, but those characters are alone in their disability.6 Novels in which crips talk to each other? Novels in which we talk to each other about something other than wanting to be cured, or how to get cured, or why we want to die because we can’t be cured? Novels in which we don’t die? I’m drawing a blank.

Think about that. I read a lot. I can only think of four novels for adults with two or more crip characters who talk to each other and who are not killed or cured. It’s true that until recently I might not have noticed whether or not characters were disabled but, still, five.7 FIVE.

Surely I’m missing some. Please tell me I’m missing some…

(9) BREW MATCHMAKER. Charles Payseur’s latest short fiction reviews on Nerds of a Feather: “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 10/2017”.

“Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny)

Tasting Notes: A surprising tang gives this a punch of sweetness that almost overpowers with its joy, settled only by the complexity of its profile and the lingering smiles it leaves in its wake.

Pairs with: Peach Hard Cider

Review: Computron has a fairly ordinary job…for the only sentient AI in existence. He teaches kids about robots and artificial intelligence, something that he’s rather singularly qualified to do. Only it really doesn’t seem like people consider him the marvel that he is, judging him on the retro-futurist aesthetic he has, imagining he’s outdated despite his uniqueness, despite the fact that he’s sentient. It’s not until he finds a show that features a character much like himself, an older-style robot named Cyro, that he begins to understand just how much he was yearning to see himself represented in media, to interact with other people who won’t think he’s strange because of the way he looks. Enter fandom. I love how this story explores the ways that fan spaces allow people to explore and celebrate themselves. No, fandom isn’t perfect, and Computron does have to deal with aspects of that, but at the same time it gives him this new purpose, this new feeling of belonging. Where he doesn’t have to fit all he has to say into a tiny window inside a larger presentation on robotics. Where he can really get into something and be appreciated for it and make connections through it and shatter the isolation that had dominated his life. It’s a story about being a fan, and how fun and freeing that can be. The story revels in Computron’s journey into fandom, writing fic and offering feedback and just being an all around pleasant person. And it’s a joyous story to experience, clever and cute and playing with the tropes of how AI mirror humans, but how they are distinct as well, and valuable in how they are different, able to contribute in ways that are surprising and wonderful.

(10) MORE ON DIAN CRAYNE. The death of Dian Crayne received a write-up in her local paper, the Willits Weekly. Most of the text is unblushingly copied from the File 770 obit (!) but there are some interesting added details. Click here for the PDF edition.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 18, 1990 — The television version of IT premiered with Tim Curry.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian learned something unexpected about the afterlife in Close to Home.

(13) DISSATISFIED BABYLONIAN CUSTOMERS. “Garbageboy Stinkman” tells us about the evidence for one of history’s least reputable businessmen in cuneiform clay tablets.

The majority of the surviving correspondences regarding Ea-nasir were recovered from one particular room in a building that is believed to have been Ea-nasir’s own house.

Like, these are clay tablets. They’re bulky, fragile, and difficult to store. They typically weren’t kept long-term unless they contained financial records or other vital information (which is why we have huge reams of financial data about ancient Babylon in spite of how little we know about the actual culture: most of the surviving tablets are commercial inventories, bills of sale, etc.).

But this guy, this Ea-nasir, he kept all of his angry letters – hundreds of them – and meticulously filed and preserved them in a dedicated room in his house. What kind of guy does that?

(14) LEAPIN’ DRAGONS. John F. Holmes thinks the latest category changes mean the Dragon Awards have turned their backs on indie authors.

And the Dragon Awards jump the shark.

I’m fine with a new award, (even though I think the category is kinda bulls*t) but why the BLEEP do you drop Post-apocalypse awards?

“Best Media Tie-In Novel” is a huge slap in the face of indie authors. You have to be a big time writer to get permission to write for a brand, like Star Wars or Halo. And, to be honest, a lot of those novels kinda SUCK, though many are great. I’m thinking about the first new Star Wars novel, which was horrible.

Holmes is the first I’ve seen put that interpretation on it.

(15) UNDERSTANDING TOLKIEN RIGHTS. Kalimac analyzes why it’s probably accurate that the Tolkien Estate controlled the TV rights involved in the new Amazon deal.

…The most curious question is, what authorized entity is responsible for conveying the rights to do this? News articles in the past have often confused the Tolkien Estate – the family-controlled entity that owns Tolkien’s writings – with Middle-earth Enterprises (formerly Tolkien Enterprises), the company which owns the movie and associated marketing rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and which licensed them to New Line to produce the Jackson movies.

They’re not associated. Tolkien sold the movie rights outright in 1969, and they eventually wound up in the hands of the late Saul Zaentz, who was the producer of the 1978 Bakshi movie and the creator of the firm that now owns those rights. It’s this firm which is responsible for most of the trademark defense that’s hit the news over the years, but it’s the Estate that sued New Line for shafting it on royalties owed.

Since the Estate has no control over the LotR movie rights, its opinion on the topic is moot, though Christopher Tolkien, head of the family and his father’s literary executor, has expressed his distaste for them. Because of this, and because of the historical confusion between the entities, the assumption was that the new project came from Middle-earth Enterprises, despite news references to the Estate.

But that apparently is wrong, and it has to do with the fact that the new series will be television, not movies, and will be inspired by other writings by Tolkien. Middle-earth Enterprises does not own rights to either of these aspects; the Estate retains that.

This article on a Tolkien bulletin board is the fullest I’ve seen, and looks the most reliable to my eye. It cites scholar Kristin Thompson on this. Despite Thompson’s lack of comprehension of criticisms of the Jackson movies, I’ve found her well-versed on the facts of the history of the movie rights, so if she says this, I accept it.

That means, in turn, that the Estate did authorize this…

(16) FAILURES OF JUSTICE. Ethan Alter, in a Yahoo! article “Justice League before ‘Justice League’: Revisiting 4 less-than-super attempts to unite the DC heroes”, profiles four failed efforts to film the Justice League, Including “Legend of the Superheroes,” a late-1970s effort which would have been Adam West’s comeback as Batman had it been greenlit, and Justice League Mortal, a project of Mad Max director George Miller that was killed by the 2007 writers’ strike.

So far, early reviews are mixed, with some (including Yahoo Entertainment) suggesting that Justice League doesn’t live up to the high standards set by this summer’s blockbuster Wonder Woman. Nevertheless, these versions of the characters look positively super compared with the non-animated incarnations of the Justice League we’ve seen in the past. For Flashback (or, should we say, Flash-back?) Friday, we’re revisiting three less-than-super TV versions of DC’s all-star super team, as well as one film project that never came to fruition.

(17) IN THE BEAT OF THE NIGHT. The Washington Post’s Robert O’Harrow Jr, in “Law clerk by day, ghost hunter by night, now Trump’s judiciary nominee”, profiled Brett Joseph Talley, whose previous appearance in the Post was in 2014 when, as a speechwriter for Sen. Ron Johnson, he took a Post reporter ghosthunting.  O’Harrow quotes an interview done by the Unlocked Diary website with Talley where the interviewer said Talley’s Stoker-nominated novel That Which Should Not Be has “awesomestatic gooeyness coming frome very page to where you will be licking it off your fingers and savoring it for days to come.”

In 2012, Talley and Higdon co-authored “Haunted Tuscaloosa,” a short book of stories about ghostly doings in Alabama. At the time, Talley was working as a speechwriter for Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Higdon said Talley wrote the book using Higdon’s recollections and ideas. In the introduction, Talley raises questions about the line between personal experience and verifiable fact.

“In this book, there are children who died too early, professors who never left the classroom and even the spirit of a collie that still serves its master, long after his death,” Talley wrote in the introduction.

“Some will criticize these stories, saying they are not real history,” he wrote. “But that raises a question. What is real history? Sure, we know the dates and the major players, but the color, the heart of the matter — that we see through eyewitnesses.”

(18) BACK TO BILLY JOEL. He’d like to restart the fire.

(19) FLASH IN THE PAN. An “observation camera” captured short video with spectacular end: “Meteor streaks across Arizona sky”.

The city of Phoenix captured a meteor on one of its observation cameras as the bright light flashed across the skyline.

(20) FRANCLY SPEAKING. Not quite Da Vinci (but ~genre): “Rare Tintin art fetches $500,000 at Paris auction”.

A rare India ink drawing of young reporter Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy has been sold for almost $500,000 (£380,000) at auction in Paris.

The picture from the 1939 comic album King Ottokar’s Sceptre was among items by Hergé, the Belgian artist who created Tintin, to go under the hammer.

An original strip from the book The Shooting Star fetched $350,000.

But a copy of Tintin adventure Destination Moon, signed by US astronauts, failed to find a buyer.

(21) SJW CREDENTIALS OF THE DESERT. Nerdist convinces you to click, and click again, in “Impossibly Adorable Sand Cat Kittens Caught on Film for the First Time”. Who can resist?

You might think you’ve seen all the cat videos on the internet, but here’s one you haven’t: the first known footage of sand cat kittens in the wild. It takes a lot to make us squee nowadays but wow — LOOK AT THEIR LITTLE FACES.

In case you aren’t familiar with them, sand cats (Felis margarita) are an adorable species of impossibly tiny cats that are perfectly adapted to live in the deserts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. They have a light brown/tan fur that blends in with sand and brush, and their extra-furry paws protect the sand cats from hot sand (and barely leave a trace of where they’ve been). Those oversized ears are not just super cute; they also give the sand cat exceptional hearing for tracking down its prey, typically small rodents, birds, or lizards.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Wesley Crusher: Naming Calls

ST:TNG had just started its second season when Rick Foss and I organized the 1988 Loscon program. Every fan I knew watched the show and had opinions about the assorted minor controversies involving its creator Gene Roddenberry and how the characters were scripted. We expected a panel about Wesley Crusher, the precocious teenaged boy who all too often saved the Enterprise, to be a good draw, and we had excellent writers to use on it.

We also had the prospect of springing a celebrity guest on the panelists – just not the one who actually showed up. Here’s what happened. (From File 770 #78, recently uploaded to Fanac.org)

o0o

The Star Trek-oriented “Solving the Wesley Problem” filled every seat and had fans lining the walls They got a bonus when the actor who plays Wesley unexpectedly dropped in.

The panel began with D.C. Fontana, Joe Straczynski (then known as story editor for the new The Twilight Zone), Sonni Cooper (a Trek novelist), Mel Gilden and Jane Mailander (local writers) and a hoped-for surprise guest – but not the one we got.

As the program began, Bjo Trimble was stationed at the front of the Pasadena Hilton, and John Trimble at the back door, waiting for the arrival of Patrick Stewart, whom a contact at Paramount had supposedly sent our way seeking some word-of-mouth publicity for his Charles Dickens reading scheduled in December.

While I was shuttling between John and Bjo for news of Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton, who plays Wesley, materialized in the “Solving the Wesley Problem” audience and virtually took over the panel. As I learned from him the next day, he simply came to Loscon because he likes sf conventions. But Guy Vardaman, his stand-in, looked in the pocket program and told him, “Hey, there’s an ‘I Hate Wesley’ panel; I think you should check it out.”

Wheaton’s gesture to explain the panelists’ changing tone when he arrived was one of extracting foot from mouth. (Actually, the panelists had criticized the series, rather than Wheaton’s acting.) They didn’t know he hadn’t been there for most of it.

Patrick Stewart never did show up, but I like to think of the alternate world where he walked in on the panel after Wil Wheaton had already joined it. What pandemonium!

Before Wheaton’s unexpected appearance, our biggest “star” was going to be Paul Marco, joining the “Plan 9 From Outer Space 30th Anniversary” panel. He played Kelton the cop, and ever since the film came out he’s been working very hard to turn himself into a cult figure, despite the movie’s reputation as the worst film ever made.

Pixel Scroll 7/29/16 I Have Promises To Keep, And Pixels To Scroll Before I Sleep

(1) IRON MAN. Gregg Van Eekhout was injured at “San Diego Cracked-it-Con 2016”. Before he was taken away on a cart he signed his fan’s books! Click the link for the whole story. The bottom line —

So, it’s going to be six weeks in a hard cast, and that’s my Comic-Con story. And I’d like to reiterate that I continued to autograph copies of my books even with a fractured fibula. That’s pretty metal, I feel.

(2) PROSECUTION FOR ONLINE THREATS. Ken White at Popehat reports on “A Rare Federal Indictment For Online Threats Against Game Industry”.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California has sought and obtained an indictment against a young man named Stephen Cebula for sending online threats to Blizzard Entertainment, the freakishly successful powerhouse behind the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo games as well as many others. The case is notable because it’s so rare: there’s so much threatening behavior online, and so little of it is addressed by the criminal justice system.

Stephen Cebula seems overtly disturbed. The search warrant for his home and subsequent criminal complaint tell a tale of him engaging in bigoted trash talk with other players on the Blizzard game “Heroes of the Storm,” ranging from racial epithets to comments like “I will kill your family bitch” and fantasies about raping a child at Disneyland. Blizzard suspended Cebula’s ability to communicate with other players. Cebula — perhaps tutored in law and political theory on Reddit, or by Milo Yiannopoulos — saw this as an outrageous violation of his freedom. He used his Facebook account “tedbundyismygod1” to send two threatening messages to Blizzard:

Careful blizzard … I live in California and your headquarters is here in California …. You keep silencing me in Heroes of the STorm and I may or may not pay you a visit with an AK47 amongst some other “fun” tools.

You keep silencing people in heroes of the storm and someone who may live in California might be inclined to “cause a disturbance” at your headquarters in California with an AK47 and a few other “opportunistic tools” …. It would be a shame to piss off the wrong person. Do you not agree blizzard?

(3) SITE SELECTION, COMPARE AND CONTRAST. Petréa Mitchell delivered vital data in a comment:

In crucial last-minute Worldcon voting news AND Pokemon Go news, New Orleans in 2018 has published a map of Pokestops and gyms near its proposed facility. (San Jose in 2018 has mentioned Pokestops nearby but only vaguely.)

(4) THE ENDLESS DELIGHT OF POKÉMON GO. The Week reported —

“A Georgia woman became trapped in a graveyard while playing Pokemon Go.  ‘The gate is f—ing closed,’ the indignant woman told a 911 dispatcher.  ‘This is not cool.'”

(5) THE NEXT SFWA CHAT HOUR. Coming Monday, August 1 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. — SFWA Chat Hour Episode #5: Selling Your Book at Conventions.

Join Cat Rambo as she hosts a lively discussion on how to sell your books at conventions, featuring Quincy J. Allen, Jennifer Brozek, David John Butler, and Michael Underwood.

RSVP the event to get a reminder when it’s about to start. Afterwards, it’ll go up on YouTube as usual.

(6) BANDERSNATCH. Musician Andrew Petersen discusses an influence on his decision to create The Rabbit Room“The Inklings, Diana Glyer, and the Art of Community”.

It’s easy for Americans like me, who are almost maddeningly intrigued by the romance of that famous fellowship, to idealize the Inklings—to imagine that the meetings were all chummy chortles and pipe smoke, pints of beer and chin-stroking, heady conversation and magical recitals of what are now classic works of literature. The Inklings were human, after all, and they lived in the same tired old world that we occupy, bearing the same weaknesses and wounds in varying degrees. The meetings were probably more sporadic and less inspired than we like to think. The story is a good one: Christians getting together in the name of friendship and good books. It piques an almost mythic longing in many of us. Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall in one of those rooms? For that matter, who wouldn’t want to be a member of that inner ring?

Glyer’s thesis, contrary to some academic works that claim too much has been made of the Inklings’ influence on each other, is that the very nature of friendship, of nearness, of interaction, guarantees influence on their work. Like it or not, the famously grumpy and immovable Tolkien simply had to have been affected by his relationship with Lewis, and his work must have been affected, too. It was Glyer’s book where I first grasped the idea that The Lord of the Rings probably wouldn’t exist if not for C. S. Lewis. Yes, it was Tolkien’s God-given genius that wrote the masterpiece, but it was C. S. Lewis’s encouragement that nudged Tolkien along and convinced him that the public would care to read it. Friendship matters. Encouragement, resonance, accountability, and criticism were crucial ingredients that went into the feast of Middle-Earth.

One of the central tenets of the Rabbit Room is that art nourishes community, and community nourishes art. And to me the profound thing about that idea is that the friendships—the heart-shaping relationships, the Christ-centered community—will outlast the works themselves. Glyer’s book makes a strong case for the influence of the Inklings on one another, imperfect though it was. If you want to write good books, good songs, good poems, you need some talent, yes. You also need to work hard, practice a lot, cultivate self-discipline, and study the greats. But you also need good friends. You need fellowship. You need community…..

(7) HUTCHMOOT. And The Rabbit Room is planning a conference in October. Diana Pavlac Glyer will be the keynote speaker.

On October 6 – 9, the Rabbit Room will convene Hutchmoot 2016 at Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, Tennessee. You’re invited to come and enjoy a weekend of live music, delicious food and conversation, and a series of discussions centered on art, faith, and the telling of great stories across a range of mediums.

Speakers, sessions, and special events will be announced as they are confirmed.

(8) VERTIGO. Flashbacks to the right of them, flashbacks to the left of them, volleyed and thundered.

https://twitter.com/damiengwalter/status/759051917993672704

(9) FILE WORTHY PUN.

(10) ON JEOPARDY! Steven H Silver says this was a Jeopardy entry —

Women Authors for $800.

?

?

“Nobody rang in,” said Silver.

(11) SUMMERTIME. “A summer book list like no other: Michael Dirda picks 11 hidden gems”, at the Washington Post.

One of the pleasures of summer holidays is choosing just the right books to pack along on the annual visit to the beach. I stress that word “books” because only the foolhardy would take an electronic device anywhere near sand, water, intense heat and — as one learns by experience — children predestined to spill their soda where it will do the most damage. Much better to pick one of the following recent titles in paperback or hardcover.

The Big Book of Science Fiction , edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Vintage). How big is big? In this case, we’re talking nearly 1,200 double-columned pages, dozens of representative short classics of science fiction, and newly translated work from around the world. There are surprises, too: Did you know that W.E.B. Du Bois wrote sf? That’s just one indication that the VanderMeers hope to establish a more culturally diverse science fiction canon. Still, there are many old favorites here, some of mine being William Tenn’s “The Liberation of Earth,” J.G. Ballard’s “The Voices of Time,” Cordwainer Smith’s “The Game of Rat and Dragon” and Joanna Russ’s “When It Changed.”

(12) ARRIVAL. The Wikipedia tells us:

Arrival is an upcoming American science fiction drama film starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. The film is based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by author Ted Chiang. The film is scheduled for released on November 11, 2016 by Paramount Pictures.

Deadline Hollywood reported in June:

Paramount Pictures has set a November 11 wide release for Arrival, the Denis Villeneuve-directed sci-fi movie starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. This was the film that took the 2014 Cannes market by storm when the studio won a wild rights auction to the pic for a fest-record $20 million, earning it North American and China distribution rights.

(13) CLOUDY DAYS. Bob, Gordon, and Luis have been laid off from Sesame Street.

The changes keep on coming for Sesame Street. Last year, the controversial news broke that the show was packing its bags and moving on up to HBO from PBS—and now, most of the children’s show’s longtime (non-puppet) cast has been let go.

At Florida Supercon, original cast member Bob McGrath, known simply as “Bob” to his young audience, said that he and comrades for several decades Emilio Delgado (“Luis” on the show) and Roscoe Orman (“Gordon”) have had their last hurrah on Sesame Street.

“As of this season, I completed my 45th season this year,” McGrath said. “And the show has done a major turnaround, going from an hour to a half hour. HBO has been involved also. And so they let all of the original cast members go, with the exception of Alan Muraoka—who is still on the show, he is probably 20 years younger than the rest of us—and Chris Knowings, who is also young.”

(14) CLICKBAIT RATINGS. Entertainment Weekly rated all 13 Star Trek movies, offering its opinion of the good, the bad, and the why.

The same day, Rotten Tomatoes published “Every Star Trek Movie, Ranked From Worst To Best”. The Rotten Tomatoes list looked like this:

  1. STAR TREK (reboot)
  2. FIRST CONTACT
  3. THE WRATH OF KHAN
  4. INTO DARKNESS
  5. THE VOYAGE HOME
  6. BEYOND
  7. THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
  8. THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK
  9. INSURRECTION
  10. GENERATIONS
  11. STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
  12. NEMESIS
  13. THE FINAL FRONTIER

(15) ST:WTF! Adam Whitehead decided there was also clickbait potential in criticizing EW’s “gratuitous list”. And my linking only helps prove him right.

The point of Gratuitous Lists is that the things on it are not listed in order of excellence, but are just on there so people can talk about the shows/games in question rather than argue about the order, which is often arbitrary. But sometimes arguing about the order is just too much fun. After Entertainment Weekly issued a list of Star Trek movies ranked by quality that is simply objectively wrong (how high up is Nemesis?), here’s my riposte…

(16) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 29, 1958 — The U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • July 29, 2002 — M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs.  Shyamalan cited The Birds, Night of the Living Dead and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the influences for this film.

(17) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 29, 1972 – Wil Wheaton

(18) BELATED BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born July 28, 1866 — Beatrix Potter, British author/illustrator of the Peter Rabbit stories.

(19) FIRST TREK CON. Stu Hellinger announced he’ll be part of a fan panel at Star Trek Mission New York over the September 2-4 weekend.

On September 2 – 4, at the Javits Center here in NYC, ReedPOP is running a 50th Anniversary Star Trek Convention called Star Trek: Mission New York.

One of the program items is titled: “The First Convention and How it Helped Resurrect Star Trek”.

The panel description: The first Star Trek Convention, in New York City, began as a crazy idea with a shoestring budget that created ripples all the way to the Klingon Empire and helped put the Enterprise back in space. A panel discussion with members of the original organizing committee.

The participants on this panel are Linda Deneroff, Devra Langsam, Elyse Rosenstein, Joyce Yasner and myself as the moderator.

We have not been informed, as yet, what date and time the panel will be, but I will post the information as soon as I know.

Join us to reminisce or to learn more about what we did that helped create the ongoing phenomena that is Star Trek.

(20) JEFF STURGEON. Fascinating work at “Welcome to the Art of Jeff Sturgeon”

After his long time friend and art collaborator artist Jeff Fennel  ( www.Jefffennel.com ) convinced him to try painting on aluminum Jeff left the game business behind and went to painting full time with aluminum his new canvas. Through the new millennium Jeff’s work became nationally known with increased appearances as a exhibitor,guest,panelist and guest of honor at conventions around the country and as a illustrator and cover artist. Jeff’s work is much sought after by art collectors whether one of his classic SF/ astronomical pieces or his beautiful renderings of the american west. Jeff’s newest project is Jeff Sturgeon’s last Cities of Earth as his much anticipated shared world project comes to fruition with an anthology with the top writers in the field, an art book of Jeff’s city paintings and concept art., other platforms are in negotiation to try and bring this amazing world Jeff has created to life. Jeff lives in great pacific NW with wife and artist Leslie Kreher and sons Duncan and Corwin.

(21) WALL OBIT. SF Site News has learned Canadian fan Alison Wall died on March 5. More information at the link.

(22) WILSON OBIT. SF Site News reports Toronto fan Ian Wilson, a past Ad Astra chair, died July 28.

(23) STRACZYNSKI TRIBUTE TO DOYLE. Babylon 5 Creator J. Michael Straczynski On the Death of Jerry Doyle” in Epic Times.

When it came to politics, Jerry Doyle and I disagreed on, well, pretty much everything. Politically, Jerry was just to the right of Attila the Hun. There is a line in Babylon 5 where his character, Michael Garibaldi, suggests that the way to deal with crime is to go from electric chairs to electric bleachers. That line is quintessential Jerry Doyle. I say this with confidence because I overheard him saying it at lunch then stole it for the show.

Despite our differences, when Jerry ran for congress as a Republican not long after Babylon 5 ended, I donated to his campaign. Not because I agreed with him, but because I respected him; because there was one area in which we agreed: the vital intersection between the arts of acting and storytelling. In that respect, Jerry was a consummate professional. Regardless of whatever was going on in his life, whether it was marital issues, a broken arm, forced couch-surfing with Bruce and Andreas or other problems, he never once pulled a prima donna on us; he showed up every day on time, knew his lines, and insisted that the guest cast live up to the standards of the main cast, to the point of roughing up one guest star who showed up not knowing his lines. Trust me when I say that after Jerry got done with him, every day he showed up, he knew his lines. And then some.

He was funny, and dangerous, and loyal, and a prankster, and a pain in the ass; he was gentle and cynical and hardened and insightful and sometimes as dense as a picket fence…and his passing is a profound loss to everyone who knew him, especially those of us who fought beside him in the trenches of Babylon 5. It is another loss in a string of losses that I cannot understand. Of the main cast, we have lost Richard Biggs, Michael O’Hare, Andreas Katsulas, Jeff Conaway, and now Jerry Doyle, and I’m goddamned tired of it.

So dear sweet universe, if you are paying attention in the vastness of interstellar space, take a moment from plotting the trajectory of comets and designing new DNA in farflung cosmos, and spare a thought for those who you have plucked so untimely from our ranks…and knock it off for a while.

Because this isn’t fair.

And Jerry Doyle would be the first person to tell you that. Right before he put a fist in your face. Which is what I imagine he’s doing right now, on the other side of the veil.

(24) PROFESSIONALISM. Amanda S. Green reminds readers “It is a business. . .” at Mad Genius Club. It’s a good point in its own right, and a lesson that can be expanded to apply to fan activities as well.

So treat it as one. Yesterday, as I was looking at FB, I came across a post from someone I respect a great deal. He also has one of the most unverifiable jobs there is in publishing. No, not reading the slush pile, although that is part of his job. He has taken it upon himself to do what so many publishers don’t do. He responds to those who send something in, letting them know whether or not their work has met the minimum threshold to be passed up the line for further consideration. Believe me, that is definitely more than a number of publishers do. Too many simply never get back to you unless they are interested.

What caught my eye with his post was how unprofessional someone had been in response to his email letting them know their story had not been passed up the line. Now, I know how it stings when you get a rejection. It’s like someone telling you your baby is ugly. But it happens and we have to accept it with grace and move on. Yes, we can kick and scream and curse in public but you do not send a note back telling the editor how wrong they were. Nor do you tell them that the title has been published during the time the editor was considering it, especially if the editor has gotten back to you in less than half the time they say it normally takes.

And that is where this particular author screwed up. Not only did they send back an unprofessional note to the editor, insuring he will remember the author and not in a good way, but he went ahead and self-published the book without removing it first from consideration by the publishing house. That is two very big strikes and, in this case, the author doesn’t get a third strike before he’s out….

(25) WAGON TRAIN IN SPACE. BBC Radio 4’s “Caravans in Space” investigates space habitats and visits the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Chattanooga. Stephen Baxter makes a brief comment in the program.

Is the Earth too perfect? The Moon too grey? Mars too dusty? Then how about setting up a human colony in the depths of space?

Richard Hollingham travels to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Chattanooga, Tennessee to meet scientists, engineers, doctors and anthropologists planning human colonies in space and spaceships that will take humanity to the stars.

These are not dreamers – although they all have an ambitious dream – but well qualified experts. Several work at Nasa, others have day jobs at universities and research institutes.

Richard hears of proposals to build giant space stations and worldships – vessels packed with the best of humanity. These caravans in space might be lifeboats to escape an approaching asteroid or perhaps the first step to colonising the galaxy.

The programme features conference chair and Technical Adviser to Nasa’s Advanced Concepts Office, Les Johnson. He is keen that any discussions about our interstellar future are rooted in reality, not Star Trek.

We also hear from John Lewis, Director of the Space Engineering Centre at the University of Arizona, who advocates mining asteroids and suggests the first space colonies would be like lawless frontier towns.

Other contributors include architect Rachel Armstrong, who is engineering soils for living, breathing organic spaceships and anthropologist Cameron Smith.

As the programme is recorded on location in Chattanooga, it would be remiss of us not to make some reference to trains. Fortunately, our spacefaring future is being discussed in a railroad-themed hotel and on the local tourist train passengers are surprisingly open to living life permanently away from Earth.

(26) STATE FAIR FOOD. When I saw that bacon-wrapped churros were among the semifinalists in the State Fair of Texas annual fried food contest, I hastened to bring this to John Scalzi’s attention. It wouldn’t have surprised me to be the five hundredth person to send him the news, but he said I was actually number seven.

If you read the entire list of semifinalists, you’ll understand why I’m tempted to run a set of brackets and let people pick which sounds most deadly.

Next to “Lollipop Fried Bacon Wrapped Quail Breast on a Stick,” a bacon-wrapped churro sounds like health food….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, JJ, Dawn Incognito, Michael O’Donnell, David K.M. Klaus, Carl Slaughter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]