Pixel Scroll 10/1/19 Attention, Slans! This Is a Porgrave Pixel-Broadcasting Scroll

(1) DEEP DISH READING SERIES. The Speculative Literature Foundation will be hosting the Deep Dish Reading Series Thursday, October 3 at 7pm at Volumes Bookcafe (1474 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622).  This event is being done in partnership with the Plurality University Network as part of their Many Tomorrows Festival.

Transcending boundaries of space, time, and imagination, we will gather together in Chicago speculative fiction authors from various communities, each with their own unique vision of the world. This event is co-sponsored by SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) (www.sfwa.org) and Chicago Nerd Social Club (www.chicagonerds.org). 

The event’s Featured Readers will be Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jane Rosenberg LaForge, and Scott Huggins, with Rapid-Fire Readers Sue Burke, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Jeremy John, and Anaea Lay. Deep Dish readings are open to the public and all are welcome, free of charge.

(2) COUPLE OF AMAZON TRIBUTARIES DRYING UP. The Digital Reader reports a pair of changes will soon be made to Amazon’s marketing strategies.

On September 27 they wrote: “Amazon is Shutting Down Amazon Giveaways on 30 November”.

Amazon is shutting down its nearly five-year-old giveaway service in two weeks.

The retailer sent out an email today, informing authors and others who have run contests that the service is being wound down over the next couple months. The option to start a new giveaway contest will end on 10 October, and Amazon will end all current contests on 17 October. 

A couple days later this item followed: “Amazon is Shutting Down Kindle Matchbook, Its Print+eBook Bundling Program”.

…Launched in 2013, Kindle Matchbook was a program where authors and publishers had the option of creating ebook+print bundles that combine a Kindle ebook with a print book sold by Amazon. The ebook could be given away for free, or sold for $1.99 or $0.99.

If you’ve never heard of this program, you’re not alone. Aside from the stories about the publishing industry losing its shit when Amazon launched Kindle Matchbook, it has gotten almost no media attention.

Most authors have never heard of it, and the ones that do have books in the program report that there was little interest from readers.

(3) BREAKING A RULE. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett assembles an entertaining array of authors reproving critics in “Taking Care When Biting the Bear”. Keith Roberts lights up a pseudonymous reviewer, while James Blish is racked by Anthony Boucher and Isaac Asimov.

It has often been said, and rightly so, that there is little value in an author complaining about what others say about their work. No matter how wrong-headed an author might think such opinions, in the normal course of events complaining about them rarely does the author much good. The problem for any author who feels slighted is that we all form opinions about everything we experience and few of us will happily accept being told our opinions are worthless. Thus when an author uses the argument ‘that X did not understand what I was trying to do’ most of us feel our hackles raise in empathy with the critic.

To argue about anything but clear errors of fact (as Jack Vance once did in response to James Blish) is risky business for this very reason….

(4) MARS BY WAY OF KENSINGTON. Forbes advises travelers, “From A Mars Exhibit To An Out-Of-This-World Tea Time, Here’s How To Have The Perfect Space-Themed London Day”. The itinerary begins here:

…On October 18, the London Design Museum will launch their “Moving to Mars” exhibition, which considers both the science and design behind what going to Mars will look like for humankind. The exhibit is divided into three aesthetically pleasing exhibitions – one on Mars in popular culture, one on what life and living conditions will be like on Mars, and one on what the future of Mars could look like. Guests are then invited to make their own conclusions about how and when humans should make the leap to the red planet. Because it’s a design museum, the curators have collected more than 150 Mars-related objects and commissioned an interior design firm to create a multi-sensory experience. Guests will be able to walk through a prototype of a Martian habitat and study the clothing that will need to blend style and functionality with heavy-duty protection and technical performance. The exhibit will run until February 23, 2020. It’s best to buy your tickets in advance and is recommended for children 8 and older.

(5) POLL CATS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll comments on “Four Speculative Novels Featuring Important Elections”. (And has no trouble reaching that number even before mentioning Double Star.)

My nation (which may not be yours) is in the midst of another election. On the one hand, it’s a glorious celebration of our right to choose who runs the nation for the next four years. On the other hand, many of us view with dismay the endless election—thirty-six full days of bloviation and punditry!—and the sinking feeling that it is all an exercise in deciding which of our colourful array of parties  is least objectionable. Still, even if it feels like one is being asked to choose between the Spanish Influenza and Yersinia pestis, it is important to remember one take-home lesson from Herman Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War: even undesirable outcomes can be ranked in order of preference. The Spanish flu is bad. The Black Death is worse.

All of which led me to consider how elections have figured in speculative fiction novels.

(6) HARLEY QUINN. The first Birds of Prey trailer has dropped. In theaters February 7, 2020

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 1, 1957 The Brain From Planet Arous premiered. Starring John Agar, Joyce Meadows, and Robert Fuller, it was made on a budget of $ 58,000. It went into appeared in wide distribution in 1958 as a double feature with Teenage Monster.
  • October 1, 1998Futuresport aired on ABC. Starring Dean Cain, Vanessa Williams, and Wesley Snipes, it polled 23% at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • October 1, 2001 — The Mutant Xseries first aired. It lasted for three seasons and sixty episodes. John Shea who was Luthor in the 1990s Lois & Clark was a cast member. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 1, 1896 Abraham Sofaer. The Thasian in “The Charlie X” episode of the original Trek. He’s also been on  The Man from U.N.C.L.E in “The Brain-Killer Affair” as Mr. Gabhail Samoy, head of U.N.C.L.E. operations in Calcutta, and also had one-offs on Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff’s ThrillerTime Tunnel, I Dream of JeannieKolchak: The Night Stalker and Lost in Space. (Died 1988.)
  • Born October 1, 1914 Donald Wollheim. Founding member of the Futurians, Wollheim organized what was later deemed the first American science fiction convention, when a group from New York met with a group from Philadelphia on October 22, 1936 in Philadelphia. As an editor, he published Le Guin’s first two novels as an Ace Double. And would someone please explain to me how he published an unauthorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings? (Died 1990.)
  • Born October 1, 1930 Richard Harris. One of the Dumbledores in the Potter film franchise. He also played King Arthur in Camelot, Richard the Lion Hearted in Robin and Marian, Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels, James Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man and he voiced Opal in Kaena: The Prophecy. His acting in Tarzan, the Ape Man him a nominee for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. Anyone seen that film? (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 1, 1935 Dame Julie Andrews, DBE, 84. Mary Poppins! I could stop there but I won’t. (Hee.) she had a scene cut in which was a maid in The Return of the Pink Panther, and she’s uncredited as the singing voice of Ainsley Jarvis in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Yet again she’s uncreated in a Panther film, this time as chairwoman in Trail of the Pink Panther. She voices Queen Lillian in Sherk 2Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After. And she’s the voice of Karathen in Aquaman.
  • Born October 1, 1944 Rick Katze, 75. A Boston fan and member of NESFA and MCFI. He’s chaired three Boskones, and worked many Worldcons. Quoting Fancyclopedia 3: “A lawyer professionally, he was counsel to the Connie Bailout Committee and negotiated the purchase of Connie’s unpaid non-fannish debt at about sixty cents on the dollar.” He’s an active editor for the NESFA Press, including the six-volume Best of Poul Anderson series.
  • Born October 1, 1948 Michael Ashley, 71. Way, way too prolific to cover in any detail so I’ll single out a few of his endeavours. The first, his magnificent The History of the Science Fiction Magazine, 1926 – 1965; the second being the companion series, The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the Beginning to 1990. This not to slight anything he is done such as The Gernsback Days: A Study in the Evolution of Modern Science Fiction from 1911 to 1936.
  • Born October 1, 1953 John Ridley, 66. Author of Those Who Walk in Darkness and What Fire Cannot Burn novels. Both excellent though high on the violence cringe scale. Writer on the Static Shock and Justice League series. Writer, The Authority : human on the inside graphic novel. And apparently the writer for Team Knight Rider, a female version of Knight Rider that last one season in the Nineties. 
  • Born October 1, 1989 Brie Larson, 30. Captain Marvel in the Marvel film universe. She’s also been in Kong: Skull Island as Mason Weaver, and plays Kit in the Unicorn Store which she also directed and produced. Her first genre role was Rachael in the “Into the Fire” of Touched by an Angel series; she also appeared as Krista Eisenburg in the “Slam” episode of Ghost Whisperer. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Where are they now? Grimmy answers the question for one rainbow vaulter.

(10) AT A GLANCE. Camestros Felapton in “Cat Psychology” provides a handy chart of facial expressions so you can tell what your cat is thinking – provided yours thinks the same way as Timothy the Talking Cat.

(11) WRONG ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watch a contestant lose money with this response on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: What’s that award for.

Answer: The Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Wrong question: What is tennis?

(12) NEW SFF. Victoria Sandbrook praises an author’s debut novel: “Review: THE LESSON by Cadwell Turnbull”.

…Turnbull’s narrative is measured, calm, until it isn’t, a thundercloud too easily written off until it looms above you. The central, external conflict remains taut and ever-present, even as Turnbull explores the deeply individual experiences of each character with an awareness and love of place rooted in his own history there.

(13) DON’T MISS THE APOCALYPSE. The Daily Mail’s article “Enter the Thunderdome: 4,000 Mad Max fans and their weaponry-festooned vehicles gather in the California desert for Wasteland Weekend – the ‘world’s largest post-apocalyptic festival'” comes with myriad photos.

Roughly 4,000 people have descended on to California‘s Mojave Desert for an annual post-apocalyptic festival called Wasteland Weekend. 

The festival, which was inspired by the Mad Max film series, celebrated its tenth anniversary this year and revelers flocked to the desert in their masses. 

Created in 2010 by Karol Bartoszynski, Jared Butler and James Howard, the festival sees its participants spend the entire weekend in post-apocalyptic costume. 

They proudly note:

The permanent festival site sits between the defunct Nevada nuclear test site, where from 1951 a total of 928 nuclear warheads were tested during the cold war, and Hollywood.

(14) BEAR ANCESTRY. Scientists are “Collecting polar bear footprints to map family trees”.

Scientists from Sweden are using DNA in the environment to track Alaskan polar bears.

The technique which uses DNA from traces of cells left behind by the bears has been described as game changing for polar bear research.

It’s less intrusive than other techniques and could help give a clearer picture of population sizes.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) comes from traces of biological tissue such as skin and mucus in the surroundings.

Scientists and now conservationists are increasingly using such samples to sequence genetic information and identify which species are present in a particular habitat.

It’s often used to test for invasive species or as evidence of which animals might need more protection.

In another application of the technique, geneticist Dr Micaela Hellström from the Aquabiota laboratory in Sweden worked with WWF Alaska and the Department of Wildlife Management in Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) to collect snow from the pawprints of polar bears.

They tested the technique on polar bears in parks in Sweden and Finland.

“We realised that for the first time we could reach the nuclear DNA within the cells. The material outside the cell can tell what species you are and there are 1,000 or 2,000 copies. But the DNA in the nucleus which identifies an individual has only two copies, so it’s an enormous challenge to get out enough from these snowsteps,” she said.

(15) ONTOGENY RECAPITULATES PHYLOGENY.  “Babies in the womb have lizard-like hand muscles” – BBC has the story.

Babies in the womb have extra lizard-like muscles in their hands that most will lose before they are born, medical scans reveal.

They are probably one of the oldest, albeit fleeting, remnants of evolution seen in humans yet, biologists say, in the journal Development.

They date them as 250 million years old – a relic from when reptiles transitioned to mammals.

It is unclear why the human body makes and then deletes them before birth.

The biologists say the developmental step may be what makes thumbs dextrous. Thumbs, unlike other digits, retain an extra muscle.

(16) GOOD USE. BBC reports “Virtual reality PTSD treatment has ‘big impact’ for veterans”.

Virtual reality could be used to help military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who have struggled with mainstream treatment.

It involves patients walking on a treadmill in front of a screen which projects images depicting the type of trauma experienced.

A two-year trial found some patients could see almost a 40% improvement in their symptoms.

One veteran said it had given him the “biggest impact” out of any treatment.

(17) NOT IN HAWKINS ANYMORE? Netflix has greenlighted a fourth season of Stranger Things. The announcement took the form of this video:

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

Pixel Scroll 7/8/19 Mike Has Some Little Pixels, He Makes Them Into Files, And When We Come To Read Them, The Comments Scroll For Miles

(1) GUESS WHO’S COMING TO HOLODINNER? Ryan Britt conducts an engaging thought experiment at Tor.com – Star Trek: Picard — Ranking the 25 Most Likely Next Gen Cameos”.

It seems likely that at least some characters from Picard’s past might show up on our screens again—here are 25 Next Generation characters ranked from least likely to most likely that they’ll beam-in and hang out with Jean-Luc.

(2) DOTS NICE. Edmund Schluessel shares his experiences at Finncon 2019, which took place this past weekend in a place with lots of dots in the name in Finland.

…Finncon 2019 took place 5-7 July in Jyväskylä, which as a town hardly seems like a place — the city, center is just a half dozen square blocks. Nonetheless the University of Jyväskylä is a major center of learning in Finland and their hosting of the Con afforded a good venue eerily devoid of students in the high summer. The Con ran seven or eight program items at once, spread across three floors, and filled many of them up to the fire limit. As is the norm for Finnish conventions, there was no registration fee and many people simply arrived as they pleased.

…The con boasted four guests of honor, author Charles Stross, editor Cheryl Morgan, translator Kersti Juva and professor Raine Koskimaa who headed up the academic track. This lineup underlines one of the things that sets Finnish conventions apart and allies them more closely with Eastern European and Continental fandom: conventions in Finland are seen as not just fandom events but literary events, where people attend not just to enjoy and appreciate genre works but discuss them and their cultural contexts seriously and to examine the process of creating them….

(3) BLISH 1970 GOH TALK. A photo-illustrated 38-minute audio recording of James Blish’s GoH speech at Sci-Con 70, the 1970 British Eastercon, has been uploaded to Fanac.org’s YouTube channel.

An interesting talk tracing the history of science fiction from well accepted general literature to a literary ghetto and back to general respectability. With wit, insight and quiet passion, James Blish (who was also the respected critic William Atheling Jr.) talks about science fiction before the debut of Amazing ,and his perceptions of the malign influence of the specialty magazine. Jim discusses the impact of technology on society’s attitude towards science fiction, and where we might go from here. Audio recording enhanced with 40 images. Recording and photos provided by Bill Burns, who was part of the Sci-Con 70 committee.

(4) POP CULTURAL ABUNDANCE. Alasdair Stuart is back with a refill: “The Full Lid 5th July 2019”. “This week, we go to Glastonbury for Stormzy and Lizzo, to Steven Universe for Sarah Gailey’s extraordinary comics debut, The Walking Dead 193 for the end of the line and Spider-Man: Far From Home for life after Endgame. And then, we tie them all together.” Here’s the beginning of the Steven Universe segment —  

After another successful mission, Amethyst hits a sad spell. The other Crystal Gems know to leave well alone but Steven, worried about his friend, sets out to cheer her up.

This comic needs to be taught in schools and workplaces. Not just because it’s a great piece of visual storytelling, it is. Sarah Gailey‘s script maps onto the big action, fast moving and weirdly peaceful world of the series and its characters beautifully. Rii Arbrego’s art is expressive, kinetic and kind. Whitney Cogar’s colours and Mike Fiorentino’s letters nail the feel and pace of the world to a tee. If you love the show, you’ll love this book.

But that’s not the reason this one hit me between the eyes. It did that because this is a story about depression, living with it and living with people with depression. One that uses the vehicle of the show to communicate clearly and directly a vital message that gets lost far too often.

(5) MULAN TRAILER. Disney has dropped a teaser trailer for its live action version of Mulan.

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.

However, fans have noticed a couple of major omissions from this production:

(6) ICE CREAM GRIDLOCK. John King Tarpinian heard a lot of folks are accepting the invitation to Step Inside Scoops Ahoy – Baskin-Robbins’ tribute to Stranger Things’ new season: “A friend drove by yesterday.  She said the line of people was around the block and the queue of cars wanting to enter was equally as long.”

Step Inside Scoops Ahoy

Sail on over to our Burbank, CA location*, where Scoops Ahoy has been recreated exactly as the Hawkins gang would have experienced it over 30 years ago. It will feel like you’ve stepped right into the show – but it won’t be here for long!

*Scoops Ahoy Address: 1201 S Victory Blvd, Burbank, CA 91502. Open July 2 –16.

(7) MORE ON GERMAN SFF FILMS. Cora Buhlert jumped back to 1964 to contribute another post to Galactic Journey, this time about the Dr. Mabuse movies: “[July 8, 1964] The Immortal Supervillain: The Remarkable Forty-Two Year Career of Dr. Mabuse”.

Last month, I talked about the successful German film series based on the novels of British thriller writer Edgar Wallace as well as the many imitators they inspired. The most interesting of those imitators and the only one that is unambiguously science fiction is the Dr. Mabuse series.

Dr. Mabuse is not a new character. His roots lie in the Weimar Republic and he first appeared on screen in 1922 in Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler, based on the eponymous novel by Luxembourgian writer Norbert Jacques.

(8) BRAUNER OBIT. Cora Buhlert adds, “And by sheer coincidence, Artur Brauner, the man who produced the postwar Mabuse movies, died yesterday at the age of 100.” – The Hollywood Reporter has the story “Artur Brauner, Holocaust Survivor and German Film Producer, Dies at 100”.

Buhlert adds:

Brauner was a fascinating person, a Holocaust survivor who went on to produce more than a hundred movies, ranging from forgettable softcore erotica to Academy Award winners. Most of the official obituaries focus on his serious Holocaust and WWII movies, but he did so much more. His genre contributions include the Mabuse movies, the 1966/67 two part fantasy epic The Nibelungs and the 1959 science fiction film Moon Wolf.

My own tribute to Brauner listing some of my personal favourites of his many movies is here: “Remembering Artur Brauner and Dr. Mabuse”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 8, 1942 Otto Penzler, 77. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh, does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it.
  • Born July 8, 1951 Anjelica Huston, 68. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries. 
  • Born July 8, 1914 Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe OmnibusThe Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 8, 1955 Susan Price, 64. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and In The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans. 
  • Born July 8, 1958 Kevin Bacon, 61. The role I best remember him in isValentine “Val” McKee in Tremors. He also played Sebastian Shaw, Jack Burrell in Friday the 13th, David Labraccio in the most excellent Flatliners and Sebastian Caine in the utterly disgusting Hollow Man. 
  • Born July 8, 1958 Billy Crudup, 61. William “Will” Bloom in Big Fish is a most wonderful role. His take on Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen is quite amazing. And he’s in Christopher Oram in Alien: Covenant, a film I’ve no interest in seeing as that series as it’s run far too long. 
  • Born July 8, 1978 George Mann, 41. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favorite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. 

(10) SPORTS SECTION. Exactly.

(11) MOON MISSION? Mary Robinette Kowal noted an anomaly about a new commemorative Lego figure. (Hamilton did this a few years later.)

(12) DUMPING ON LUNA. FastCompany’s Apollo 11 retrospective series asks a rhetorical question: “How do you explore the Moon without ruining it?”.

In March 1966, a group of 14 scientists, working on behalf of NASA, produced an astonishing report about a delicate topic: How to go to the Moon without polluting the Moon.

The conclusion: You can’t.

Simply landing a spaceship and astronauts on the Moon was going to bring with it an astonishing fog of alien pollution.

The lunar module’s rocket engine, hovering the spaceship down from orbit and running until the moment the lunar module touched the surface, was burning almost 1,000 pounds of fuel every 30 seconds, and spraying its exhaust across the Moon nonstop.

The lunar module itself vented both gases and water vapor, and when the astronauts got ready to leave for a Moon walk, they emptied the entire cabin—humidity, air, any particles floating in the atmosphere—right out onto the Moon.

When the lunar module blasted off to head for orbit, the ascent engine would again spray the surface of the Moon with chemicals.

(13) A CLEAN SWEEPDOWN FORE AND AFT. And what if the Moon tried to return the favor? At least that’s what the Independent says was in danger of happening: “Apollo 11 moon landing could have infected the Earth with lunar germs, say astronauts”.  Quoting astronaut Michael Collins:

“Look at it this way,” he said. “Suppose there were germs on the moon. There are germs on the moon, we come back, the command module is full of lunar germs. The command module lands in the Pacific Ocean, and what do they do? Open the hatch. You got to open the hatch! All the damn germs come out!”

Buzz Aldrin made a similar point as footage showed the astronauts being disinfected as they were on a raft next to the spacecraft they’d splashed down to Earth on.

He said that the rescuers had cleaned him down with a rag – and then thrown that same rag straight into the water….

(14) E PLURIBUS SPACE. Live in the US? NASA now has an interactive map to let you know what your state’s contribution to their mission is. Zoom in and click away — NASA in the 50 States.

(15) FINAL EXAMINER. Bonnie McDaniel reveals her favorite at the end of “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Short Story”.

1) “A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Alix E. Harrow

This does have a plot, one that’s heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time: a librarian/witch who gives a broken foster kid the Book he needs most, and with it the means to escape his life into another world. The fact that the author uses examples of real books (Harry Potter, et al) to illustrate her story’s points give it real power, and is one of the reasons I couldn’t forget it. When you can’t get a story out of your head, no matter how much reading you’ve done since, that makes a story award-worthy. As I said, I would be happy if just about any of these stories won…but I’m pulling for this one.

(16) A BIT TOO RETRO. Steven J. Wright reviews “Retro Hugo Category: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” and pronounces the finalists mostly dubious and unimpressive.

I’ll begin with a bit of an ongoing gripe: once again, the actual home of short-form dramas in the 1940s – the ubiquitous and very popular radio shows – has been ignored in favour of cartoon shorts and movies which aren’t quite long enough to reach the Long Form cut-off point.  Harrumph, say I, harrumph.

(17) OH WHAT A WEB THEY WEAVE. What has 24 legs and catches flies? In “Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man”, SYFY Wire looks at the first solo films for each of the three tries at Spider-Man in the last decade plus. Let’s just say the article expresses strong preferences.

…When Tobey Maguire was cast as Peter Parker, Spidey fans had all but given up hope ever to see the webhead on the big screen. Rights issues and development hell had besieged the character for years, so when Spider-Man finally made it to theaters, audiences were thrilled. That goodwill extended through Spider-Man 2, but when Spider-Man 3 came around in 2007 … there was some frustration. Five years later, Andrew Garfield swung into our collective conscious as the Amazing Spider-Man. Then, in 2014, Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out, and the less said about that one the better. Finally, Marvel Studios got their most popular character back to make a home in the MCU, and in 2017 Tom Holland made his solo debut in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

(18) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter on the game show beat files this report:

The category: Fictional Languages; contestants had to guess who created them.

Answer: Valyrian, Braavosi.

No one got: Who is George R.R. Martin?

(19) SPOUSAL DISPUTE. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman disagree whether Neil used to sport a mullet. There is a photo…

(20) FAUX JAVA. NPR pursues the rhetorical question, “A Bitter End For Regular Joe? Scientists Engineer A Smooth Beanless Coffee”.

Before Jarret Stopforth takes his first sip of coffee, he adds cream and sugar to mask the bitterness.

But then, he thought, why settle for a regular cup of joe? So the food scientist decided to re-engineer coffee, brewing it without the bitterness — or the bean. “I started thinking, we have to be able to break coffee down to its core components and look at how to optimize it,” he explains.

Stopforth, who has worked with other food brands like Chobani, Kettle & Fire and Soylent, partnered with entrepreneur Andy Kleitsch to launch Atomo. The pair turned a Seattle garage into a brewing lab, and spent four months running green beans, roasted beans and brewed coffee through gas and liquid chromatography to separate and catalog more than 1,000 compounds in coffee to create a product that had the same color, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel as coffee.

“As we got deeper into the process, we learned more about the threats to the coffee world as a whole — threats to the environment from deforestation, global warming and [a devastating fungus called] rust, and we were even more committed to making a consistently great coffee that was also better for the environment,” Stopforth says.

The future of coffee is uncertain. The amount of land suitable for growing coffee is expected to shrink by an estimated 50 percent by 2050, according to a report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

(21) THE SPLASH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL. Translate tweet: “I’m so grateful when anybody pays attention to me. Thank you! Please don’t stop!” You’re welcome, Richard.

(22) ROBERT MCCAMMON RAP VIDEO. Bestselling author Robert McCammon wrote a song about his creations and worked with filmmaker Chuck Hartsell to produce a music video that features some of them.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/25/18 Because I Could Not Scroll The Pixel, It Kindly Scrolled For Me

Today’s Scroll is unconscionably short because I took the early part of the day to deliver a prescription to my mother, and must leave soon to see my daughter perform with the color guard at a football game. I have left space to drop in the birthdays when I get back….!

(1) LORD NAMED A JUDGE FOR COMMONWEALTH PRIZE. Karen Lord, author and Worldcon 75 toastmistress, has been named one of the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judges.

The judging panel will be chaired by Kittitian-British novelist, playwright and essayist Caryl Phillips —

He will be joined on the international judging panel by a judge from each of the five Commonwealth regions – Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific. They will be: Ugandan novelist and short story writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Pakistani writer and journalist Mohammed Hanif, Barbados’s Karen Lord, British short story writer Chris Power, and New Zealander poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician Courtney Sina Meredith.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2,000–5,000 words) in English. Regional winners receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £5,000. Translated entries are also eligible, as are stories written in the original Bengali, Chinese, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil and Turkish. The competition is free to enter.

The submission window for the 2019 Prize is open and will close 1 November 2018. Find the 2019 rules here.

(2) CHARGES LEVELED AT ARISIA LEADERSHIP. Crystal Huff says she is calling it quits with the convention: “Why I’m Not At Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again.” Her 6,000+ word statement explains the charge and a great deal of other history.

Content warnings: rape, trauma, sexism, gaslighting, harassment, intimidation, stalking, and general asshattery of a group of people in general and one rapist in particular….

…Arisia was the first science fiction event I attended, my first year in college. It was the first convention for which I volunteered on staff. After working on the convention for several years, it was the first one I chaired, in 2011. I served on the executive board several times. I used to regard Arisia as my “home convention,” and I was proud of the things I did to make it happen. I regarded the progress on the con’s inclusion and diversity efforts in recent years as having roots in things I did years ago, in ways great and small, and I was thrilled to see accessibility and safer spaces and diversity of program participants expand beyond those efforts. I was, to be honest, chuffed that Arisia was considered a feminist convention by other convention-runners. My online handle, for many years, was “ArisiaCrystal.”

You can therefore perhaps imagine how awful and gutting it was for me when members of Arisia leadership, over the past few years, told me that there was nothing to be done about the fact that my rapist was also on staff, in positions of authority, and has in recent years involved himself with the safety processes of the convention. Over the past few years, these developments have edged me out of the Arisia community.

Marie Brennan responds to Huff’s statement in “On Arisia”

…This is not a con I can trust with my safety, or that of anybody I know. So while I did not have any existing plans to attend Arisia — just a vague “ooh, I should do that someday!” intention — I now have very firm plans not to attend. Not this year, not next year, not any year until and unless this is made better. And if you’re an Arisia attendee, I encourage you to rethink that plan.

(3) STAR TREK ALA ‘RICK AND MORTY’. Coming to CBS All Access, “‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Animated Series From ‘Rick and Morty’ EP & Secret Hideout Ordered By CBS All Access”Deadline has the story.

The expansion of CBS All Access Star Trek universe continues with a two-season order to Star Trek: Lower Decks, a half-hour adult animated comedy series from Rick and Morty head writer and executive producer Mike McMahan, a long-time Star Trek fan. Star Trek: Lower Decks, which will focus on the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships, marks CBS All Access’ first original animated series and the first project to be produced by CBS Eye Animation Productions, a newly launched animation arm of CBS Television Studios.

It hails from Alex Kurtzman’s CBS TV Studios-based Secret Hideout, which had been spearheading the Star Trek franchise expansion, and Roddenberry Entertainment. Secret Hideout’s Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin, Roddenberry Entertainment’s Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth as well as former Cartoon Network executive Katie Krentz will executive produce alongside McMahan. Aaron Baiers, who brought McMahan to the project, will serve as a co-executive producer.

(4) INDUSTRY NEWS. Shelf Awareness Pro reports these changes at Tom Doherty Associates (Tor/Forge/Tor Teen/Starscape):

Anthony Parisi has joined the company as associate director, Tor Teen, Starscape, and school & library marketing. He was formerly senior marketing manager at Simon and Schuster.

Rebecca Yeager has been promoted to advertising and promotions manager. She was formerly assistant manager.

Renata Sweeney has been promoted to digital marketing manager, Tor, Forge Books, Tor Teen, Starscape. She was formerly associate manager.

Isa Caban has joined the company as marketing manager, Tor Teen, Starscape, and school & library marketing. She was formerly YA associate marketing manager at Scholastic.

Sara Di Blasi has been promoted to marketing assistant, Tor Teen, Starscape, and school & library marketing. She was formerly assistant to the v-p of marketing and publicity.

Zakiya Jamal has joined the company as digital marketing assistant, Tor, Forge Books, Tor Teen, Starscape.

(5) WORD STUDY. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word “prequel” first appeared in print in 1958 in an article by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, used to describe James Blish’s 1956 story They Shall Have Stars, which expanded on the story introduced in his earlier 1955 work, Earthman Come HomeMother Jones reports “Before 1958, There Was No Way to Say That Something Was Stackable”.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born October 25, 1902 – Mark Marchioni, Artist known as “Marchioni”. He sold his first illustration to Hugo Gernsback’s Air Wonder Stories in 1929. He went on to draw black and white story illustrations, in the Modernist, style, for most pulp magazines in the science fiction genre, including Astonishing Stories, Astounding, Startling Stories, Wonder Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories, from 1930-1948. In the 40s, his lifelong interest in machinery lead him to invent a coin-sorting machine, for which he and his older brother Caesar won a patent. They also invented, patented, and manufactured for nearly three decades the Tiltall aluminum camera tripod, which became wildly popular with photographers for its superior performance; eventually the rights were sold to Leica.
  • Born October 25, 1924 — Billy Barty, who was frequently cast in character roles where his small stature suited the character, and who is probably best known to genre fans as the wise elder wizard in Willow. He was also in the Ridley Scott fantasy Legend, and played the rotoscoped Bilbo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee in the animated The Lord of the Rings; other appearances include in Alice in Wonderland, Bride of Frankenstein, The Undead, Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, Masters of the Universe, and Lobster Man from Mars.
  • Born October 25, 1935 – Russell “Rusty” Schweikart, 83, Pilot and Astronaut who was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 9, and the first in the Apollo program to do an EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity). During the launch of the first Skylab space station mission in 1973, the station’s thermal heat shield was lost, and his work developing procedures and equipment for building and implementing an emergency solar shade, and for deployment of a jammed solar array wing, resulted in saving the space station. He was awarded NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal and Exceptional Service Medal. He is the co-founder and chair of the B612 Foundation, an organization devoted to finding ways to defend Earth from the impact of stray asteroids.
  • Born October 25, 1955 – Gale Anne Hurd, 63, Saturn-winning Writer, Film Producer and founder of Valhalla Entertainment. After starting out as executive assistant to New World Pictures president Roger Corman, she formed her own production company which has been responsible for numerous major blockbusters in the last 30+ years, including the Hugo-winning Aliens, the first three Terminator movies, Hugo finalist The Abyss, and Armageddon as well as Virus, The Relic, two Hulk movies, Aeon Flux and the just-announced TV series of the same name, and The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead series.
  • Born October 25, 1963 – John Gregory Betancourt, 55, Writer who is best known (or possibly most notorious) for his third Chronicles of Amber series in Roger Zelazny’s universe, and who has written quite a bit of other franchise fiction including in the Star Trek, Hercules, and The New Adventures of Superman universes. Most of his original fiction was early in his career. He’s also edited in a number of magazines including Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror, Adventure Tales, and Cat Tales, and co-edited with Anne McCaffrey Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey. He founded Wildside Press in 1989, which has received three nominations for World Fantasy Special Awards.
  • Born October 25, 1964 – Kevin Michael Richardson, 54, Actor and Singer who has become a powerhouse as a voice actor in the animation world in the last 20 years. Just a few of his more than a hundred show credits include roles in the animated series The Batman, Black Panther, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Simpsons, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Ben 10, Lilo & Stitch, Gremlins, Ace Ventura, Voltron, Family Guy, and Buzz Lightyear. He has had numerous nominations and wins for Behind The Voice, Annie, and Daytime Emmy Awards.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) SPOILERS. io9’s Avengers 4 Set Pictures Tease an Interesting Upgrade for Pepper Potts” collects rumors (Spoiler Alert) for upcoming movies & TV series including:

  • Avengers 4
  • Night of the Comet
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Quicksand
  • The Boy 2
  • Monster Problems
  • Terminator 6
  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Reign of the Supermen
  • Daredevil
  • 2018 Arrowverse Crossover
  • Star Trek: Discovery
  • The Passage
  • Cloak & Dagger
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
  • Riverdale
  • The Purge
  • Black Lighting
  • The Flash

(9) LE GUIN. The London Review Bookshop, which is related to the London Review of Books, has chosen Ursula K. Le Guin as its Author of the Month for November. The bookstore will have a dedicated table for the author’s books at its location in London.

Le Guin’s work throughout her long career was underpinned by her deep interest in anthropology, feminism, environmentalism and anarchism. In 2014 she wrote about her philosophy of writing: “anything at all can be said to happen [in the future] without fear of contradiction from a native. The future is a safe, sterile laboratory for trying out ideas in, a means of thinking about reality, a method.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Nancy Sauer, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Randall M.]

Pixel Scroll 12/3/17 There Are Certain Scrolls Of New York, Major, That I Wouldn’t Advise You To Pixel

(1) NEXT SMOFCON. Santa Rosa will host Smofcon 36 in 2018. The con will be held November 30-December 2. Bruce Farr will chair, and Patty Wells will organize programming. Their hotel will be The Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa.

(2) ORIGIN STORY. The International Costumers Guild revisits “The Futuristicostume” worn by Forry Ackerman at the first Worldcon in 1939.

We started our research by going back to the beginning, back to the first convention costumers Forrest J Ackerman and Myrtle Douglas.

Everyone is familiar with their photos. Most know the how and the why of their costumes. But how were they made? What color were they? We now have some answers and some theories along with new, never seen photos.

We now know his “futuristicostume” still partially exists. Most of the cape probably has not survived, but the pants and shirt are in the hands of a private collector. The shirt appears to be pale gold. As you can tell even in the black and white photos on line, the pants are most likely WWI military surplus. The most interesting story is about the cape. We found 2 references describing it as green. New photos from Ackerman’s personal collection recently came to light, so we snapped them up for the Archives. We understand that the cape he is wearing in them is a recreation, but it would appear to verify our references. However, in the book “House of Ackerman: A Photographic Tour of the Legendary Ackermansion”, by Al Astrella, James Greene and John Landis, there’s a color photo of what’s left of the cape, where it appears to be an antique gold. We are 90% certain we know the reason why. The clue was found in analyzing Myrtle’s costume…

(3) DARK. Camestros Felapton is watching: “Review: Dark – Netflix”.

It is no spoiler to say this is a time-travel/time-slip mystery. From the beginning elements such as clocks are underlined, we get repeated quotes from Einstein, snippets of lectures on Black Holes, and an old guy warning that ‘it is happening again’. On top of that, we get an opening title sequence that (very effectively) uses reflections to create a disturbing view of the normal and a teacher lecturing his class on the use of symmetry and foreshadowing in the work of Goethe. I wonder if the producers entirely trusted their audience to follow where the show wanted to go.

The pay off comes at the end of episode three when the connections between 2019 and 1986 characters are made overt. What was an initially a confusing set of characters becomes clearer as the set of families involved and the relationships between them become clearer. Betrayals and loss and teenage romance form a web and events between the two eras become more entwined.

(4) CUBESATS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents its latest Into the Impossible podcast — Episode 12: Speculative CubeSats.

How can CubeSats—the small, standardized satellites paving the way for the democratization of space—change our sense of the possible? We dive into two projects: the Planetary Society’s Lightsail 2, with Director of Science and Technology Bruce Betts, and with MacArthur Genius grant-awardee Trevor Paglen, we discuss Orbital Reflector, the first satellite to be launched purely as an artistic gesture.

(5) SHUGGOTH. At Doctor Strangemind, Kim Huett added a James Blish cat story — “Tales Too Good To Forget #1”.

…Luckily for us the young James Blish published quite a few fanzines and thus inadvertently provided for anybody fortunate enough to read these evidence that he was far more than a cold and forbidding intellect.

Well okay, to be perfectly honest a lot of his early fanzine writings are indeed as earnest and po-faced as William Atheling, Jr. might lead you believe the real Blish was. But while some of this material might come across as every bit as pompous as the pronunciations of a high art maven (if you don’t believe me then go look for an issue of Renascence, but don’t say I didn’t warn you) in between the bouts of earnestness is another Blish, a wittier, lighter Blish who knew how to not take himself too seriously. The best place to look for this James Blish is in the material which he published for the Vanguard Amateur Press Association. It was here, in Tumbrils #4, that he wrote one of my favourite cat stories. Read this and you will never think of James Blish as po-faced ever again…

(6) DELIVERED IN HALF AN HOUR OR IT’S FREE. The “Astronauts show how to make pizza in space”.

Astronauts at the International Space Station created a video of themselves making pizza in zero gravity.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli tweeted that he “casually” told ISS chief Kirk Shireman that he missed pizza and Shireman managed to get pizza ingredients into space.

 

(7) A BOOK YOU CAN’T BUY ON AMAZON. Lurkertype went shopping for a copy of Camestros Felapton’s There Will Be Walrus on Amazon, and found the Big River was able to sell everything but —

I just searched Amazon for TWBW and got no result (since it’s only on Smashwords), but was suggested a plush stuffed walrus, walrus artworks, a tacky walrus shirt, several doodads for “Rock Band: Beatles”, and a Barry White mask.

(8) I FEEL WOOZY. Andrew Porter cautions before clicking this link – “Memories and possibilities are even more hideous than realities”.

Warning: this may cause you to tear out your eyeballs. Extreme psychedelic stuff might cause seizures in people with epilepsy….

(9) JAMES GUNN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. At Locus Online, “Russell Letson reviews Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction by James Gunn”.

I hope I might be excused for injecting personal notes into a review of James Gunn’s autobiography, Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction. As I read it, I couldn’t help noticing how many times and in how many ways my life in SF was affected by Gunn’s work as writer, editor, and academic activist. One of my earliest book purchases, around 1957, was the Ace paperback (Double Size! 35 cents!) of Star Bridge, the space opera he co-wrote with Jack Williamson. (I still have a double-autographed copy of a later Ace printing, the original having long since succumbed to pulp rot.) Before that, I had listened to the 1956 X Minus One radio adaptation of his short story ‘‘The Cave of Night’’. (It’s still available online.) Years later, the third volume of The Road to Science Fiction was one of the reliable anthologies for my SF course, and a few years after that I wrote a dozen entries for The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that he edited. By that time, Gunn had been president of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Science Fiction Research Association, started the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, and worked for years as a promoter of the study and practice of science fiction.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian sends along today’s horrible pun from Brevity.
  • And an interstellar mission doesn’t quite make it in Herman.

(11) CLARKE CENTENNIAL. Clarke Award Director Tom Hunter reminds all that “Saturday 16th December will mark Arthur C. Clarke’s centenary anniversary, and we’ve been prepping a few special moments to help celebrate the occasion across the month.”

They include:

SILVER SCREEN SCIENCE FICTION AT THE ROYAL OBSERVATORY, GREENWICH

2010: The Year We Make Contact
Saturday 16th December 2017 (Sir Arthur’s birthday)

The Royal Observatory Greenwich will be hosting a special planetarium screening of 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) starring Roy Scheider, John Lithgow and Helen Mirren + a cameo from Sir Arthur himself.

Before the film, we’ll hear from Director of the Clarke Awards, Tom Hunter, and ROG Astronomer Brendan Owens about the influence of Arthur C Clarke on both science fiction and science fact. This event includes a free beer per person on arrival courtesy of Meantime Brewing Company.

There will also be a Kickstarter-funded stunt anthology, 2001: An Odyssey in Words, where every story is precisely two thousand and one words long.

On the fiction front, we started by putting out a call to our past winning and shortlisted authors, and have received almost thirty fantastic submissions back from writers including Chris Beckett, Gwyneth Jones, Jeff Noon, Rachel Pollack, Jane Rogers and Adrian Tchaikovsky, picking six names not at all at random because six is the same number as we have on our shortlist every year, and because all of these authors happen to be past winners.

…We’ll also be featuring some choice bits of non-fiction in the collection, including an essay on Clarke’s legacy by our own Chair of Judges, Dr Andrew M. Butler, and a remembrance of the judging experience itself from one of our more well known past judges, Neil Gaiman.

(12) BEAR FACTS. Well, phooey. “DNA Evidence Shows Yeti Was Local Himalayan Bears All Along” says Gizmodo.

The yeti, or abominable snowman, is a sort of wild, ape-like hominid that’s the subject of long-standing Himalayan mythology. Scientists have questioned prior research suggesting that purported yeti hair samples came from a strange polar bear hybrid or a new species, though. The analysis “did not rule out the possibility that the samples belonged to brown bear,” according to the paper published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Lindqvist and her team analyzed DNA from 24 different bear or purported yeti samples from the wild and museums, including feces, hair, skin, and bone. They were definitely all bears—and the yeti samples seemed to match up well with exiting Himalayan brown bears. “

(13) YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. My Pappy always told me, never gamble, stick to thermodynamics: “Unesco adds Sir Isaac Newton’s papers to world register”.

More personal items in the collection include a notebook written during his time as an undergraduate, in which he lists how much he has spent on items such as wine, the shoestrings that cost him one shilling and 10 pence, and his four shillings and sixpence stockings.

He also appears to have lost 15 shillings at a card game, according to his own accounts.

(14) NOWHERE PEOPLE. “Where is the remotest spot in the United States?”. “A pair of scientists from Florida, and their eight-year-old daughter, are visiting the remotest spot in every US state.”

They settled on “the furthest distance from a road or town”. But then, they say, “it got trickier”.

What is a road? Anything paved, unpaved, public, or private, they decided. For example – beaches that allowed cars counted as roads.

They also decided the remote spot must be “high and developable”. It can’t be in the middle of a lake, and it can’t be a flood plain.

(15) JUDGMENT CALL. Bleeding Cool actually did what I decided not to do — made an entire post of Amal El-Mohtar’s tweets about her ordeal getting through TSA airport security the other day: “What Happened to Canadian Sci-Fi Writer Amal El-Mohtar’s Phone at US Customs?”

(16) ARE THEY SURE? The Los Angeles Times recently published this errata —

(17) LIGHTSABER EXERCISES. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Training Featurette” is a look at how hard the cast of The Last Jedi trained for the film.

(18) OUT IN FORCE. Daisy Ridley and the cast of The Last Jedi appeared on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!

That same night there was a “Star Wars’ Chewbacca Christmas Tree Unveiled on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live'”.

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

Classic SF on Loscon Program

John Hertz, the Loscon 38 Fan Guest of Honor, invites you to join his discussions of selected classics of science fiction.

As John defines it, “A classic is a work that survives its own time. After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.”

Now’s the time to pull out the copies in your collection or check whether they’re available online, read them and come prepared.

Here are John’s previews of the three works being discussed at Loscon 38:

Ray Bradbury
The Martian Chronicles (1950)

Bradbury has said this is fantasy, not science fiction.  His poetry, his satire, his reproach — above all his poetry, without which stinging bees would starve — are in full bloom.  Of course he satirizes the Martians too, who in all their beauty have folly.

James Blish
Jack of Eagles (1952)

In Blish’s novel of paranormal powers, they prove to be within science; an organization treating them as mystical proves to be powerful, tyrannical, and unsound — as an ordinary man must discover for himself.  Never mind what pq – qp equals.

Pat Frank
Alas, Babylon (1959)

It may seem to focus less on technology than, say, Roshwald’s Level 7 (1959), or even Burdick & Wheeler’s Fail-Safe (1962).  Take a closer look.  The author’s sense of character and event develops much from simple themes.

Loscon 38 takes place November 25-27 at the LAX Marriott in Los Angeles.

[Thanks to John Hertz for the story.]

Denvention 3’s Classics of Science Fiction

Denvention 3 accepted John Hertz’ suggestion to program discussions of the “Wonders of 1958,” selected classics of science fiction. Read up and join in! The list of books and John’s notes appear on the Denvention 3 website. But let me save you a click —

Mile Closer to the Stars – Classics of Science Fiction
Book discussions led by John Hertz

We are in the golden-anniversary year of 1958, a golden year for science fiction. We’ll celebrate with five Classics of SF book discussions on books published that year and still famous, often reprinted, worth re-reading or first reading now. Look for them in the program grid as “Wonders of 1958.”

James Blish, A Case of Conscience and The Triumph of Time
Some call Conscience Blish’s finest book. Is it science fiction? Is it a story? Is its best moment when the Pope says “What did you do about it?” In the same year came the last of the four Cities in Flight novels. Is it a success standing alone? How does Time compare to Conscience?

Algis Budrys, Who?
This penetrating study of identity, loyalty, uncertainty may be both more bleak and more hopeful than it seems. If there is a sermon, it is preached by silence. Budrys is known for his deftness and timing; here too are poetry, a fundamental grasp of tragedy, and the surprises of love.

Robert Heinlein, Methuselah’s Children
By painting portraits Heinlein repeatedly asks the next question.  What if your lifespan was two hundred years?  What if you didn’t care?  If you are hunted, should you run?  Where should you go?  Here too is the first and perhaps best of Lazarus Long.  Extra credit: compare the carefully rewritten 1941 version in the July-September Astounding.

Fritz Leiber, The Big Time
Spiders are the good guys, and our hero is a woman.  The first Hero was a woman too, go look up Leander.   Indeed this is a very classical book; it preserves the unities of time, place, and persons, which is mighty strange, considering.  There’s slashing drama, and if you’ve never been a party girl, it might not be what you think.

Jack Vance, The Languages of Pao
With four worlds in the spotlight, one populated by fifteen billion, this is a story of one boy and one man.  Knowledge may be power.  Concentration and diversity may each be extreme.  The characters say linguistics is the science here; perhaps it is really cross-cultural study, or patience.  Vance’s own language is the gold.