Pixel Scroll 9/18/20 You Scrollious Scatterbrained Primitive Phile of Pixelated Pistons

(1) DC “TRANSFORMS” ITS DIGITAL COMIC PLATFORM/OFFERING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “DC UNIVERSE Transforms Into DC UNIVERSE INFINITE!” I’ve been a happy-enough subscriber to DC Universe since its launch a year or so ago. My main motivation was the live action Doom Patrol (which I’ve loved) and to a lesser extent, l-a Titans (medium well done, though often fuzzy which plotlines were in motion, and canon-quirky, but they got Krypto, even), and for streamed comics, though not as satisfying a selection or as well organized as Marvel’s offering. But definitely worth the modest price. “New release comics are now available 6 months after they hit stores” — that’s sooner, for DC, although Marvel has already been doing this (for some issues/titles).

It looks like the price is staying the same for now, $7.99 a month or $74.99 a year.

io9’s post “The Excellent DC Universe Is Dead, and a Comics-Only Service Is Taking Its Place” helps clarify that the video content is jumping over to HBO Max.

Today DC Entertainment announced that as of January 21, 2021 DC Universe will “evolve” into DC Universe Infinite, a comics only service. It’s a shame, because DC Universe has lowkey been one of the best streaming services you could drop cash on every month—if you’re a giant nerd like myself.

The combination of old superhero TV shows, endless reams of comics, and solid original monthly programming like Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn made it a good deal…

(2) WHAT’S THAT SOUND. Cory Doctorow, in “We Need to Talk About Audible” at Publishers Weekly, is making a move against the dominant audiobook seller.

…A few months after its move in the music business, Amazon completed its acquisition of a scrappy upstart audiobook company called Audible. At the time of the acquistion, Amazon publicly announced it would remove Audible’s DRM. After all, why would a company with a self-proclaimed “relentless customer focus” impose such restrictions on audiobook users?

Fast-forward 12 years, and Audible has accomplished remarkable things. The company has helped grow the audiobook market to the point where it is a vital revenue stream for publishers. And Audible commands a huge share of the digital audiobook market—as much 90% of the market in some verticals.

But, they never removed the DRM.

…Last week, I launched a Kickstarter for presales of the audiobook. Because I am set up to act as an e-book retailer for my publishers (including both Tor and Attack Surface UK publisher, Head of Zeus) I was able to list both the series backlist and the Attack Surface audiobook on the crowdfunding campaign. As of this writing, we have raised more than $207,000.

Look, $207,000 is a lot of money. And my family’s finances have taken a severe beating since the Covid-19 crisis hit—I’m sure you can sympathize. We need this. Thank you.

But I’m not doing this for the money. Rather, my not-so-secret plan is to fundamentally shift how publishers relate to authors who are willing to stand up against Audible’s exclusive non-negotiable DRM-enforced exclusive market strategy. Giving authors leverage over Audible isn’t just about getting it to back down on its DRM policy. It also empowers us work with libraries, against whom Audible maintains a total blackout, refusing to license any of its exclusive audio content at all, forcing America’s library users to buy subscriptions through Amazon’s data-hungry, monopoly-reinforcing app.

My belief is that once more authors and publishers find they can succeed outside of the Audible funnel, Amazon will have to give Audible customers and the authors and publishers who supply the content the technical means and legal right to take their business elsewhere if they choose. And once that happens, publishers and authors will finally regain some of the leverage needed to negotiate fair deals from Audible.

I recognize that not every author can do what I’ve done with Attack Surface. That said, there are plenty of writers with platforms who can—I mean, if I can do it they can do it too….

(3) CELEBRATE AVRAM DAVIDSON. In the premiere episode of the “The Avram Davidson Universe” podcast, which debuted September 16, Seth Davis sits down with Ethan Davidson, to discuss growing up with Avram Davidson as his father and to listen to a reading of “Or All The Seas With Oysters.”

In each episode of the podcast and video series, they will perform a reading, and discuss Davidson’s works with a special guest. Podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.

(4) SECOND AGE. Someone blabbed about Amazon’s production where Bleeding Cool could overhear them: “The Lord of the Rings: Morfydd Clark Talks “Massive” Prequel Series”.

… Writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay are developing the series and serving as showrunner, with Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) serving as a consultant. Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is set to direct the first two episodes. Amazon Studios produces, in conjunction with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema. The prequel series stars Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Daniel Weyman, and Maxim Baldry.

The new stories will take place prior to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” and look to focus on the “Second Age” – a time when the Rings of Power were first revealed. “J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team. I can’t wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story,” explained Bayona at the time the news was announced.

(5) SPACE, THE FINAL AUDITION. A new reality show wants to send one of you to the International Space Station in 2023. Assuming “you” means the kind of person who can win in the cutthroat world of reality TV. Deadline reports “Space Travel Reality Show Set To Send Contestant To ISS In 2023; Space Hero Company & Propagate Producing”.

Following the success of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon mission, which marked the return of the U.S.’ capability for manned flights and the first private company to get people into orbit, a reality series wants to send a civilian into space.

Space Hero Inc., a U.S.-based production company founded by Thomas Reemer and Deborah Sass and led by former News Corp Europe chief Marty Pompadur, has secured a seat on a 2023 mission to the International Space Station. It will go to a contestant chosen through an unscripted show titled Space Hero. Produced by Ben Silverman and Howard Owens’ Propagate, the series will launch a global search for everyday people from any background who share a deep love for space exploration. They will be vying for the biggest prize ever awarded on TV.

The selected group of contestants will undergo extensive training and face challenges testing their physical, mental and emotional strength, qualities that are essential for an astronaut in space. I hear the idea is for the culmination of the competition to be in a an episode broadcast live around the world where viewers from different countries can vote for the contestant they want to see going to space. 

(6) DUNE PREQUEL? ScreenRant’s “Dune Will Be Different Than Any Other Book Adaptation” on YouTube suggests that the indications are that the new movie will be faithful to Frank Herbert’s novel and reveals that a prequel series, with Denis Villeneuve directing the first episode, is in development at HBO Max.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2005 Snake Agent,  the first of Liz Williams’  Detective Inspector Chen novels, was published on the now defunct Night Shade Books. Set in the near future city of Singapore Three where Heaven and Hell were very real and far too close, the series would reach six novels and two short stories before concluding for now according to the author with Morningstar.  Jon Foster provided the cover art for the first four which are all on Night Shade. The first five novels are available from the usual digital suspects. Do read them in order as they do have a story that develops with each novel. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 18, 1824 – Richard Doyle.  His cover for Punch 6 was used for the P masthead nearly a hundred years.  Master illustrator of elves and fairies as Victorians imagined them; see herehere (“The Elf-King Asleep”), hereherehere.  Here is his cover for Jack and the Giants.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1937 – Ed Cagle.  Fanwriter until his early death (age 43).  His fanzines were Kwalhioqua and (with Dave Locke) Shambles.  Eric Mayer said, “Kwalhioqua was such an amazing zine I even remember how to spell it.  No one before or since has written like Ed.  His humor was outrageous, warped, rude, but never cruel.  He found weird perspectives on things.”  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1948 – Joan Johnston, 72.  Lawyer with a master’s degree in theater; became a best-selling author, forty contemporary and historical romances.   Five Romantic Times awards.  Well into her Hawk’s Way series of Westerns she wrote a prequel with a Texas Ranger pulling a 19th Century woman into the 20th Century (A Little Time in Texas), expectable (by us) issues for the author, reactions from readers – some applauding, I hasten to add.  Success resumed; 15 million books in print; no blame from me.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 72. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (whom she was married to for awhile) the quite superb Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (Now complete in twelve volumes.) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her latter work, so y’all will need to tell me how it is. Most of the Thieves’ World Series is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 18, 1952 Dee Dee Ramone. Yes, the Ramones drummer. He penned Chelsea Horror Hotel, a novel in which he and his wife move into New York City’s Hotel Chelsea where the story goes that they are staying in the same room where Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Many predictable ghosts visit them. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born September 18, 1953 – Michael Nelson, 67.  Local club, WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n).  Chaired Disclave 41, Capclave 2002 (successor to Disclaves).  Helpful and reliable at other tasks too, e.g. Hugo co-administrator (with K. Bloom) at Torcon 3 the 61st Worldcon.  Currently Publications Division head for DisCon III the 79th Worldcon scheduled for August 2021.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1961 – Chris O’Halloran, 59.  Fan Guest of Honor (with husband John) at Baycon 2013.  Often found working in the Masquerade (onstage costume competition at SF cons); e.g. at the 77th Worldcon (Dublin) chief of the running crew we for some reason call ninja (instead of the existing Kabukiterm kuroko); sometimes competes, e.g. speaking of Torcon 3 she was part of the Best in Show “Trumps of Amber from Zelazny’s books.  She helped an outreach program bring six thousand free books to the 18th WonderCon.  Master’s degree in Library Science.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1980 – Kristine Ong Muslim, 40.  Fifty short stories, two hundred twenty poems; recent collection, The Drone Outside; recent introduction, The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature.  Co-editor Lontar 1-10 (journal of SE Asian SF; 2013-2018); Lightspeed special issue “People of Colo(u)r Destroy SF”.  Translator, particularly of Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 36. Wiki say she’s best known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels which I’d not heard of before this, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s also writing the current Witchblade series at Image Comics, and she wrote the excellent Coffin Hill series for Vertigo. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has the sequel EB never finished.
  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider is “Against Despair.”

(10) MOVIE FANS REMAIN AWOL. “Movie Theaters Returned. Audiences Didn’t. Now What?” asks the New York Times.

“Tenet” was supposed to mark the return of the movie theater business in the United States. Instead, it has shown just how much trouble the industry is in.

After five months of pandemic-forced closure, the big movie theater chains reopened in roughly 68 percent of the United States by Labor Day weekend, in large part so they could show the $200 million film, which Warner Bros. promoted as “a global tent pole of jaw-dropping size, scope and scale.” But “Tenet,” directed by the box office heavyweight Christopher Nolan, instead arrived with a whimper: It collected $9.4 million in its first weekend in North America and just $29.5 million over its first two weeks.

Theaters remain closed in New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest markets in the United States and the center of Mr. Nolan’s fan base. In the areas where “Tenet” did play, audience concern about safety — even with theater capacity limited to 50 percent or less in most locations — likely hurt ticket sales. Box office analysts also noted that “Tenet” is a complicated, cerebral movie with little star power; a frothier, more escapist offering may have had an easier time coaxing people back to cinemas….

(11) THE WRITER’S EDGE. Brad Parks, in “How Will Crime Fiction Authors Hold Up In The Coming Zombie Apocalypse?” on CrimeReads, asks several crime writers what they would do if faced with a horde of ravenously hungry zombies. Tagline: “Crime fiction writers will survive the zombie apocalypse, but only the women.”

.. “Of course crime writers will survive. You may think it’s because we have done the exhaustive research on anti-zombie weapons in addition to mastering techniques for martial arts and amazing feats of self-defense in the face of a rising zombie population. Alas, the true reason for our survival will stem from our keen ability to avoid public places and hide in dark corners for months at a time.” —Danielle Girard, USA Today and Amazon bestselling author of White Out

(12) DEJA FIVE. James Davis Nicoll remembers “Five Unforgettable Books Involving Amnesia” at Tor.com. First on the list:

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny (1970)

Carl Corey wakes in Greenwood, an unfamiliar hospital. He has no idea how he got there. Indeed, thanks to his amnesia, he has only the staff’s word that he is “Carl Corey” and not, to pick a name entirely at random, Corwin of Amber. Some applied violence later and the curiously untrusting Carl Corey learns the name of the benefactor paying for his stay at the hospital: his sister, Evelyn Flaumel.

Escaping the hospital, he confronts the woman in question, who turns out to be no more Evelyn Flaumel than he is Carl Corey. She is, however, his sister. In fact, Corwin has a number of siblings, a Machiavellian litter imbued with powers unknown on the Earth on which Corwin woke, many of whom are rivals for the otherworldly Crown of Amber and some of whom might, if they knew he had escaped Greenwood’s comfortable oubliette, simply kill him.

(13) SHATNER RARITY. Available for bid through September 24 at Nate D. Sanders Auctions — “William Shatner Shares His Memories of Growing Up Jewish — Signed ‘Happy Chanukah William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew'”. Image at the link.

William Shatner autograph essay signed ”William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew”, with Shatner describing his happy memories of growing up Jewish. Composed on his personal embossed stationery, Shatner writes about ”Some Hanukkah Memories”, in full, ”First of all I’d like to say I recently released a Holiday album – I was going to call it ‘Dreidel Dreidel’ but then I thought better of it. Maybe I should have – maybe.

I was born in the Notre Dame de Grace neighborhood of Montreal Quebec Canada to a Conservative Jewish family – my Paternal Grandfather ‘Wolfe Schattner’ anglicized his family name to Shatner. All four of my grandparents were immigrants – they came from the Austria-Hungary and Russian Empires – location of present day Ukraine and Lithuania.

Third – during my childhood – the menorah stood somewhere on the mantelpiece – it was silver and black from use no matter how often it was polished – it stood there until used and then it was used with great reverence.

Fourth, my mother standing over the frying pan, pouring in a mixture of potatoes – ground-up potatoes into the sizzling fat – the oil – and frying up potato pancakes. The memory of those potato pancakes with applesauce and the family crowding around eating the pancakes is a memory that is indelible. / Happy Chanukah William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.5”. Near fine condition.

(14) BY JOVE. “Hubble Captures Crisp New Portrait of Jupiter’s Storms” — NASA has shared the images.

Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the famous Great Red Spot region gearing up to change color – again.

(15) BOGUS LEGOS. NPR interviews “Lego Fans Tricked By Counterfeit Kits”.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Legos are more than a toy. They’re an investment. The company that makes those little plastic building blocks pulled in more than $5.5 billion in sales last year. They often sell Legos in special kits, sometimes depicting famous movie scenes. And they retire those kits after a while, making them collector’s items for fans and upping their value. But where there’s money to be made, there are also scams. Let’s go into the world of counterfeit Lego sets with Stacey Vanek Smith and Sally Herships from the podcast The Indicator at Planet Money.

SALLY HERSHIPS, BYLINE: Tom Glascoe (ph) lives in Dayton, Ohio. He has three kids, and they all love Lego, which is how he got into trouble. He’d been looking for a Lego X-Wing Resistance Fighter for his son.

TOM GLASCOE: And so perusing Facebook one day, I saw an ad for it for what seemed to be a low but maybe not too low of a price.

HERSHIPS: The X-Wing was half price – just 30 bucks.

GLASCOE: The pieces weren’t the same quality, and they didn’t go together quite as nicely as regular Legos.

(16) PETA CALLS FOR PEEPS PURITY. “PETA Demands That Just Born Make Vegan Peeps Because ‘The World Is In Turmoil’”Delish covers both sides.

Peeps, as it turns out, can’t seem to catch a break. The brand’s production is under fire again this week, albeit for an entirely different reason. Actor James Cromwell sent a letter to the CEO of Just Born demanding that the recipe for Peeps go vegan, because “the world is in turmoil.” ICYMI: One key ingredient in peeps is gelatin, which can be obtained from pork skin and bones.

“We use pork derived gelatin in our Peeps marshmallow to achieve a light, soft texture,” Peeps explains on its website: “Gelatin allows us to incorporate small finely divided bubbles allowing you to bite through the marshmallow cleanly with a creamy mouth feel.”

The demand is oddly-timed because the manufacturer has already said their will be no Halloween or holiday Peeps at all due to the pandemic.

(17) BUTTERFLY EFFECT. In the alternate timeline I now occupy, an author called Chuck Tingle plugs his Hugo nominations on the cover of his recent novel.

In this thrilling tale of The Tingleverse, you decide which path to take. With multiple endings to discover and several consequences to face, the reader is the star of the show as you fight to see your name in lights!

Will you and a punk rock unicorn take over the fine art scene after a battle with giant rats in Venna Beach?

Will you encounter The Valley Girls, a roving band of desert-dwelling barbarians in diesel-powered war machines, and live to tell the tale?

Will you find yourself house-sitting for dinosaur superstar Bob Downer, Jr. in the Tinglewood Hills, only to discover things are not exactly as they seem?

The decision is yours!

(18) WOOKIEE WEAR. Yahoo! News is there when “Adidas and Star Wars Launch Fur-Covered Chewbacca Sneaker”.

Adidas has teamed up with Star Wars once again, this time paying tribute to one of the series’ most iconic characters with an eye-catching sneaker collaboration.

The duo revealed their Rivalry Hi Chewbacca, a fur-covered high-top inspired by the beloved wookiee warrior, earlier this week. It features a neutral-toned color palette to represent the sci-fi desert landscape and hardware embossed with the words “STAR” and “WARS” on each shoelace.

Adidas and Star Wars also gave a nod to the belt Chewbacca wore during Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by adding a strap on the tongue of the show, and an image of the of the big-hearted wookie covers the soles.

Adidas RIVALRY HI STAR WARS SHOES Ode to Chewbacca https://www.adidas.co.uk/rivalry-hi-star-wars-shoes/FX9290.html CR: Adidas Originals

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Jurassic Park for 8 Cellos” on YouTube, Samara Ginsberg accompanies herself seven times playing the theme from Jurassic Park while cosplaying in a furry green dino costume!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll,  JJ, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

AND SO, FREED, I BEGIN TO WRITE.

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where does all this leave us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now in fourth place —

4. USS ENTERPRISE (NCC-1701)

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

Who It Belongs To: Starfleet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From 2014.

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

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

Pixel Scroll 9/14/20 Istanscroll Not Constantipixel

(1) MIYAZAKI EXHIBIT WILL KEYNOTE ACADEMY MUSEUM OPENING. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles announced the work of Hayao Miyazaki will feature in its inaugural temporary exhibition when the museum opens to the public on April 30, 2021. It will be the first North American museum retrospective dedicated to the acclaimed artist and his work.

With more than 300 objects, the exhibition will explore each of Miyazaki’s animated feature films, including My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and the Academy Award®-winning Spirited Away (2001). Visitors will travel through the filmmaker’s six-decade career through a dynamic presentation of original imageboards, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, posters, and cels, including pieces on public view outside of Japan for the first time, as well as large-scale projections of film clips and immersive environments.

From there, visitors move into the Creating Worlds gallery, a space that evokes Miyazaki’s fantastical worlds. The gallery will capture the contrast between beautiful, natural, and peaceful environments and the industrial settings dominated by labor and technology that are also often featured in Miyazaki’s movies. Visitors can view concept sketches and backgrounds that offer insight into Miyazaki’s imagination, including an original imageboard from his first Ghibli film Castle in the Sky (1986) and artworks from subsequent Ghibli features. Other areas explore Miyazaki’s fascination with complex vertical structures, such as the famous bathhouse in Spirited Away, and the underwater world of Ponyo (2008), as well as Miyazaki’s interest in flying, as seen in Porco Rosso (1992) and The Wind Rises (2013). As a highlight of the exhibition, visitors can enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation in the Sky View installation, addressing another frequent motif in Miyazaki’s films: the desire to slow down, reflect, and dream.

Next, the Transformations gallery affords visitors the opportunity to explore the astonishing metamorphoses often experienced by both characters and settings in Miyazaki’s films. In Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), for example, the protagonists go through physical transformations that reflect their emotional states, while in other films, such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki creates mysterious and imaginative ways to visualize the changes that humans impose on the natural world.

Visitors then enter the exhibition’s final gallery Magical Forest through its Mother Tree installation. Standing at the threshold between dream and reality, colossal, mystical trees in many of Miyazaki’s films represent a connection or gateway to another world. After passing through the installation, visitors encounter the spirits of the forest, such as the playful Kodama from Princess Mononoke, through an array of storyboards and mixed media. Visitors exit through another transitional corridor, which guides them from the imaginative worlds of Hayao Miyazaki back into the museum.

(2) ATTEND A VIRTUAL ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT THE EXPANSE. Register here for the opportunity to hear news about the ninth and final book in the Expanse series on Wednesday at 11 AM PDT/2 PM EDT. Authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck will be answering questions following the announcement.

(3) NEW HONOR FOR ATWOOD. Margaret Atwood has won the Dayton literary peace prize reports The Guardian.

Margaret Atwood, whose sweeping body of work includes The Handmaid’s Tale, a depiction of a nightmarish totalitarian future for the US, has won a lifetime achievement award that celebrates literature’s power to foster peace, social justice and global understanding.

The Canadian writer will receive the Richard C Holbrooke distinguished achievement award, officials of the Dayton literary peace prize officials announced on Monday. The award is named for the late American diplomat who brokered the 1995 Bosnian peace accords reached in the Ohio city.

Atwood, a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays and comic books , has in recent years drawn a new round of acclaim for her bestselling 1985 novel of a dystopian future in which women are subjugated after a theocratic group overthrow the US government. The television adaptation, starring Elisabeth Moss, saw the book return to bestseller lists around the world, while some readers saw similarities to the leadership of authoritarian Gilead in the rise of US president Donald Trump…

(4) SLF STILL TAKING GULLIVER GRANT APPLICATIONS. The Speculative Literature Foundation is taking submissions for the Gulliver Travel Research Grant until September 30. Full guidelines on the website.

The SLF Gulliver Travel grants are awarded annually, since 2004, to assist writers of speculative literature (in fiction, poetry, drama, or creative nonfiction) in their research. They are not currently available for academic research, though we hope to offer such funds in the future. We are currently offering one $1000 travel grant annually, to be used to cover airfare, lodging, and/or other travel expenses.

(5) HOME (DELIVERED) COOKING. “Why did it take so long?” you’ll ask. Scott Edelman invites listeners to down dumplings with the legendary Irene Vartanoff in Episode 127 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Irene Vartanoff

This episode, I was able to totally fulfill the mandate of this podcast, and lose myself in a meal as I sat across a table face to face with a creator. That’s because I’ve known this guest for 46 years plus a few months — and have been in constant conversation with her for almost all of that time. She’s been a part of comics and science fiction fandom several years longer than I have, and worked in comics longer than I did, too. When I started at Marvel Comics on June 24, 1974, she’d ready been there for a couple of months. She has many fascinating things to say about her time in comics — and her decades working in the romance field as well.

I’m of course talking about my wife — Irene Vartanoff — or as she was dubbed by Stan Lee — “Impish” Irene Vartanoff. Her novel Hollywood Superheroine — the final book in her comics-inspired Temporary Superheroine trilogy — was recently published, so this is the perfect time to have a chat about it all.

We discussed how she’d never have gotten into comics if not for her father’s cigar habit, what made a comic book reader become a comic book fan become a comic book professional, the “heartbreaking” advice given to her by Julie Schwartz during her teen visit to DC Comics, why her reputation as a famed letterhack meant she didn’t face the same sexism as other women in comics, what it was like working for Roy Thomas at Marvel and Paul Levitz at DC (and why she respected them both), how critiquing romance manuscripts for 25 years was like being at Marvel all over again, the secret origins of her Temporary Superheroine character, how politics changed Hollywood Superheroine, the final novel in her trilogy, why pantsing works better for her than plotting, the reason she decided to go the indie publishing route, and much more.

(6) LE GUIN DISCOVERY. Sean Joyce-Farley finds worlds of meaning in Ursula LeGuin’s revision to a passage The Left Hand of Darkness, as explained in a post for Library of America, “Are You There Ursula? It’s Me, Sean”.

Knight Library lies tucked into the west side of the University of Oregon campus, just by the cemetery: a dark four-story brick building. Inside, sunlight falls into the Paulson Reading Room through the tall windows at my back. Rigged up in a mask, I look like a harbinger of things to come—but it’s the fall of 2019, and I just have a dust allergy.

There are no pens in the Special Collections, and no water. UO students periodically approach the desk only to learn that they need to take a different staircase to get to the other second floor, which is somehow not connected to this second floor. I take in camera, laptop, notebook, pencil. Grey boxes with my name on them—literally, stuck on in post-its—neatly line the shelf behind the librarian’s desk. The first box is number 77; inside, folders three to five house the handwritten manuscript of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). I lift up the lid, and let the light in….

(7) GOT THAT RIGHT. “It’s Not Easy Being a BookTuber” on WIRED is an introduction to an episode of WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy” podcast which has an interview with Daniel Greene, who makes his living reviewing sf and fantasy books on YouTube.  Greene discusses how he gets 20-30 requests from self-published authors to plug their books and how he has to keep reviewing bestsellers to satisfy YouTube’s algorithms.

Daniel Greene makes a full-time living off his YouTube channel, discussing fantasy authors such as Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and Jim Butcher. Talking about your favorite books all day might sound like a dream come true, but Greene says that building a successful channel is harder than people think.

“For a few years I was doing a video every day of the week, seven days a week, which was insane, while also being a software engineer,” Greene says in Episode 431 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I’m a workaholic.”

(8) MORE SAND. MovieWeb alerted readers to a French-langauge variant of last week’s Dune trailer with some additional shots.

While the majority of the Dune trailer is the same as the one that debuted a few days ago, this version is slightly shorter and has been restructured. The trailer is in French but, while you may not have much idea what they’re saying, there are a few new shots included, giving us a further look at the likes of Gurney Halleck, played by Josh Brolin, who is seen preparing for battle, as well as a little more of Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides enduring the excruciating pain of the Gom Jabbar Test.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2000 — Twenty years ago this month, the online magazine Strange Horizons posted its first issue. It does short stories, poetry and reviews, essays, interviews, and other material as tickles its fancy. It was founded by writer and editor Mary Anne Mohanraj. Susan Marie Groppi who took over in 2004, won the World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional in 2010 for her work as the Editor-in-Chief. Other editors have followed; the current one is Vanessa Rose Phin. Several of the stories first published here have been nominated for Hugos, Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” and Benjamin Rosenbaum‘s “The House Beyond Your Sky”. It was a finalist for the Best Website Hugo Award in two years, and for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine every year from 2013 through 2020. You can find it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 14, 1927 – Martin Caidin.  His Cyborg was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.  Thirty novels for us, half a dozen nonfiction books about rockets and Space travel; eighty fiction and nonfiction books all told, a thousand magazine articles; an authority on aviation and aerospace.  Restored to full airworthiness a 1936 Junkers Ju 52, toured extensively with her.  Flew with the Thunderbirds demonstration squadron (U.S. Air Force), honorary member of the Golden Knights parachute demonstration team (Army).  Twice won Aviation/Space Writers Ass’n Award for outstanding aviation author.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1931 – Ivan Klíma, 89.  Kafka Prize and Magnesia Litera award.  A Childhood in Terezin (in German, Theresienstadt; WW II holding ground for deportation to death camps e.g. Auschwitz; few survived) about his own experience.  Biography of Karel Capek (software won’t allow the diacritical mark over the showing it’s pronounced like ch in English church) translated into English, also memoir My Crazy Century.  Penguin Classics ed’n of R.U.R. has his introduction.  Three dozen other books.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1932 Joyce Taylor, 88. She first shows as Princess Antillia in Atlantis, the Lost Continent. Later genre appearances were The Man from U.N.C.LE., the first English language Beauty and the Beast film, the horror film Twice-Told Tales and the Men into Space SF series. (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1936 Walter Koenig, 83. Best known for his roles as Pavel Chekov in the original Trek franchise and Alfred Bester (named in homage of that author and a certain novel) on Babylon 5Moontrap, a SF film with him and Bruce Campbell, would garner a 28% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and InAlienable which he executive produced, wrote and acts in has no rating there. (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1941 Bruce Hyde. Patterns emerge in doing these Birthdays. One of these patterns is that original Trek had a lot of secondary performers who had really short acting careers. He certainly did. He portrayed Lt. Kevin Riley in two episodes, “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King” and the rest of his acting career consisted of eight appearances, four of them on as Dr. Jeff Brenner.  He acted for less than two years in ‘65 and ‘66, before returning to acting thirty-four years later to be in The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald which is his final role. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1948 – Elizabeth Winthrop, 72.  Five dozen books, mostly children’s fiction.  Fisher Award (after Dorothy Canfield Fisher; adults choose master list, children vote) for The Castle in the Attic; it and two more ours.  Jane Addams Peace Prize for Counting on Grace.  Sarah Lawrence alumna.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1961 Justin Richards, 60. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certainly say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. There’s another nineteen novels written there.  And he had other series going as well including being one of the main scriptwriters for the Jago & Litefoot  Big Finish series, the characters being spin-offs from the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Wang Chiang”.  And then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works.  (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1962 – Leigh Cunningham, 58.  Lawyer with three Master’s degrees.  Her Being Anti-Social (2013) a Best Indie Book.  Two novels for us.  Ranks Nineteen Eighty-four above The Sound and the Fury.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1964 – Lorie Ann Grover, 56.  Firstborn for us (Kirkus starred review); verse novels; board books; The Magic Cup with Howard Behar former president of Starbucks.  Illustrations: “I’m putting these up for fabbity publisher types to see my samples…. copyright…. Just ask me if you’d like to share them.” [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1972 Jenny T. Colgan, 48. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date with several centered on River Song. She novelized “The Christmas Invasion”, the first full Tenth Doctor story. She has two genre novels, Resistance Is Futile and Spandex and the City. (CE) 
  • Born September 14, 1989 Jessica Brown Findlay, 31. She appeared as Beverly Penn in the film version of Mark Helprin‘s Winter’s Tale novel. She’s Lorelei in Victor Frankenstein, a modern take on that novel, and plays Lenina Crowne in the current Brave New World series on Peacock. Finally I’ll note she was Abi Khan on Black Mirrior’s “Fifteen Million Merits“ episode. (CE) 
  • Born September 14, 1986 – Rick Griffin, 44.  Co-authored, and illustrates, the Hayven Celestia universe, where the admirable geroo and various others suffer under the wicked krakun.  Recently Tales of Hayven Celestia (in Gre7g Luterman’s name, the is silent).  Four more covers.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SOMETHING’S IN THE AIR. “Astronomers see possible hints of life in Venus’s clouds” reports Yahoo! News.

Astronomers have found a potential sign of life high in the atmosphere of neighboring Venus: hints there may be bizarre microbes living in the sulfuric acid-laden clouds of the hothouse planet.

Two telescopes in Hawaii and Chile spotted in the thick Venusian clouds the chemical signature of phosphine, a noxious gas that on Earth is only associated with life, according to a study in Monday’s journal Nature Astronomy.

Several outside experts — and the study authors themselves — agreed this is tantalizing but said it is far from the first proof of life on another planet. They said it doesn’t satisfy the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” standard established by the late Carl Sagan, who speculated about the possibility of life in the clouds of Venus in 1967.

“It’s not a smoking gun,” said study co-author David Clements, an Imperial College of London astrophysicist. “It’s not even gunshot residue on the hands of your prime suspect, but there is a distinct whiff of cordite in the air which may be suggesting something.”

(13) VENUS IF YOU WILL. By an interesting coincidence, on a day when a paper has been released indicating the discovery of a biosignature in Venus’ atmosphere, James Davis Nicoll offers “Five Science Fiction Books Featuring Floating Habitats” a Tor.com.

Venus is so inconsiderate. It presents itself as a sister world, one that would seem at first glance to be very Earth-like, but… on closer examination it’s utterly hostile to life as we know it. Surface conditions would be extremely challenging for terrestrial life, what with the toxic atmosphere, crushing pressures, and blast-furnace-like temperatures.

That’s at the surface, however. Just fifty kilometers above the surface, there is a region with terrestrial pressures and temperatures, a veritable garden of Eden where an unprotected human would not be almost immediately incinerated but instead would expire painfully (in just a few minutes) due to the lack of free oxygen and the prevalence of toxic gases….

(14) STAR WARS MUSICS HELPS CELEBRATE MILESTONE. [Item by David Doering.] Nice to see the Tabernacle Choir chose Star Wars to celebrate their 110 years of recordings:

Legendary film composer John Williams wrote the music for each of the nine Star Wars saga films, spanning more than forty years from 1977 to 2019. For Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Williams composed “Duel of the Fates” for orchestra and chorus, accompanying a climactic lightsaber duel. The words are a fragment of an ancient Welsh poem that Williams had translated into Sanskrit—he then rearranged the syllables himself to make the text essentially meaningless, while still retaining a forceful chant-like power. He intended the choral singing itself to give the scene an explicitly religious feel, as if it were a ceremony of some kind. “Duel of the Fates” went on to become a defining musical feature of the prequel trilogy, a symbol of the saga’s broad focus on the cosmic struggle between darkness and light.

The choir music was also used to demonstrate the first stereophonic recording made back in 1940.

Oh, and BTW, while the media proudly announced that Vinyl records outsold CDs for the first time, this is on revenues, not on units. LPs are still quite a bit more expensive than CDs.

(15) GOING FOR THE JUGULAR, WITH A KICK TO THE GROIN. In a post for This Way To Texas, “Libertarians nominate Lou Antonelli for Congress”, Antonelli spotlighted the political battles he’s been waging.

…The Texas Supreme Court on Saturday, Sept. 5, rejected a Republican attempt to remove 44 Libertarians from the November ballot, according to the Texas Tribune.

Groups affiliated with both major parties have gone to court in recent weeks to remove from the ballot non-major-party candidates perceived to be a threat. In general, Libertarians are believed to peel votes away from Republicans, while the Green Party is thought to siphon votes from Democrats.

The GOP sued because the Libertarians didn’t pay their filing fees. But the state Supreme Court said Republicans missed the deadline to kick them off the ballot.

Antonelli, running in the 4th District, is one of the candidates the Republicans sought to block.

He’s trying to get Republican nominee Pat Fallon to join him in a public forum or debate, meantime trying to score off Fallon for not living in the district he wants to represent.

… Fallon lives in the Denton county portion of Prosper, an outer suburb of Dallas, which is just outside the 4th’s boundaries.

Even Wikipedia, the largest and most popular general reference work on the World Wide Web, notes Fallon’s position: “Fallon’s state senate district includes much of the eastern portion of the congressional district.”

However, regarding the 4th Congressional District, Wikipedia continues: “While candidates for the House are only required to live in the state they wish to represent, longstanding convention holds that they live either in or reasonably close to the district they wish to represent.”

The Libertarian Party candidate in the election, Antonelli said “A number of candidates who lost to Fallon in the district convention seem to feel his victory was due to arm-twisting by himself and Senator Ted Cruz, and they resent it and have told me so,”

“The residency requirement for the U.S. House is in the Constitution, so Fallon has done nothing illegal,” said Antonelli. “But Texas deserves congressional leaders who do better than just skirt the law.”

Antonelli is doing his best to leave no stone unthrown.

(16) THE UNSEEN HAND – AND EVERYTHING ELSE. The Cut introduces “The Designer Who Sent Ghost Models Down the Runway”.

While stuck inside during quarantine this past spring, designer Anifa Mvuemba began playing around with 3-D technology. Soon, an idea struck: What if she held a virtual fashion show in which her feminine, curve-friendly designs glided along on invisible models? She’d been working on her line Hanifa for eight years but had never held a runway show — maybe it was time.

On May 22, she premiered the collection, called Pink Label Congo, on Instagram Live. The digital runway show featured ghostlike 3-D figures strutting sinuously down the runway in the collection.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Using Cuts as a Visual Effect” on Vimeo, David F. Sandberg explains how cutting can be just as effective a way to produce special effects as more expensive CGI. WARNING: Many scenes from gory horror movies.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/11/20 Mrs. Pixel, We’re Needed

(1) FUR STUDIES. The Dogpatch Press published a 2-part interview with a professor at Boston College specializing in classical history who teaches a course called “Beast Literature” which covers talking animal stories and gets into animation and furry fandom.

I gather that classicism is about Greek/Roman tradition and how it carries on in modern culture. How does that merge with research about Disney and similar pop culture, and how did that develop as a focus for you?

That’s right — Classics is a complicated term, but it’s shorthand for the study of the ancient Mediterranean world and its continuing significance.

As for Classics, Disney, and pop culture, I can’t say exactly how it all began merging. I’ve loved animation for as long as I can remember. VHS tapes of Disney’s Robin Hood, Bluth’s American Tail, and Vitello’s Gallavants ran non-stop in my house when I was a kid, and that interest has gotten stronger as time goes by. And I’ve been studying Classics for more than 20 years now. If you spend that long learning and thinking intensively about one area, you just can’t shut off that part of your brain. You develop a sensitivity and notice wherever it pops up, whether that’s at work or vegging out in front of the TV.

The fact that Greece and Rome exert this pervasive presence means it happens all the time, and the more you notice, the more complex and interesting those patterns become, and the deeper you want to dive. So it’s an organic mixing of two things I love and have spent a ton of time trying to learn and understand better.

(Dogpatch Press:) It was interesting that you mentioned teaching a course in talking animals. Tell me all about it! Since when, and how unique is that, and how is it being received? What sort of students are in it and what are they studying in general?

(Christopher Polt:) I love that course — the material is so fun and weird and meaningful. The basic question we ask is, “What are we doing when we speak by using animal voices, and what does that say about our attitudes towards humans, animals, and the lines we draw between them?” It’s also my chance to teach some cool, off-the-wall art and literature. We read Apuleius’ Golden Ass, which is a novel about a guy who accidentally turns himself into a donkey and goes on a journey through the Roman provinces (think The Emperor’s New Groove, but much sexier and more violent), and Nivardus’ Ysengrimus, which is the earliest major collection of stories about Reynard the fox, an archetypal animal trickster.

Sometimes I also take students on field trips to tie historical material we’re learning to lived experience. One of my favorites has been to a local pet cemetery. We spend a few days talking about how Greeks and Romans use animals to think about divinity, mortality, and the afterlife, and we look at epitaphs and funeral poems for dead pets, which are often written from the animal’s point of view. There’s a great example in the British Museum, which commemorates the life of a dog named Margarita (“Pearl” in Latin), who died while giving birth to puppies:

Another professor at U of South Florida does an animals in antiquity course that has a section on furries. 

Christopher Polt also discusses masks in ancient drama in an interesting thread that starts here.

(2) GAME OF ZONING. Ben Ashford, in the Daily Mail story “‘All it’s missing is Jon Snow and a couple of dragons!’ GoT author George R.R. Martin submits plans to build fantasy castle in his New Mexico backyard – but his neighbors aren’t bending the knee!”, says that Martin submitted plans to build a seven-story library in his backyard that looks like the tower of a castle, but the Santa Fe Historic Review Board turned him down because the keep was six feet higher than what zoning regulations permitted.

The 71-year-old creator of Dragonstone, Winterfell and the Red Keep describes his proposed Gothic-style structure as a free-standing ‘seven-sided library’ in a planning application lodged with the City of Santa Fe.

But locals say the fortress-like building, featuring imposing stone walls, battlements and a 27ft tower, is akin to something from HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones and totally out of place in a suburban neighborhood where it will spoil their views.

Martin’s architects toned down the medieval aspects in revised drawings but still need special permission from the city’s Historic Design Review Board to start work on the ‘Water Garden Keep’ because the turret is several feet higher than zoning codes allow.

(3) SUSANNA CLARKE REVIVAL. The New Yorker visits “Susanna Clarke’s Fantasy World of Interiors”. Tagline: “Fifteen years after an illness rendered her largely housebound, the best-selling writer is releasing a novel that feels like a surreal meditation on life in quarantine.”

… Often while I spoke to Clarke I could hear Greenland in the background, clinking dishes in the kitchen sink. Later, he told me that Clarke gets up much earlier than he does, and tries to write for the few hours when her energy is at its peak. By the afternoon, she needs to rest, and even in the morning her ability to participate in, say, a demanding conversation is limited to about an hour. She is very private about whatever she’s working on; in fact, she can be a little cagey about whether she’s working on anything at all. “She’s on her sofa with her laptop,” Greenland said. “And I don’t know if she’s playing a game, if she’s watching TV, if she’s writing e-mails, or if she’s working. It’s not apparent to me. She’s in her bubble. But what I do know is that, for a long while, she was too ill to write. And then, after that, she was writing fragments.”

Many of these “bits,” as Clarke calls them, have been squirrelled away for possible inclusion in some future work. “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” is partly written in a style reminiscent of John Aubrey, the British scholar best known for his “Brief Lives” series of short biographies. In the novel, these passages come complete with footnoted anecdotes that document the history of English magic with a distinctive combination of whimsy and nineteenth-century punctiliousness. One such story mentions a chick, hatched from an enchanted egg, that “grew up and later started a fire that destroyed most of Grantham.” Clarke writes, “During the conflagration it was observed bathing itself in the flames. From this circumstance, it was presumed to be a phoenix.”

Although the origins of “Piranesi” predate Clarke’s illness, she did not commence intensive work on it until her symptoms abated, a few years ago…. 

 Dan Kois’ review of Piranesi for Slate, “Susanna Clarke’s First Novel in 16 Years Is a Wonder”, begins:

How big is the House? It is limitless. Its towering rooms are the size of two soccer fields or more. Connected by passageways and staircases, the rooms extend in every direction as far as Piranesi can explore. He writes in his journals that he has traveled nearly a thousand rooms from what he believes to be the center of things and has never reached the end. Even the staircases are huge, their steps much taller than a man can comfortably climb, as if, Piranesi writes, “God had originally built the House intending to people it with Giants before inexplicably changing His Mind.”

(4) OLD PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll reread “The Amazing Adventures of Space Cat!” for the first time since 1969. (James may not really be that old, but he is the curator of the Young People Read Old SFF series, so what else could I call it?)

…Convinced the cat is lucky (as opposed to, say, needing more supervision than it is getting), Fred insists that the cat accompany him on humanity’s very first trip to the Moon. Fred’s superiors acquiesce because they would not dream of taking away a man’s good-luck charm. When Fred leaves for the Moon on rocket ship ZQX-1, Flyball accompanies him.

(5) I, FOR ONE. In “Two Books Wonder: How Long Until You Fall in Love With a Robot?”, the New York Times’ Amanda Hess discusses Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny by Debora L. Spar and Sex Robots And Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex, and Death by Jenny Kleeman.

“Science fiction is not about the future,” the sci-fi novelist Samuel R. Delany wrote in 1984. The future “is only a writerly convention,” he continued, one that “sets up a rich and complex dialogue with the reader’s here and now.” That is a useful way of understanding all the many pop nonfiction books that speculate about the technologies of the future, and attempt to divine their effects on human beings. Their predictions depend on how well they interpret the present.

One such interpreter is Debora L. Spar, the dean of Harvard Business School Online, who writes at the intersection of tech and gender. In her new book, “Work Mate Marry Love,” she considers an emerging wave of innovations that she believes could upend how we experience relationships, reproduction, gender expression and death. “We will fall in love with nonhuman beings,” Spar predicts in the book’s opening pages, “and find ways to extend our human lives into something that begins to approximate forever.” Spar argues that new technologies spark shifts in the most intimate of human affairs, often in unexpected ways. She casts this as a causal relationship, one imbued with a sense of inevitability. The book’s subtitle, “How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny,” gives the machines the agency.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Paul Winchell, the voice of Jerry Mahoney and Disney’s Tigger has the honor of having filed the first patent for an artificial heart: “Paul Winchell: An Amazing Inventor”.

…But what was probably most fascinating about Winchell was the fact that he was a very successful inventor. Over the course of his life, he held patents on over 30 devices, including a disposable razor, a flameless cigarette lighter, an illuminated ballpoint pen, a retractable fountain pen, an inverted novelty mask, battery-operated heated gloves, an indicator to show when frozen food had gone bad after a power outage, and the first artificial human heart. That’s right, the artificial heart.

This invention was developed through collaboration with Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, and held the first patent for such a device.

(7) FERRIS-YERXA OBIT. It has been leaned that author Frances Ferris-Yerxa died March 3, 2019 at the age of 101. The family notice said:

She married Le Roy Yerxa. When Le Roy passed away at an early age, she was left with four young children to raise and care for. She later married William Hamling and they had two more children. She was always oriented to the welfare of her family. She loved all her children, all her grandchildren, all her great grandchildren and great great grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

The Yerxa website notes that both Leroy (as his name was spelled on magazine covers) and Frances wrote stories for the “pulp” science fiction magazines Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures.

These magazines were published by Ziff-Davis out of Chicago, IL. By the early 1940s, Palmer, the managing editor of these publications, had developed a stable of local (Chicago-based) writers who could write to order, often producing stories around cover paintings by Harold McCauley, Robert Gibson Jones, or Malcolm Smith. The mainstays were Don Wilcox, Robert Moore Williams, David Wright O’Brien, William P. McGivern, Leroy Yerxa, and David Vern, plus (later in the decade) Chester S. Geier, Berkeley Livingston, and William L. Hamling.

Leroy Yerxa was among the most prolific contributors to the Ziff-Davis magazines. He was twenty-seven years old when his first story, “Death Rides at Night,” appeared under his own name in the August 1942 Amazing. In the next four years, till his untimely death in 1946, he sold more than seventy stories to Palmer for Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, with many of those published pseudonymously. He is rumored to have written an entire issue of Fantastic Adventures (possibly the one for December 1943). While other writers wrote more, their output was not concentrated in such a short, intense period. Possibly Yerxa’s only rival in this regard was David Wright O’Brien, who in the five years from 1940 through 1944 sold more than a hundred stories to Palmer, not counting his collaborations with McGivern.

Palmer’s core of writers were so prolific that they could fill every issue. To avoid the frequent recurrence of names, the authors used various personal pseudonyms, some of which were later adopted by other authors. For instance, “Lee Francis” began as a pen name of Leroy Yerxa’s (which he often used when his wife Frances published a piece under her own name in the same edition), but after his death in 1946 it was used by others, including Hamling. In addition, a practice began of creating a number of “house names.” The house names were used by several writers, so that we had the authors using several names and several authors using the same name.

Leroy Yerxa died and, after a reasonable length of time, William Hamling, who had been a good friend as well as colleague, proposed to Frances Yerxa. Frances, who had already made a name for herself as a writer with her material appearing all over the place, accepted Hamling’s proposal and Hamling assumed responsibility for Yerxa’s sons Edward and Richard, and began raising them as his own. Then, Bill and Frances had two children, a daughter Debbie and Billy Jr. They lived in Evanston, the north contiguous suburb of Chicago, on Fowler Avenue in a nice, comfortable house.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2010  — At Aussiecon 4 a decade ago this month, China Miéville‘s The City & The City would win the Best Novel Hugo in a tie with The Windup Girl by  Paolo Bacigalupi. It would be his first, and to date only, Hugo Award. It would later win the BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Impressive indeed. It was written as a gift for Miéville’s terminally ill mother, who was a fan of police procedurals. It  would be made into an audiobook narrated by John Lee who also narrates Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect Tom Dreyfus novels. A four-part television adaptation by the BBC was broadcast in 2018.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 11, 1862 – O. Henry.  Master of the short story, often with a surprise ending.  I’ve read the 1926 Complete Works with almost three hundred, poems too; perhaps half a dozen are ours.  When in Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke Jeanne Green compares YH to O. Henry and YH recoils, Wouk who is no dope means us to see YH is wrong and JG is right; YH doesn’t know his own greatness in his fog of yearning for sophistication.  Of course we’d never –  (Died 1910) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1889 – Ann Bridge.  Alpinist, archaeologist, gardener.  Novel And Then You Came, four shorter stories, for us; a score of other novels including detective fiction, also travel, memoirs.  Praise: people, history, politics shown with truth and skill.  Blame: snooty.  Decide for yourself.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1940 Brian De Palma, 80. Though not a lot of genre work, he has done some significant work including Carrie. Other films he’s done of interest to us are The Fury which most likely you’ve never heard of, and the first Mission: Impossible film along with Mission to Mars. Not genre, but I find it fascinating that he directed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video which has a genre connection as actress Courtney Cox would be in the Misfits of Science series and the Scream horror franchise as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1941 Kirby McCauley. Literary agent and editor who as the former who represented authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Roger Zelazny. And McCauley chaired the first World Fantasy Convention, an event he conceived with T. E. D. Klein and several others. As Editor, his works include Night Chills: Stories of Suspense, FrightsFrights 2, and Night Chills. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1951 Michael Goodwin, 69. Ahhh — Alan Dean Foster’s Commonwealth series. I know that I’ve read at least a half dozen of the novels there and really enjoyed them, so it doesn’t surprise that someone wrote a guide to it which is how we have Goodwin’s (with Robert Teague) A Guide to the Commonwealth: The Official Guide to Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth Universe. Unfortunately, like so many of these guides, it was done once and never updated. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1952 Sharon Lee, 68. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories which are quite excellent reading with the latest being Neogenesis. They have won Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for for lifetime contributions to science fiction, and they won The Golden Duck (the Hal Clement Young Adult Award) for their Balance of Trade novel.  They are deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born September 11, 1956 – Jefferson Swycaffer, 64.  Ten novels, thirty shorter stories; regular correspondent in Broken Toys; active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation), indeed winning both its Kaymar and Neffy Awards.  [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1958 Roxann Dawson, 62. Best remembered for being B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. She’s also a published genre author having written the Tenebrea trilogy with Daniel Graham. This space opera series is available from the usual digital suspects. She’s got two genre film creds, Angela Rooker in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, and Elizabeth Summerlee in the 1998 version of The Lost World. She’s the voice of The Repair Station computer on the “Dead Stop” episode of Enterprise. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1960 – William Tienken.  This appreciation by Our Gracious Host beats anything I could do.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1961 – Sally Green, 59.  Half Bad and Smoke Thieves trilogies, plus 3½ novella “Half Lies”.  Meanwhile she still runs most days despite several attempts to give it up.  [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1965 Cat Sparks, 55. Winner of an astounding fourteen Ditmar Awards for writing, editing and artwork, her most recent was in 2019 when she garnered one for “The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction“.   She has just one published novel to date, Lotus Blue, though there’s an unpublished one, Effigy, listed at ISFDB. She has an amazing amount of short stories all of which are quite stellar. Lotus Blue and The Bride Price collection are both available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1976 – Lizzy Stevens, 44.  A novel and (with husband Steve Miller) five shorter stories; “A Lost Memory” an Amazon Best Seller.  Some other fellow having written Dharma Bums, LS and SM wrote about karma bums.  That Loki is always right in the way.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WINGING IT. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt says that former Marvel Comics editor Christian Cooper, famed as the Black birder accosted by a white woman in Central Park, has come out with a comic called “It’s a Bird!” that is “The first issue of ‘Represent!’ a digital series from DC Comics that will showcase writers and artists from groups underrepresented in the industry.” “Christian Cooper has written a comic book partly inspired by his viral Central Park moment”.

… “It’s a Bird” features Jules, a teenager given a pair of binoculars by his father and told to explore his surroundings. Jules, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of birds, is quickly harassed by those threatened by his presence as an unannounced Black man in an open space.

That and other moments of hostility evoke racial profiling that Cooper and other Black birders have experienced, but the story turns slightly mystical when Jules begins using his binoculars and sees images of Black people who have fallen to police violence, including Amadou Diallo, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Cooper works as a senior editorial director at Health Science Communications and didn’t think he would wind up back at one of the superhero publishers so quickly, but here he is.

“I really appreciated it when [DC Comics] came to me and said do you want to do this comic, because I did have something to say,” he said in an interview. “It’s interesting how it slips into maybe this space in the DC Universe that isn’t normally occupied. It is a very magical-realist tale. There is something fantastical that happens in the course of the story. But it’s not capes. It’s not superheroes.”

(12) LEGO MY THINGO. The Drum invites readers to “Meet Bygglek: how Ikea and Lego built a creative solution to messy play”. I thought only Dr. Seuss tought up names like that.

Lego is well aware that its product encourages mess. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, as any decent Lego session ends with bricks and figures all over the floor. To make it easier for parents to cope without stifling creativity, Lego looked to the giants of storage, Ikea. Together they created a simple solution, aptly named ’Bygglek.’

…Løgstrup recalls how, while struggling to make the right contact at Ikea, a chance encounter at a school board meeting kickstarted the soon-to-be long-term collaboration between the two beloved Scandinavian brands. “By some coincidence, the leader from our licensing department happened to sit next to someone at Ikea and they started discussing the potential project,“ he explains.

Spurred on by this coincidence, the early courtship saw the Lego team invite Ikea to ‘come play‘ by sending them a stop motion movie to spell out the challenge Lego faced. An attractive offer that few could refuse, Ikea designer Andreas Fredriksson notes. “Of course we wanted to play. It was a yes from the beginning. It‘s the perfect match because we work with small space living at home and Lego is all about play.“

(13) MULAN OPENS QUIETLY IN CHINA. Pei Li, in the Reuters story “Disney’s ‘Mulan’ battles mixed reviews and media muzzle at Chinese launch”, says that Mulan was launched in China with “no major media buildup and no star-studded premier or red-carpet launch” with the film getting mixed reviews in China due in part to its historical anachronisms (buildings exist in the film that were built several hundred years later).

…”Mulan” has provoked a backlash on overseas social media over its star’s support of Hong Kong police and for being partly filmed in the Xinjiang region, where China’s clamp-down on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims has been criticised by some governments and rights groups.

Chinese authorities told major media outlets not to cover the film’s release in the wake of the uproar, four people familiar with matter told Reuters, further weighing on its chances of success.

(14) MISGUIDED MISSIVE. Early Bird Books, a division of Open Road Media, sends subscribers emails with a list of e-books which are on special for the moment. Yesterday, a now-former subscriber reports they sent her an email with the subject “Message From Our Partner: Relieve Dryness & Make Intimacy Comfortable” with extensive information and endorsements about a product marketed by FemmePharma. The recipient was outraged and copied it to me.

One almost wonders if it was an act of revenge by an employee on their way out the door.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. German Netflix series Dark ended this year; here’s a breakdown on its themes on nihilism and fate from the YouTube channel Wisecrack.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Patch O’Furr, Frank Olynyk, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/31/20 Inspired By Cordwainer Smith And Seeing
A Sign Backwards

(1) THE BROTHERS STRUGATSKY. “Striving to become: how a former officer changed Russian science fiction” at Pledge Times.

,,,,But it was Arkady Strugatsky who was the first to understand that if they really want to “break out, break through, ah,” then the last thing they need to do for this is to become normal good science fiction writers.

He formulates the credo of the Strugatsky writers back in 1959: “Our works should be entertaining, not only and not so much in their idea – even if the idea has been sucked by fools ten times before – but in a) the breadth and ease of presentation of scientific material; “Down with Zhulvernovshchina”, we must look for very precise, short, clever formulations designed for a developed student of the tenth grade; b) according to the good language of the author and the diverse language of the heroes; c) by the reasonable courage of introducing into the narrative the assumptions “on the verge of the possible” in the field of nature and technology and by the strictest realism in the actions and behavior of the heroes; d) by a bold, bold and once again bold appeal to any genres that seem acceptable in the course of the story for a better depiction of a particular situation. Not to be afraid of light sentimentality in one place, rude adventurism in another, a little philosophizing in the third, amorous shamelessness in the fourth, etc. Such a mixture of genres should give things an even greater flavor of the extraordinary. Isn’t the extraordinary our main theme? “

(2) MAGICAL POWERS. James Davis Nicoll asks the Young People Read Old SFF panel what they think about “The Putnam Tradition” by Sonya Hess Dorman.

Sonya Hess Dorman’s science fiction career lasted about a generation and produced enough short pieces to fill a collection, as a well as a fix-up. I first encountered Dorman via her ?“When I Was Miss Dow”, reprinted in Pamela Sargent’s ground-breaking Women of Wonder (as well as many other anthologies). ?“When I Was Miss Dow” was considered for a Nebula, although it didn’t make the finalist list, and it won a retrospective Tiptree. Odds on the favourite for inclusion in Rediscovery. That is not the call Journey Press made. Journey Press eschews the easy choices.

One wonders, therefore, what my Young People will make of the Dorman Journey did select.

(3) STAND AND DELIVERY DATE. ScreenRant looks for clues to the forthcoming series: “The Stand Trailer Teases the Aftermath of the Modern-Day Plague”. The limited weekly show will debut on CBS All-Access on December 17, 2020. ScreenRant adds:

King has reportedly written a new ending for The Stand, which isn’t surprising considering he has released multiple versions of the novel since its initial release in 1978.

(4) SFF EXHIBIT ARCHIVED ONLINE. “A Conversation larger than the Universe: science fiction and the literature of the fantastic” is a website that provides an illustrated record of the books and other materials displayed at the Grolier Club in New York City from January to March 2018. 

It suggests, among other things, a history of science fiction from its Gothic roots to the present. Items are arranged here chronologically and the labels are keyed to numbers in the exhibition checklist included in A Conversation larger than the Universe. Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic 1762-2017, published by the Grolier Club (and available here). 

In the original exhibition, the entries were grouped in four broad periods: from 1762 to 1912 (nos. 1-14); the interwar years (nos. 15-27); the late 1940s through 1980 (nos. 28-49); and from 1981 to the present (nos. 50-70); there are seven chronological headings here, and three additional headings offer new ways of making connections between the works. A very few items displayed at the Grolier Club are not reproduced on this website.

(5) IF YOU EVER ASKED, “WHERE IS MY FLYING CAR?” CNN reports “Japanese company successfully tests a manned flying car for the first time”.

A Japanese company has announced the successful test drive of a flying car.

Sky Drive Inc. conducted the public demonstration on August 25, the company said in a news release, at the Toyota Test Field, one of the largest in Japan and home to the car company’s development base. It was the first public demonstration for a flying car in Japanese history.

The car, named SD-03, manned with a pilot, took off and circled the field for about four minutes.

“We are extremely excited to have achieved Japan’s first-ever manned flight of a flying car in the two years since we founded SkyDrive… with the goal of commercializing such aircraft,” CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa said in a statement.

(6) IN THE TRASH. Alan Stewart’s report of site selection voting in CoNZealand Progess Report #4, released today,prompted a critical response from Cade. Thread starts here.

(7) SOMETHING NEW. As Variety notes, it may not be big as Hollywood measures things, it’s just the biggest thing going: “Box Office: ‘New Mutants’ Lands $7 Million Debut”

Superhero thriller “The New Mutants,” one of the first major movies to open since coronavirus forced theaters to close in March, launched to $7 million over the weekend. Though ticket sales were on the lower end of expectations, the Disney and 20th Century Studios title marks the biggest debut yet for a new release during the pandemic.

Around 60-70% of theaters have reopened across the U.S. and Canada, according to Disney. However, some of the biggest moviegoing markets, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, New Jersey and New York, still remain closed. In parts of the country where theaters have resumed business, venues are capping capacity and keeping space between seats to comply with social distancing measures. “The New Mutants” played in 2,412 theaters, making it the widest release in months.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 31, 1979 Time After Time premiered. (It would lose out to Alien for Best Dramatic Presentation at Noreascon Two.)  It was directed by Nicholas Meyer who wrote the screenplay from a story by Karl Alexander and Steve Hayes, and produced by Herb Jaffe. The primary cast was Malcolm McDowell, David Warner and Mary Steenburgen. Reception by critics was unambiguously positive, the box office was good and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 72% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 31, 1908 – William Saroyan.  This remarkable Armenian American gave us a short novel Tracy’s Tiger and a handful of short stories.  One was in Unknown Worlds!  Outside our field his play The Time of Your Life won a Pulitzer Prize, which he refused, saying commerce should not judge the arts; his screenplay for The Human Comedy, rejected as too long, he made into a novel and won an Academy Award for Best Story.  In 1991 the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. jointly issued postage stamps honoring him.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1914 Richard Basehart. He’s best remembered as Admiral Harriman Nelson in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also portrayed Wilton Knight in the later Knight Rider series. And he appeared in “Probe 7, Over and Out”, an episode of The Twilight Zone. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born August 31, 1927 – Ted Coconis, 93.  Illustrates children’s books e.g. Newbery Award winner The Summer of the Swans.  For us, here is Camber of Culdi.  Here is Labyrinth.  Here is A Matter of Time.  Here is Dorian Gray.  Here is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 14.  [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1941 – Larry Schwinger, 79.  Six dozen covers, a handful of interiors.  Here is The Owl Service.  Here is Star Rangers.  Here is On Basilisk Station.  Here is the Jul 95 Burroughs Bulletin.  Here is Kindred.  [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1942 – Alan J. Lewis, 78.  Member of the leading apas of his day, FAPAOMPASAPS, he famously in the mid-1960s organized the Fanzine Foundation which shipped a ton of fanzines – really; more than 2,800 pounds – to Bruce Pelz, where they became part of his elephantine collection; this at BP’s death went to Univ. California at Riverside.  [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1949 Richard Gere, 71. He was Lancelot in First Knight starring Sean Connery as King Arthur, and  he was Joe Klein in The Mothman Prophecies. That’s it for genre video work. First Knight for me is more than enough to get Birthday Honors, but he also was in live performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in the Sixties. (CE) 
  • Born August 31, 1968 – Néné Thomas, 52.  As it happens she was Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at InCon the year I was Fan Guest of Honor; since then, Loscon 29, Windycon 37, MidSouthCon 29, ConQuesT 46.  Artbooks Parting the VeilThe Unwinding Path.  Here is Aveliad: the Forest done as a 1,000-piece puzzle.  Also she makes cross-stitch charts and decorative resin butterflies.  [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1969 Jonathan LaPaglia, 51. The lead in Seven Days which I’ve noted before is one of my favorite SF series. Other than playing Prince Seth of Delphi in a really bad film called Gryphon which aired on the Sci-fi channel, that’s his entire genre history as far as I can tell unless you count the Bones series as SF in which he’s in “The Skull in the Sculpture” episode as Anton Deluca. (CE)
  • Born August 31, 1974 Marc Webb, 46. Director of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as well as the forthcoming Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He’s also directed over ninety music videos over the past several decades with the first being Blues Traveler’s “Canadian Rose”.  (CE) 
  • Born August 31, 1982 G. Willow Wilson, 38. A true genius. There’s her amazing work on the Hugo Award winning Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan which I recommend strongly, and that’s not to say that her superb Air series shouldn’t be on your reading list as well. Oh, and the Cairo graphic novel with its duplicitous djinn is quite the read. The only thing I’ve by her that I’ve not quite liked is her World Fantasy Award winning Alif the Unseen novel.  I’ve not yet read her Wonder Women story: should I? (CE)
  • Born August 31, 1984 – Cassandra Khaw, 36.  Her work is horrible – I mean, on purpose.  Or we could call it horrific.  She knows and includes Southeast Asian images.  Hammers on Bone is one of four Re-imagining Lovecraft novellas.  Fifty short stories, half a dozen poems, in ApexDaily SFGamutThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionUncanny; interviewed in LightspeedMithila ReviewNightmare.  Ranks Oor Wombat’s Castle Hangnail above Lukyankenko’s Night Watch and Pratchett’s too.  [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1992 Holly Earl, 28. English actress who was Kela in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, and Agnes in Humans. She also played the young Kristine Kochanski in Red Dwarf in the “Pete, Part One” as well as Lily Arwell in the most excellent Eleventh Doctor story, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.“ She was Céline in the “Musketeers Don’t Die Easily” episode of Musketeers, and played Hermia in the ‘18 A Midsummer Night’s Dream film. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DC IGNORES COMICS SHOPS. Cliff Biggers, owner of Dr. No’s Comics in Marietta, GA told Facebook followers today:

DC’s latest slap in the face to comic shops: in all their promotional information about Batman Day, they don’t mention anything about comic shops or what they intend to do for our market (probably because, as in years past, they don’t intend to do ANYTHING for our market). Short of beating us up and stealing our lunch money, there isn’t much more that DC can do to show their contempt for comic shops that would surprise me any more.

(12) BATMAN NEWS. This is from U.S. News: “Batman Prowls Streets of Santiago Delivering Food to Homeless”

There is a masked crusader on the streets of Santiago, Chile this summer.  But rather than fighting criminals, Solidarity Batman delivers hot meals.  Months of lockdown have caused hardship in Chile, where unemployment has reached a record 12 percent.  Recently, an unidentified man has been donning a full Batman suit, plus a surgical mask for coronavirus protection, and travelling through the capital city sharing sympathy and plates of food.  Almost anybody can be like him, the everyday superhero says.  ‘Look around you, see if you can dedicate a little time, a little food, a little shelter, a word sometimes of encouragement to those who need it.

(13) NUMBER FIVE, NUMBER FIVE. James Davis Nicoll counts up ”Five SFF Stories Featuring Truly Terrible Parents”.

Parents! Pesky narrative roadblocks when writing books centred on young people. Common, garden-variety parents want to make sure their offspring are healthy and happy, which is a problem for writers who want to send young protagonists off into danger. Authors can, of course, dispatch parents to a location too distant for them to interfere or simply kill them off—both very popular choices—but there is another alternative: Simply have the parents themselves (or their equivalent) be part of the problem….

(14) STRANGE AUCTION ITEM: Heritage Auctions is taking bids on a fragment salvaged from the Hindenburg wreckage. Current bid is $5,000.

Graf Zeppelin Hindenburg: Large Section of Aluminum Framework. 28″ long section of the strut or framework used to construct the famous dirigible Hindenburg, destroyed in a catastrophic & dramatic explosion on May 6, 1937, while attempting to dock at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey. The scene was captured on film and broadcast live via radio. The reason for the explosion remains elusive and controversial, even to this day. It is thought that a spark of static electricity might have ignited the flammable outer skin. Various relics from the event come on the market from time to time, but none are as sought-after as sections of the strut work. This example is covered in deep emerald and black carbon deposits. It is accompanied by a July 14, 2020 Letter of Provenance that indicates a workman in the clean-up crew, Harry Manyc, was permitted to take home a large section of the “ribbing” as a souvenir, from which pieces, like this, were parceled out over the years.

(15) WHERE HE GOT HIS LICENSE. At BBC Sounds, a 9-minute “Witness History” segment: “Inventing James Bond”.

The author Ian Fleming created the fictional super-spy, James Bond, in the 1950s. Fleming, a former journalist and stockbroker, had served in British naval intelligence during the Second World War. Using interviews with Fleming and his friends from the BBC archive, Alex Last explores how elements of James Bond were drawn from Ian Fleming’s own adventurous life.

(16) BE THE ENTRÉE. We ran an item before about what visitors can eat here – now read about something there that’s ready to swallow them: “Godzilla Museum Allows You to Zipline Into the Kaiju’s Mouth”.

The Godzilla Museum located in Japan is now open. The Attraction features tons of Godzilla memorabilia, interactive sections and a themed menu. Most notably, the upcoming giant true-to-size statue that allows you to zipline into Godzilla’s mouth to perform a mission.

(17) UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS. In these homes, it’s not the staff you’ll find below stairs: “Truly, madly, deeply: meet the people turning their basements into secret fantasy worlds” in The Guardian.

…Shron needed the perfect basement because, for nearly 30 years, he had dreamed of building a life-size replica of a 1970s Canadian VIA Rail railway carriage inside his house, the exact train that took him from Toronto to Montreal to visit his grandmother when he was a little boy.

Step inside Shron’s basement today and you will be greeted by a 200lb blue-and-yellow train door. As you pass through it, an MP3 player will hiss the sounds of air circulation accompanied by the squeaking of gangway connections. Inside the carriage there are rows of vintage reclinable red-and-orange-striped seats, luggage racks, a real VIA garbage can removed from a scrapped train and a metal sign instructing passengers that smoking is indeed permitted. What Shron couldn’t find on the scrap heap, he made. He printed out orange litter bags, custom-printed napkins and engraved wine glasses.

“The great thing was it ended up looking exactly as I’d envisioned it,” the 45-year-old says of his basement train, which took him four-and-a-half years to build and cost $10,000 (the scrapped carriage alone cost $5,000). “I fell in love with VIA trains from the age of two – I became madly obsessed, it’s all I would talk about, all I wanted.” Shron recreated the train that he took to visit family to tap into “that very warm, comfortable, positive energy” he felt as a child. “I get a little bit of that every time I go down to the train.”

Shron’s basement is an unusual thing, but it is perhaps a little more common than you’d expect. A number of people have created their own “worlds” underneath their homes. In late May, the listing for a Maryland mansion went viral after a Twitter user discovered a fake town inside the basement. The basement features cobbled streets, 15 shopfronts, fake flowers and real vintage cars. But even this isn’t unusual. More than a decade ago, a YouTube video documented the basement of John Scapes, an Illinois man who had built an 1890s street under his home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shatner saw the article and lashed out —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) UP THE AMAZON. Publishers Lunch reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(13) COMICS SECTON.

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

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

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

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

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

Marcy: You want her to be Zoe from Firefly.

Jennie: I was thinking more Ripley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SFFAudio’s thread starts here. They also say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 8/24/20 The Word For Scroll Is Pixel

(1) CULTURE CANCEL. Andrew Liptak tells Tor.com readers “Amazon’s Culture TV Series No Longer in the Works”. He also reports, “Ringworld doesn’t seem to be moving forward.” His source is Den of Geek, which has it from Utopia creator Dennis Kelly who said:

“In the end, I just think the estate didn’t want to go through with it. It wasn’t the material. They hadn’t seen anything [he had written], it was just because I think they weren’t ready to do it, for whatever reason. I’m a little mystified myself, to be honest.”

(2) ANOTHER NASFIC GOODY. The Columbus 2020 NASFiC published a Coloring Book of illustrations by some of their art show participants, including Artist Guest of Honor Stephanie Law. Download from Google Drive here.

(3) LEVYING A TAXONOMY. James Wallace Harris asks “When Did E. M. Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’ Become Science Fiction?” at Classics of Science Fiction.

In 1909 E. M. Forster’s story “The Machine Stops” was published in the November issue of The Oxford and Cambridge Review. It is a dystopian tale about a future society run by a machine. Forster was replying to H. G. Wells novel, A Modern Utopia serialized in the Fortnightly Review in 1904 and 1905. Neither writer thought they were writing science fiction because, first, the term did not yet exist, and second, because Wells was promoting scientific socialism and Forster was protesting it. However, both stories had all the trappings of science fiction.

A Modern Utopia is seldom remembered by science fiction fans, but “The Machine Stops” is considered one of the classics of the genre, and often reprinted in retrospective anthologies of science fiction short stories.

(4) MERCURY RISING. The Right Stuff, a new scripted original series begins airing October 9 on Disney+.

Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak, in “The First Trailer for Disney+’s The Right Stuff Shows Off a Familiar Story of Heroics”, takes this approach:

…What many of these stories boil down to is that a group of white men worked really hard to reach the Moon, and did.

To be sure, it’s an incredible achievement. But it’s not the full story, and a new body of works like Hidden Figures, Apple’s For All Mankind, Mercury 13, and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut novels have begun to reinterpret and puncture the mythos that’s surrounded Apollo for decades, highlighting the role that marginalized mathematicians, engineers, designers, and astronaut candidates played in that epic story.

(5) ANOTHER STAY-AT-HOME RECOMMENDATION. From the Time to Eat the Dogs podcast, “The Argument Against Human Colonies in Space”, via LitHub.

Time to Eat the Dogs is a podcast about science, history, and exploration. Each week, Michael Robinson interviews scientists, journalists, and adventurers about life at the extreme.

In today’s episode, Daniel Deudney makes the argument against the human colonization of space. He suggests that Space Expansionism is a dangerous project, a utopian ideal that masks important risks to human civilization. His latest book is Dark Skies: Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics, and the Ends of Humanity….

Michael Robinson: You make the point in your book that futurists are people who are kind of connected to this idea of technological futurism, especially in space. Futurists are also usually space expansionists. I was thinking about that. I’m like, why would that have to be? Because there are all kinds of, let’s say, technologies of space that don’t require expansionism. You have all kinds of remote rovers, for example, and telescopes. So what’s the connection between space, futurism, and people who want to expand or colonize space?

Daniel Deudney: Well, there’s lots of different ideas in space expansionism. And certainly one of the most basic is exploration to acquire knowledge. Think about geographic exploration as a type of scientific activity where one goes to different places and makes, you know, empirical observations about those places. That’s what exploration is. So geography is a science in an important way. And that activity, as you intimated, doesn’t really require humans nearly as much as it will get in the past. This is one of the unique features of space exploration to date in comparison, say, to the exploration of the ocean or the Arctic or the atmosphere. We have robotic vehicles that have gone to Mars. Many of the bodies in the solar system have been visited by probes of increasing capability. And humans have only been briefly—50 years ago—to the moon. And so there is a sense in which a kind of prostatic or a robotic exploration has been occurring.

And the reason for this is kind of obvious, which is that the cost of putting a human into space and keeping a human alive is about the same as it was 50 years ago. Very high, very difficult. And the cost of sending a probe has been getting successively cheaper. This is, of course, because the generic technologies people say, oh, space technology has been advancing. Well, the technologies that have been advancing that are most important have not really been unique to space. They’ve been the same technologies rooted in revolutions and solid-state physics that underlay the Internet censors, obviously computing capability, communications. Think about the amount of bandwidth that we now etch into tiny parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, say, compared to what the electric telegraph could do. Bandwidth has been the big story.

(6) INFORMED TERROR. Spacefaring Kitten is “Paying a visit to Lovecraft Country” at Nerds of a Feather.

…When the bulby-eyed Lovecraft statue was finally retired in 2015, his most ardent admirers were so unhappy that they even returned the trophies they had previously won. As much Lovecraftiana is published as before, but the most memorable new works explicitly take aim at the racial attitudes of Lovecraft and his works. Victor LaValle’s “Ballad of Black Tom” rewrote the “The Horror at Red Hook” from the viewpoint of a black protagonist, and other such works are making it hard to even think about Lovecraft without considering his politics.

In Lovecraft Country, all the Lovecraftian monstrosities are there to make a very specific political point. Indeed, Shoggoths are roaming the night and there are things with way too many eyes and tentacles (and consonants in their names), but evil-wise they are nothing compared to the darkness of Jim Crow. It’s a good premise, even though it reduces the Lovecraftian to a gallery of slimy monsters, missing all the bleak lonely horror that I would actually consider Lovecraft’s claim to fame. Beings from alien dimensions and the fact that there used to be towns where non-whites are killed if they don’t leave before the sun sets are both terrifying.

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

August 24 – Pluto Demoted Day

PLUTO’S STATUS [NASA]:

Pluto’s classification as a planet has had a history of changes. Since 2006, per the International Astronomical Union’s planetary criteria, Pluto isn’t considered a planet because it hasn’t cleared the neighborhood around its orbit of other objects. However, it does meet IAU’s criteria for what constitutes a dwarf planet.

Pluto Demoted Day now takes place every year to mark that very occasion. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

August 24, 1966  — Fantastic Voyage premiered. It would lose out at NYCon 3 to Star Trek’s “The Menagerie” for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Richard Fleischer and produced by Saul David. The screenplay by Harry Kleiner from a story by Jerome Bixby and Otto Clement. The cast was Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, Donald Pleasence, and Arthur Kennedy. Asimov wrote the novelization which came out six months before the film leading to the belief that it’s based on that novel. Critics generally liked it with one saying saying it was the best SF film since Destination Moon. It however didn’t catch on with public and was a box office failure. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an incredible 91% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 24, 1872 – Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm.  Signed caricatures and was generally known as “Max”; when Bernard Shaw, whom he succeeded as drama critic for the (British) Saturday Review, wrote “The younger generation is knocking at the door; and as I open it there steps spritely in the incomparable Max”, that too stuck.  MB, then 26, celebrated since his Oxford days, was and remained deft and immaculate, treating himself as he did others, e.g. “I was a modest, good-natured boy.  It was Oxford that made me insufferable.”  Unfortunately for satire a blade seems just a strip of metal if we don’t see it cut.  Love of MB, or Jane Austen, or Lady Murasaki, calls for knowing their world.  MB is ours by virtue of Zuleika (rhymes with bleak-ahDobson, one further novel, six shorter stories, fictional memoirs in Seven Men and Two Others (expanded 1950 from Seven Men); he did much more.  Here is a caricature of himself.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1896 – Stanton Coblentz.  A score of novels, six dozen shorter stories, fifty poems; more in history, criticism, other nonfiction.  Clute and Langford complain “never a smooth stylist, nor an imaginative plotter”, but “he had a strong gift for the description of ingeniously conceived alien environments, and was often regarded as … best capable of conveying the sense of wonder”.  Memoir Adventures of a Freelancer.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1899 Jorge Luis Borges. I’m reasonably sure my first encounter with him was at University with the assignment of The Library of Babel. I’m not deeply read in him but I also loved The Book of Imaginary Beings, and though not genre, recommend The Last Interview and Other Conversations for an excellent look at him as a writer. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born August 24, 1915 Alice Sheldon. Alice Sheldon who wrote as James Tiptree Jr. was one of our most brilliant short story writers ever. She only wrote two novels, Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air but they too are worth reading even if critics weren’t pleased by them. And who here knows why Up the Walls of the World waswithdrawn from the Hugo nominations at Seacon ‘79?  (Died 1987.) (CE)
  • Born August 24, 1926 – Bea Mahaffey.  Edited MysticScience Stories and Other Worlds Science StoriesUniverse with Ray Palmer (sometimes jointly as “George Bell”).  Member of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Spoke at Hydracon.  Visiting the United Kingdom she was celebrated in Northern Ireland with BEACon.  Here she is pulling strings at NYcon II (14th Worldcon; left, Lee Hoffman; center, Dave Kyle).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1932 William Morgan Sheppard. Best remembered I think as Blank Reg in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. Genre wise I’d add him being the Klingon Prison Warden In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Merrit in The Prestige, the rather scary Soul Hunter on Babylon 5 and a Vulcan Science Minister in Star Trek. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born August 24, 1936 A. S. Byatt, 84. Author of three genre novels, two of which I’m familiar with, Possession: A Romance which became a rather decent film, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature-winning The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, and one I’ve never heard of, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods,  but I’m actually much, much more fond of her short fiction. I’d start with the Little Black Book of Stories and Angels & Insects collections. (CE) 
  • Born August 24, 1951 Tony Amendola, 69. Prolly best known for being the Jaffa master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1. He’s also had recurring roles as Edouard Kagame of Liber8 on Continuum and on Once Upon a Time as Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto. His list of one-off genre appearances is extensive and includes AngelCharmed,  Lois & Clark, Space: Above and Beyond, the Crusade spin-off of Babylon 5X FilesVoyagerDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective AgencyTerminator: The Sarah Connor ChroniclesAliasShe-Wolf of London and Kindred: The Embraced. He’s also been a voice actor in gaming with roles in such games as World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorWorld of Warcraft: Legion and World of Final Fantasy. (CE)
  • Born August 24, 1951 – Orson Scott Card, 69.  Five dozen novels, a hundred shorter stories, a score of poems; video games, comics, film; nonfiction.  “Books to Look For” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction May 87 – Dec 93.  InterGalactic Medicine Show 2005-2019.  Letters, essays, reviews in DestiniesGalaxies (France), The Green PagesSF Magazine (Japan), SF ReviewStarship.  Interviewed in «Alien Contact» JahrbuchFiction (France), The Leading EdgeLightspeedLocus, NY Rev of SFPhénixSF Eye.  Campbell Award for Best New Writer (as it then was); first author to win both Hugo and Nebula in consecutive years; three more Hugos; Mythopoeic Award; Phoenix; Skylark; Ditmar; two Geffens; Grand Prix de l’ImaginaireKurd Laßwitz PreisSeiun.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1957 Stephen Fry, 62. He’s Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta, and he’s the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit franchise. His best role is as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows though he made an interesting narrator in the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and not to be overlooked is that he’s the narrator  for all seven of the Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings. (CE)
  • Born August 24, 1961 – H.R.H. Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian, 59.  A score of novels for us, many young-adult fantasy.  Medals of the Legion d’Honneur and of Art et Lettres.  An heiress to the ancient throne of Armenia (thus entitled “Her Royal Highness”).  [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1983 – Jessica Wick, 37.  Short stories; poems in Aoife’s Kiss, Chi*ZineIdeomancerMythic DeliriumStar*LineStrange HorizonsUncanny; 2008 Rhysling anthology.  Can be found now in Shimmerzine.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Editor’s Note: These links worked earlier today but now I can’t get the images to load at that site.

  • Half Full raises 2020 to mythical heights.
  • Bliss thinks there are some songs spacemen should let alone.

(11) RACE IN ASTERIX. Brigid Alverson and  Calvin Reid, in the Publishers Weekly story: “Race and Representation: Relaunching Asterix in America”, say that Papercutz is reprinting the Asterix comics in America, but is worried about what to do about the “blatant white supremacy” of Asterix scenes with Black characters.

…Acclaimed cartoonist Ronald Wimberly is an Eisner Award nominee, a Glyph Award-winner, was resident comics artist at the Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême, home of the annual French comics festival, and is a media and cultural critic. He is also the editor/founder of the broadsheet pop culture and art critical journal LAAB: An Art Magazine, where he has written about depictions of Blackness in comics. He described the Asterix comics as “blatantly white supremacist.”

“It’s clear that Uderzo has the chops to draw a myriad of things,” said Wimberly, who saw some of the original Asterix art while living in France. “It’s true that he has a limited bag of tricks for characters, but he takes the time to differentiate by type and by importance. He has three traits to differentiate slaves from other characters: black skin, full lips, and ‘oriental’ clothing and accessories.”

Wimberly continued, “Even a child knows that the Romans kept all types of slaves and promoted ethnicities of all types to high position, so it’s easy to see that the purpose of making all of the slaves black is a modern, white supremacist device.”

…[Papercutz president and publisher Terry Nantier] says that the publisher did agree to a few subtle changes—the enormous red lips have been recolored and subdued, up to a point. Asked about adding, for example, an explanatory essay to each book that provides context about the history of race and representation, Nantier said he continues to negotiate with Hachette. “But this is a classic, and we have to keep that in mind,” he says.

“The series has caricatures of absolutely everyone, including the Gauls,” Nantier says in its defense. “Everyone is skewered, every nationality, and this was the way 50-60 years ago that Black people were caricatured. There are issues of stereotypical representation which by today’s standards are a problem. We weren’t able to get much changed, but there were some changes.”

(12) ELLER’S THIRD BRADBURY BOOK. The University of Illinois Press is running a “Ray Bradbury Birthday Bundle Sale” with prices good til August 28. (See prices at the link.)

Happy 100th birthday, Ray Bradbury! The Press is excited to announce that today, on the Bradbury Centennial, we are releasing the final addition to Jonathan Eller’s Ray Bradbury trilogy, Bradbury Beyond Apollo. Drawing on numerous interviews with Bradbury and privileged access to personal papers and private collections, Eller, the director of the Bradbury Center, uses this final installment to examine the often-overlooked second half of Bradbury’s working life.

(13) WHAT DOES YOUR EMPLOYER REALLY MEAN? “Five Pocket-Sized Paperbacks and the Art of Sneaky Reading” — James Davis Nicoll initiates his Tor.com audience in the way to improve each shining hour:

… Passing the long hours reading was officially forbidden.  But…they can’t have meant it. The security uniform boasted a breast pocket just the right size and shape to conceal a mass market paperback.  There’s a hint right there.

Which books made their way into that pocket? I am glad you asked. Here are my top five.

(14) LOOKNG OVER THE SHELVES. Paul Weimer leads a Q&A with the author of Annihilation Aria in “6 Books with Michael Underwood” at Nerds of a Feather.

5) What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

A series I’ve thought about recently that I think made a bigger impact on me than I’d realized is the Death’s Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (starts with Dragon Wing). The series presents a universe where the four elements each have their own world in a multiverse. I remember a strong travelogue/magical setting tourism angle in those books, and they made a big impression on me in terms of worldbuilding and the idea of several connected worlds, each with their own unique characteristics and cultures. I’ve riffed on that type of worldbuilding in Genrenauts as well as in different ways in some projects that haven’t yet reached publication.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Lord of the RIngs: The Return of the King Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George warns us to be prepared for Frodo’s “armor that looks like a prom dress,” terrifying scenes of cherry tomato eating, and seven different climaxes a half hour after the film should have ended.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/21/20 Pounded
In The Scroll By The Anthropomorphic Concept
Of Pixels

(1) COLUMBUS NASFIC OPENING CEREMONIES. [Item by David Doering.] Watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Columbus NASFiC, I noted the number of apologies for lack of the in-person meetings.

However, I also think we should celebrate that we are LIVING an SF novel. If we had written this 20 years ago, it would have been SF–real-time linkups with AV from around the globe!! Is that KEWL or what??

We did NOT have to cancel. We still have a great slate of programming. AND we still can get together to honor Mike Resnick.

I should add that we also don’t have worry about scaring each other with pathogens if we were in person. Thus potentially setting off a “War of the Worlds” scenario with all of us “aliens” descending on a single city only to be doomed by GERMS.

(2) ROGUE NASFIC. Chris Garcia is the virtual Columbus NASFiC’s Editor Guest of Honor. The con newsletter made everyone aware he’s also got some real-life concerns right now:  

Please share your positive thoughts, hopes, prayers – as appropriate – and spare a moment of contemplation for Christopher J. Garcia (GOH), his wonderful family Vanessa, John Paul and Ben, as they await news of their home, and neighbourhood, evacuated as they are from Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz County CZU August Lightning Complex Fire. Certainly, we all wish them well. (submitted by James Bacon)

In better Chris Garcia news, check out his Rogue NASFiC YouTube channel of extra programming. As Chris explained on Facebook:

This is what happens when I’m given the power of Guest of Honor without oversight!

This YouTube Channel has some great videos of interviews and more! I’ll be adding as the Weekend (and beyond!) goes on!

Coming soon will be our Podcast channel!

I wanna thank the entire team of the NASFiC for letting me have a little fun!!!

Here’s one example:

(3) NINA ALLAN FIRES A CANON. [Item by PhilRM.] Here’s another very interesting piece by Nina Allan, discussing, among other things**, the notion of an SFF canon:  “Weird Wednesdays #11: the question of lineage”. There’s a well-known quote by Borges, from his essay on Kafka: “The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.” Nina’s take (which I completely agree with) is that every writer creates their own canon; I’d extend this to say that every reader creates their own canon also.

**Her piece also convinced me that I really need to read William Golding’s The Inheritors and The Spire, which sound like fascinating books.

…I have explored and will continue to explore some of the ‘canonical’ works from science fiction’s so-called Golden Age – not because I feel I should but because I am interested. I enjoy thinking about these things, I enjoy writing criticism, and I happen to believe that the more widely you read around a subject, the more fiercely you can argue your corner, the more enjoyment you can derive. And having said that, I saw an interesting comment somewhere at some point during the post-Hugo furore with words to the effect that it is actually the middle generation of science fiction writers – Le Guin, Butler, Russ, Delany, Disch, Haldeman, Pohl – who are the true pioneers of the American tradition, who not only wrote better then but speak better now to the generation of writers currently winning Hugos. That definitely rings true for me, though it might not for you. But that’s the beauty of such contentions: they are there to be discussed.  

(4) SFF WRITERS ON AMW PODCAST. The American Writers Museum in Chicago is doing a series of science fiction-themed podcast episodes for the Ray Bradbury Centennial.

In celebration of Bradbury, the AWM will also air in August on its newly launched podcast four conversations with contemporary science fiction and fantasy writers. Each weekly episode of the podcast features one of the AWM’s past live programs and covers a range of topics including process, writing influences, and the life of a writer. J. Michael Straczynski, author of Becoming Superman headlines the August 10 episode. On the August 17 episode, Annalee Newitz, author of The Future of Another Timeline, is joined by journalist Dan Sinker. Hugo-Award winner John Scalzi, author of The Consuming Fire, is featured on the August 24 episode. Isabel Ibanez, author of Woven in Moonlight, closes out the month on the August 31 episode.

Episodes already online —

(5) THE POWER OF FIVE. James Davis Nicoll has assembled another listicle for Tor.com: “Five SF Books That Would Make Great Musicals”.

If there is one lesson to be learned from Hamilton’s Broadway success, it’s that a surprising diverse number of themes can be successfully turned into musicals. After all, who would have believed Ontario’s steel town—just a second—I have just been informed that the musical Hamilton is not in fact about Hamilton, Ontario, but rather about a significant figure in the American Revolution. I see.

Nevertheless, my point stands: almost everything can be turned into a musical, given sufficient talent. Even science fiction epics. Which brings me to the exciting topic of What Science Fiction Works I Would Like to See as Musicals.

(6)  HARRYHAUSEN SCULPTURE. This piece is up for bid at Nate D. Sanders Auctions until August 27. “Ray Harryhausen Original Bronze Sculpture — One of 12 in His Limited Edition Self-Portrait Entitled ‘Giving Life to Fantasy'”

Ray Harryhausen original sculpture, #10 in the limited edition of 12 created in the early 1990s, and then cast in 2010, the last work of fine art by the cinematic trailblazer before his passing. Entitled ”Giving Life to Fantasy”, this self-portrait sculpture depicts Harryhausen as he wanted to be remembered, filming the animated creatures of his imagination: the Cyclops and Dragon in their climactic battle in ”The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”. Other personal touches in this detailed sculpture include Harryhausen’s Giant Octopus from ”It Came from Beneath the Sea” in a box on the floor (along with his inspiration, the gorilla from ”King Kong”), and his Brontosaurus from ”The Animal World” on the side table. Signed and numbered by Harryhausen on the corner of the table, ”Ray Harryhausen 10/12”. Sculpture stands on a green marble and wooden base, with entire presentation measuring 19” x 11.5” x approximately 11” tall, and weighing nearly 50 lbs. Some light patina to bronze, overall near fine condition.

(7) HUNGER GAMES IN EVERYDAY LIFE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] This is the lede of an article by John Reed in the August 20 Financial Times about protests against the Thai government.

“It is a morning ritual at every Thai school, steeped in tradition and nationalist decorum: children stand still and sing the national anthem as the kingdom’s blue, white, and red flag is raised.

But this week, amid a growing ‘Free People’ youth protest movement, children across Thailand raised their hands during the ceremony to make the protesters’ trademark, defiant three-fingered salute.

The gesture originated in The Hunger Games, the dystopian young adult franchise of books and films, but has been adopted as an emblem of a movement that has spread from university campuses to secondary schools…

…”it has become a peacefully powerful symbol of anti-authoritarianism,’ said Viengrat Nethipo, assistant professor of political science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.  ‘Recently it’s been described among youth as symbolic of the French Revolution’s values of liberty, equality, and fraternity, so it’s easily adopted as a symbol.'”

(8) STATUE READY FOR PRIME TIME. [Item by rcade.] Medusa, a 2008 statue by the Argentine-Italian sculptor Luciano Garbati, is getting a seven-foot tall bronze version in New York City across from the New York Criminal Courthouse where Harvey Weinstein was put on trial. NSFW image in a tweet here

Garbati’s statue is a response to Benvenuto Cellini’s famous Perseus with the Head of Medusa statue and the idea that Medusa is the villain of the story.

Quartz explains in “The story behind the Medusa statue that has become the perfect avatar for women’s rage” – 

The original Greek myth of Medusa offers plenty to be angry about. The monstrous being with snakes for hair starts out as a human woman, who Poseidon rapes in Athena’s temple. The goddess then punishes Medusa by turning her into a Gorgon and exiling her. Perseus is later sent on an errand to bring Medusa’s head to King Polydectes. Equipped with a mirrored shield, winged sandals, and a special sack for her head, Perseus creeps up on Medusa while she lies sleeping, cuts off her head, and then uses it as a weapon for turning enemies into stone.”

Garbati says, “The representations of Perseus, he’s always showing the fact that he won, showing the head…if you look at my Medusa…she is determined, she had to do what she did because she was defending herself. It’s quite a tragic moment.”

(9) STEVEN UNIVERSE AND SHE-RA. “In Conversation: Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson” at Paper.

…With Steven Universe and She-Ra both having ended this year, PAPER invited showrunners Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson to sit down with one another and reflect on the legacies of their respective series, getting their start in comics, the state of representation in the animated field and where things go from here.

PAPER: Since you’re both wrapping up your respective series’, looking back at what each of you have accomplished, in those series what are you proud of, what do you wish you could have improved on or pushed further?

Rebecca Sugar: Okay, well looking back on everything, I’m really proud of what we were able to do with the characters of Garnet and Ruby and Sapphire. It really goes all the way back to the time I spent on Adventure Time and when I got a chance to do some of the earlier episodes with Marceline and Bubblegum. This was 2010 so Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still a national policy. It would be half a decade before same-sex marriage was legal in The United States and I wanted to do something with the characters of Marceline and Bubblegum but figure out how to get it on TV. The strategy at the time that I pitched was that because they’re both centuries-old, millenniums-old, had a relationship sometime in the past and they’re unpacking that in a way that would be apparent. That was the only way to be able to do something with these characters and their relationship on screen.

As I was entering my show, I really wanted to find a way to be able to show characters actively in a relationship happening in real-time. We strategized the concept of fusion to be able to explore relationships and include queer relationships. Central to that, one of the things we were excited about was to have the character of Garnet have a ton of screen time and be a main character. There were a lot of things I wanted to explore with an active relationship to parallel my own relationship. I was inventing these characters with my co-executive producer Ian Jones-Quartey, who is also my partner. We wanted to explore an active, queer relationship that would parallel a lot of our experiences with bigotry as an interracial couple.

(10) N.K. [Item by rcade.] While discussing a project called Women’s Prize for Fiction Reclaim Her Name that asked to publish one of her stories for free, then asked to publish one of her novels for free, Nora Jemisin explains how she came to write novels under the initials N.K. Thread starts here.

“(And for those wondering, I’ve said this in multiple interviews, but I did it bc at the time I was an academic starting to publish papers, and thought the initials would separate my fiction writing from my academic writing. [Yeah, this was before natural language processing.])”

Read the whole thread for how she handles a question about what the K stands for.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • August 1998Blade premiered. With Wesley Snipes as Blade, this film, the first of a trilogy, was directed by Stephen Norrington and written by David S. Goyer as based on the Marvel character developed by writer Marv Wolfman and penciller Gene Colan. It was produced by Snipes along with Peter Frankfurt and Robert Engelman. Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright and Donal Logue were the other principal cast. Marvel, along with Amen Ra Films and Imaginary Forces, were the producing film companies. It was generally well-received by critics though several thought it was way too violent. Box office-wise, it did fantastic but Marvel earned just a flat fee of $25,000. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently only give it a 55% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 21, 1872 Aubrey Beardsley. Best remembered for his often highly erotic art, ISFDB lists him as having a genre novel, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, which bears one of the longest subtitles I’ve encountered (“The story of Venus and Tannhäuser in which is set forth an exact account of the manner of State held by Madam Venus, Goddess and Meretrix under the famous Hörselberg, and containing the Adventures of Tannhäuser in that Place, his Repentance, his Journeying to Rome, and Return to the Loving Mountain”). He has two genre novellas as well, “Catullus: Carmen Cl.“ and “ Under the Hill”.  And yes, he was just twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. (Died 1898.) (CE) 
  • Born August 21, 1888 Miriam Allen deFord. Although it is said that she started writing SF when Boucher became editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she only published five of her eighteen late Forties through Fifties works there. One published there, “Mary Celestial“, was written with Boucher. And one, “A Death in the Family”,  was adapted in Night Gallery‘s second season. Best remembered as a mystery writer.  I see no indication that she’s in print in any manner these days for her SF (but three of her mysteries are available from the usual suspects) though she had two SF collections, Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow and Xenogenesis.  (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born August 21, 1911 – Anthony Boucher.  Co-founded The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with Francis McComas, co-edited with him 1949-1954, alone through ’58; two Hugos for Best Professional Magazine.  Eight Best of F&SF anthologies 1952-1959 (’52-’54 with FM).  A Treasury of SF ’59, one of our best.  Six dozen short stories.  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Russian.  Opera lover.  First translator of Borges into English, hello Evelyn Leeper.  Also detective fiction (a star there too), radio drama, poker.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1927 – Arthur Thomson.  Fanartist.  Thirty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Signature often read as “ATom”, some insist it’s just “Atom”.   Resident illustrator of Hyphen.  Back covers for Nebula.  Here is the Nov 64 Riverside Quarterly.  Here is Banana Wings 49 (repr. from An ATom Sketchbook).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, published ATom Abroad.  Official Artist of Boskone 15.  Two Novas.  Rotsler Award.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1943 – Ron Walotsky. A hundred eighty covers, fifty interiors.  Gallery in Locus 500.  Interview in SF Chronicle 214.  Magic: the Gathering cards.  Ancient Warriors of Lost Civilizations series based on horseshoe-crab shells found near his Florida home.  Here is the May 67 F&SF.  Here is Lord of Light.  Here is Earth Ship and Star Song.  Here is The Shores Beneath.  Here is Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (Souls cover bound with it is by Dieter Rottermund.)  Here is the Nov 97 Analog.  Here is Jimi Hendrix.  Artbook, Inner Visions.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1943 Lucius Shepard. Damn, I didn’t know he’d passed on. Life During Wartime which won him the Astounding Award for a Best New Writer is one seriously weird novel. And his World Fantasy Award winning The Jaguar Hunter is freaking amazing as are all his short collections. I don’t remember reading “ Barnacle Bill the Spacer” which won a Best Novella Hugo at ConFrancisco. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 21, 1956 Kim Cattrall, 64. Gracie Law in John Carpenter’s amazing Big Trouble in Little China. She also played Justine de Winter in The Return of the Musketeers, Paige Katz in Wild Palms, Lieutenant Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Linday Isley in Good v. Evil. Series wise, she was one offs in Tales of the Gold MonkeyLogan’s RunThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. (CE);
  • Born August 21, 1957 – John Howe, 63.  A hundred sixty covers, two hundred fifty interiors.  The Maps of Middle-EarthThere and Back Again with Brian Sibley; A Middle-Earth Traveler.  Here is Rip van Winkle.  Here is The Lord of the Rings (presumably not meaning to imply Gandalf is he, aiee). Here is The Once and Future King.  Here is Fool’s Errand.  Here is Créatures.  Artbooks Myth & MagicSur les terres de TolkienJohn Howe Fantasy Art WorkshopForging DragonsLost WorldsColoring Dragons.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1965 – Darynda Jones, 55.  Sixteen novels, three shorter stories.  Summa cum laude from U. New Mexico.  Sign-language interpreter.  RITA Award.  Admits to almost finishing a post-Apocalypse story while in a corner booth at a Tastee Freez, kindly has never shown the manuscript.  Lives in New Mexico with husband and two sons the Mighty Mighty Jones Boys.  Third Grave Dead Ahead NY Times Best Seller.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1968 Carrie-Anne Moss, 52. I first saw her as Tara McDonald in the Dark Justice series. Not genre, just her first video I think. Due later played Monica Howard in the “Feeding the Beast” episode of Forever Knight as her first genre role. Oddly enough her next role was as Liz Teel in the Canadian series called Matrix which has nothing to do with the Matrix film franchise where she’s Trinity. Her latest genre role was playing Jeryn Hogarth in the now defunct Netflix based Marvel Universe. (CE)
  • Born August 21, 1972 – Socorro Vegas, 48.  Premio Nacional de Poesía y Cuento «Benemérito de América»Premio Nacional de Novela Ópera Prima «Carlos Fuentes» (Mexico).  Five book-length works (Todos las islas is short stories).  We may claim “The Giant in the Moon”, see it in English here.  Other translations in CompressedConcho River ReviewThe Listening EyeLiteralThe Modern Review.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1975 Alicia Witt, 45. Her first role was at age eight as Alia Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune. Next, genre wise at least, voices Caitlin Fairchild In the animated Gen¹³ film. She has series one-offs in Twilight ZonePerson of InterestElementaryWalking DeadSupernatural and The Librarians. She showed up in an episode of the original Twin Peaks and reprised that role nearly thirty years later in Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. (CE) 

(13) DC FANDOME. In addition to everything else happening this busy weekend is the DC Fandome. It’s free and signing up is easy — here. The 24-hour event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific.

(14) GRATITUDES. In “i am grateful”, Wil Wheaton admits it’s hard for him to fall asleep because when he’s trying, that’s when anxiety works on him most aggressively. He shares a practice that has made it easier.  

…But I started doing something that’s been incredibly helpful, and I thought I’d share it.

Every night as I’m getting ready for bed, I focus on a list of things for which I am grateful. I call it “doing my gratitudes”. I just start somewhere, like “I am grateful that I am going to sleep in a warm, safe bed. I am grateful that I get to share this bed with Anne. I am grateful I have enough food.” Stuff like that. I remind myself that there is so much that is good in my life, and by thinking about those things, recognizing those things, and making space to feel grateful for them, I do not give my anxiety an opportunity to grab hold of anything and go to work on me.

… Those bright lights are so important right now, whether they are stadium lights turning night into day, or pinpricks that barely allow candlelight through black velvet. Spending time in gratitude makes it easier for me to find the light, and remember that it is there, even when I can’t see it.

(15) THE CAST IS IN HERE. SYFY Wire believes “The X-Files Cast Singing Its Theme Song On Zoom Is Now, Like The Truth, Out There”.

Did the iconic theme song for The X-Files need fan-written lyrics? If it got the cast of the sci-fi series to reunite for a musical Zoom call, then, perhaps — like the massive government archives secreting away the supernatural — it’s worth it for the greater good.

…Now how many government secrets are hidden in this song? The new lyrics — courtesy of contest winners Jennifer Large and Rebecca MacDonald — give composer Mark Snow’s classic eerie theme a twist, especially when sung by a wide-ranging collection of cast members and crew.

(16) A KIND OF WORLDBUILDING. Tiffany Meuret analyzes “Our Timely Obsession with Animal Crossing” at the SFWA Blog.

…Explanations abound for the game’s sudden explosion in popularity, but I have noticed a particularly common camaraderie among fellow writers. What is it about this game, with so many other open-concept games already in existence, that draws writers to it with such gusto? The timing of release and the sweetness of the game in such dark times are no doubt factors, but I believe it goes deeper than that, down to the very core of our creative hearts. 

…From that moment on, I unconsciously spun the narrative of my experience. From the clothes I wore to where I placed the coin-operated tourist binoculars I’d shot out of a balloon with a slingshot, I was crafting a story within this story-less game. This is the garden where I breed pink roses. Here is my carnival for when I need a bit of a thrill, outfitted with a popcorn machine and a teacup ride. There is the playground and community pool where I’ll meet my friends on the weekend, lined with color-coded tables for playing chess. Every piece of wallpaper, every color, every pair of jelly sandals I place on my chibi feet are dishing out tone and theme and mood. 

And then there are the villagers. They are a delight to witness as they flit about the island, munching on popsicles, singing, or sprinting Naruto-style on the beach. I’ve dedicated far too many hours to crafting and designing spaces on my island that my residents might enjoy, despite many of the items being stationary and non-interactive. My imagination does all the work the game does not. 

(17) TALL TYPO TALE. [Item by rcade.] The new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator maps the entire world so you can fly over it, using AI and lots of mapping data. Engadget reports “A typo created a 212-story monolith in ‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’”  

Alexander Muscat tweets, “In Microsoft Flight Simulator a bizarrely eldritch, impossibly narrow skyscraper pierces the skies of Melbourne’s North like a suburban Australian version of Half-Life 2’s Citadel, and I am -all for it-.”

(18) VANISHING POINT. BBC Documentary covers “Rulebreakers: How I disappear”.

In Japan, if you want to disappear from your life, you can just pick up the phone and a ‘night moving company’ will turn you into one of the country’s ‘johatsu,’ or literally ‘evaporated people.’ You can cease to exist. Meet the people who choose to disappear and the people who are left behind.

(19) NOT COYOTE AND ROADRUNNER. But there are prints from two animals. “Cliff collapses in Grand Canyon, revealing 313 million-year-old footprints, park says”Yahoo! News has the story.

A geology professor hiking in the Grand Canyon made a “surprising discovery” — the oldest recorded tracks of their kind.

After a cliff collapsed in Grand Canyon National Park, a boulder with fossilized tracks was revealed, park officials said in a Thursday news release. The fossil footprints are about 313 million years old, according to researchers.

“These are by far the oldest vertebrate tracks in Grand Canyon, which is known for its abundant fossil tracks” Stephen Rowland, a paleontologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said in the news release. “More significantly, they are among the oldest tracks on Earth of shelled-egg-laying animals, such as reptiles, and the earliest evidence of vertebrate animals walking in sand dunes.”

(20) IT’S BACK. Like The Blob or The Thing, there’s no stopping Pumpkin Spice from showing up anytime it wants. Morning Consult takes notice: “With Seasonal Products Making an Early Return This Year, Consumers Weigh In on Sweet Spot for Promotions”.

Pumpkin spice came early this year — too early, according to majorities of consumers. 

Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin-flavored coffee and other fall treats returned to the menu earlier than ever this year, the company said, arriving at participating locations Wednesday. Starbucks Corp. has yet to confirm the return date for its much-loved pumpkin spice latte, but one location reportedly said the product would launch on Aug. 28. 

While some social media users are eager for the early return of fall products — a silver lining in an otherwise difficult year — new polling from Morning Consult shows that many consumers would prefer to see products promoted closer to the seasons or holidays with which they’re associated….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Metal Monsterette is a fun family film made in 1957 with kids and cousins by Ed Emshwiller. His daughter Eve is the heroine and daughter Susan is the mad scientist Dr. Majenius. 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/20/20 The Pixel Came Back From Nothing At Scroll

(1) NASFIC FAN FUND AUCTION. Michael J. Lowrey makes a last-minute appeal: We still need items for auction pretty desperately: books, fanzines, tuckerizations, fannish memorabilia, whatever, for the Virtual FanFund Auction at the virtual NASFIC on Facebook.” Post items there. The auction starts Friday. Lowrey says — 

An auction item post should include the following:

Item Name
Description
Minimum Bid

Please note that if your Fan Fund Auction Donation requires shipping, you are expected to pay for that shipping as an additional donation. If you wish to restrict shipping to your home country, say so up front.

This is a Silent Fan Fund Auction, to be held on behalf of TAFF (the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, http://taff.org.uk/), GUFF (the Get Up-and-over Fan Fund, https://taff.org.uk/guff.html), DUFF (the Down Under Fan Fund, https://downunderfanfund.wordpress.com/), and LAFF (The Latin American Fan Fund). These funds serve to enable fans to travel to other countries and continents to attend their major conventions and meet the local fans, people they may know only from letter columns, email, or chatty websites. And to get it all done, the funds depend on contributions of fans like you… and, of course, benefit auctions.

This is your chance to pick up any number of interesting things… art, books, fanzines, pulp magazines, t-shirts, things that somehow involve cats… the opportunity to be “Tuckerized” into a work of fiction… or other peculiar or “fannish” stuff.

Donations for the fan fund auction will be accepted via posts to this event, and we also accept monetary donations via paypal to n.a.taff.2020@gmail.com. If you would like the proceeds from your auction donation to go to a particular fan fund, indicate that in your post. The proceeds from donations without designations will be evenly split between the fan funds.

(2) SHIELDS UP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Chris Lindahl, in the Indiewire story “Embroiled In A Legal Battle, Nichelle Nichols’ Family Seeks GoFundMe Help For Star Trek Icon”, says that Nichols’s son, Kyle Johnson, is suing her manager, Gilbert Bell, saying that Bell is taking advantage of Nichols’s infirmity to abuse her fortune.  Nichols was diagnosed with dementia in 2013 and had a stroke in 2015.  The GoFundMe campaign which has raised $64,760 of its $100,000 goal is under “Shields Up Nichelle Nichols.”

Now allegedly suffering from dementia, Nichelle Nichols, 87, who played Uhura on the original “Star Trek” in the late 1960s, is embroiled in an ongoing legal battle involving her manager, Gilbert Bell. Alleging Bell took advantage of Nichols over the last decade, Nichols’ family has taken to GoFundMe to help raise money for the icon’s legal battle.

The most recent court action came earlier this month, when Kyle Johnson, Nichols’ son, filed a cross complaint against Bell. The complaint is in response to a 2019 lawsuit filed by Bell against Johnson, where Bell alleges that it is Johnson’s actions that are harming Nichols — while Bell has always had her best interests in mind.

Johnson has denied Bell’s allegations of wrongdoing against him. Bell has not yet responded in court to Johnson’s allegations. IndieWire has reached out to lawyers for Johnson, Bell, and a representative for Nichols….

(3) THE CAISSONS KEEP ROLLING ALONG. I would like to contest the claim in Steve Davidson’s title “The Science Fiction Cannon is Not a Thing; Canon is.”

…There’s also the contention that Science Fiction is a continuum, an on-going, centuries old dialogue of call and response, writers reacting to published works and offering up variations, counter-arguments, expansions in response. “We stand on the shoulders of giants” is an expression often used to acknowledge that without the work perfomed by previous generations of authors, editors, publishers, artists and fans, contemporary SF would not be where it is today.

That latter is often negatively receieved these days, and it shouldn’t be. Much is made about contemporary SF rejecting the all white heterosexual european male colonialist based SF of the 40s, 50s and 60s – but of course without the existence of such a body of work, there would be nothing to react to or reject. Call it a benign correction as the field expands to incorporate diverse voices or call it a war against patriarchy, in both estimations there is something that is being addressed and re-evaluated (if not pushed back against and excoriated).

Is there an SF Canon? Yes. But is it a moving scale? Is it inviolate? Is it mandatory?

No, no and no.

(4) CASTING THE CANON. And Doris V. Sutherland cannot resist trying to answer the question for another genre, “What is the Horror Canon?”

…Picture a bookshelf, completely empty and ready to have a tidy set of volumes lined up on it. Now imagine that someone has decided to fill it with the canonical works of horror literature. What would they start with? Frankenstein and Dracula would be obvious choices. These may well be followed with reasonably-sized collections of Poe and Lovecraft stories. Next, let’s add the complete ghost stories of M. R. James.

Now pause for thought. That’s five books – and already we’ve covered a pretty substantial chunk of the most influential horror fiction in the English language. Regardless of what else we put on the shelf – and it’s easy enough to think of further titles, from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to The Exorcist – it’s hard to deny that those above five books will cover a pretty big percentage of whatever horror canon we end up with.

Now try to imagine a bookshelf with the science fiction canon. It’s a taller order: off the top of my head, we’d have at least four books if we wanted to represent Isaac Asimov alone (I, Robot and the Foundation trilogy). When we factor in Verne, Wells, Heinlein, Clarke, Bester, Ellison, Le Guin… well, let’s just say we’re going to end up with more than five books.

So, the horror canon is smaller than the science fiction canon – or, to phrase that differently, more tightly-focused. Thinking about it, this makes sense. Horror is a genre where less is more – look at how many classics of horror fiction are short stories rather than novels, for one. And when I look back at our hypothetical bookshelf of canonical horror, I have to wonder if those books might be better described not as a horror canon, but as a set of horror archetypes.

(5) SPIRITUAL FORMATION. John Scalzi enters the confessional at Whatever and gets it all off his chest: “Okay, Sure, It’s My Fault Science Fiction is the Way It Is Right Now”.

The dimwitted bigot brigade finally came across my piece about the Science Fiction canon from a couple of weeks ago and had a predictable spasm about it, asserting how it was evidence that (I’m paraphrasing from various sources, here) a) science fiction and fantasy was dying, b) traditional publishing (the sf/f parts of it anyway) is dying too, c) I’m responsible in some measure for a) and b), despite d) the fact that apparently I don’t actually sell and/or only sell through byzantine sleight of hand by the publishing industry for reasons and also e) I suck, f) which is why I don’t want people to read older works because then they would realize that, and while we’re at it g) modern sf/f is infested with terrible work from people who aren’t straight white dudes, h) which I, a straight white dude, am also somehow responsible for, and so in short, i) everything is my fault, and j) I am simultaneously a nobody and also history’s worst monster.

It’s a lot! I think it must be tiring to be a dimwitted bigot, thinking about me….

(6) I’M BATMAN. Will there be as many of them as there were of Spartacus? Yahoo! Entertainment reports “Ben Affleck To Return As Batman In Upcoming ‘Flash’ Movie That Also Will Feature Michael Keaton As Dark Knight”.

…Affleck reportedly got the script for The Flash at the end of last week and agreed to board the project.

“He’s a very substantial part of the emotional impact of the movie. The interaction and relationship between Barry and Affleck’s Wayne will bring an emotional level that we haven’t seen before,” Muschietti tells Vanity Fair who broke the news. “It’s Barry’s movie, it’s Barry’s story, but their characters are more related than we think. They both lost their mothers to murder, and that’s one of the emotional vessels of the movie. That’s where the Affleck Batman kicks in.”

Another reason feature mythology-wise why Affleck’s Batman is coming back to The Flash, and that’s that Miller’s Flash considers him to be the original Dark Knight, the guy he fought alongside in Justice League. Hence, per Muschietti, it was necessary to have Affleck’s Batman as a starting point: “He’s the baseline. He’s part of that unaltered state before we jump into Barry’s adventure…There’s a familiarity there,” he further tells Vanity Fair.

(7) STORYBUNDLE. Available for the next three weeks: The Exclusive Dark Fantasy and SF Bundle – Curated by Douglas Smith.

2020 has been a scary year. Like some dark fantasy or horror story. Or a dystopian tale about the end of the world.

Why not embrace that spirit? Show this year from hell that you can take whatever it dishes out, because you know what dark fantasies and horror stories are really like. And you’ve seen more ends of the world than 2020 could even dream of.

…Read about curses and ghosts, about Norse gods on the Canadian prairies and what happens after Ragnarök and the end of the world. Read how life on Earth may end if we don’t stop killing our planet. Read twenty-one tales of personal apocalypses (because someone’s world is always ending), and stories from a very special and very strange bookstore. Read about post-human biopunk and day-after-tomorrow climate change adventure. Read about the boy who is either a scrawny, bullied, neglected son of insane parents or the imprisoned leader of a death cult dedicated to the goddess of discord.

…For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Picking Up the Ghost by Tone Milazzo
  • Wasps at the Speed of Sound by Derryl Murphy
  • The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumière
  • Tombstone Blues by Chadwick Ginther

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SEVEN more books, for a total of eleven!

  • Bullettime by Nick Mamatas
  • It’s Not the End and Other Lies by Matt Moore
  • Chimerascope by Douglas Smith
  • Over the Darkened Landscape by Derryl Murphy
  • Objects of Worship by Claude Lalumière
  • Too Far Gone by Chadwick Ginther
  • Wikiworld by Paul Di Filippo.

(8) DESEGREGATION DRAMATIZED. Series developers include Black Panther’s lead actor and the creator of The Orville: “Chadwick Boseman, Seth MacFarlane, Eisa Davis team up to develop series about Little Rock Nine”THV11 has the story.

Chadwick Boseman and Seth MacFarlane are teaming up with Eisa Davis to develop a drama based on the Little Rock Nine’s efforts to end racial segregation at Central High School in 1957.

Deadline reported the three will work on developing the project, based on Carlotta Walls LaNier’s memoir A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High.

The series will look at the desegregation of the high school and how 14-year-old LaNier and eight other students became the first Black people to attend the all-white school.

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that segregated schools were unconstitutional and called for the integration of all schools.

The nine students, along with Daisy Bates, became civil rights icons as they risked their lives to combat the racist school segregation policies in Arkansas.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • This week in 1950Dimension X aired a story out of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles in which a Martian named Eala dreams of a visitor from a planet, Earth, where they know life is impossible. This episode was unusual in that Bradbury hosted it instead of the usual Dimension X host. The story was later renamed “Ylla” which is considered the canonical title for this story but it was first published as “I’ll Not Ask for Wine” in Maclean’s, January 1, 1950. Listen here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 20, 1883 Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text yet more; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. Is there a full, unedited version? (Died 1931.) (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1906 – Sheila Hawkins.  Wrote and illustrated fifty children’s books in the United Kingdom and Australia, many with animals, many fantastic.  Here is The Singing Chameleon.  Here is Taliesin.  Here is an interior for Long Ears.  Here is Wish and the Magic Nut, which won Picture Book of the Year.  Also landscapes and abstracts.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born August 20, 1909 André Morell. Best remembered as Professor Bernard Quatermass in the Quatermass and the Pit series, and as Doctor Watson in the Hammer Film Productions version of The Hound of the Baskervilles which is quite excellent.  It’s also worth noting that he played O’Brien in BBC’s 1954 Nineteen Eighty-Four, opposite Peter Cushing as Winston Smith. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1915 – Arthur Porges.  For us a hundred short stories, some under other names; half a dozen posthumous collections.  Many more for others e.g. detective fiction.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish.  Here he is on the cover of the Sep 60 Fantastic (i.e. his story “The Shadowsmith”; cover artwork by John Duillo).  This Website is about AP and his brother Irwin.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born August 20, 1942 – Joe Mayhew, F.N.  One of our finest fanartists; two Hugos for that.  Five short stories published, in AberrationsAboriginal, and Tomorrow; a score of reviews in Absolute Magnitude, more in the Washington Post.  A hundred seventy drawings in Asimov’sFlagFOSFAXThe Frozen FrogIt Goes on the ShelfJourney PlanetMimosaNY Rev. of SFPLOKTASquiggeldy HoyVojo de Vivo; various Worldcon and other con publications.  Radio-style plays for Disclaves and Boskones.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Chaired the 1987 Disclave.  Library of Congress Recommending Officer for SF.  Fan Guest of Honor at Novacon II, Albacon 3; Ghost of Honor at Capclave 2001, Balticon 49.  Here is his cover for the Nov 98 WSFA Journal (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n).  Here is an illustration from Mimosa 17.  (Died 2000) [JH] 
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 77. The Seventh Doctor and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go.  (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 69. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award at L.A. Con II for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. I confess that I’ve not read him over the past few decades. What’s he done as of late that I should consider reading? (CE) 
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 59. Australian writer who exists though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award  and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Ausiecon Three. I assume he wasn’t there given his stance against attending Worldcons? (CE) 
  • Born August 20, 1961 – Jim Clemens, 59.  Three dozen novels for us, half a dozen shorter stories, some with Rebecca Cantrell; action-adventure books under another name, some with Grant Blackwood; certified SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diver; Doctor of Veterinary Medicine under yet another name – if he wants to keep these careers separate, why shouldn’t we?  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian.  [JH]
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 58. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures. (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1969 – Christina Diaz Gonzalez, 51. Three novels for us, three others.  Many awards for historical fiction The Red Umbrella (also in Spanish).  Born in Florida to Cuban parents.  Took a law degree, practiced law awhile.  Lives in Miami with husband, sons, a dog that can open doors.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1972 – Carolyn Cohagen, 48.  Four novels.  Conducts Girls With Pens, creative writing for girls 8-14.  Earlier, a stand-up comic in New York, Chicago, London, Amsterdam; studied physical theater at École international de théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Paris.  Ranks The Phantom Tollbooth about the same as Slaughterhouse-Five.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTON.

(12) HORRIBLE EXAMPLES. Earlier this month Titan Comics was handed a golden opportunity to publicize their collection of The Best of Hägar The Horrible by Dik Browne.

Joe Biden recently announced his choice of Kamala Harris as running mate, and in the official photograph by Adam Schultz also revealed that he keeps a framed cartoon strip on his desk – from Titan’s own Hägar the Horrible!

Bleeding Cool reported on the story, as well as quoting Biden saying that the strip had helped him through personal tragedies by reminding him “a lot of people are going through a lot worse than you’re going through, and the way they get through it is … they have people reach out, touch them, give them solace.”

This is the strip on Biden’s desk:

And here are some other examples Titan shared in its press kit, several with genre jokes.

(13) NINETEEN MINUTES OF FAME. At least, the nineteen-minute mark is where fame summons James Davis Nicoll in Isaac Arthur’s video The Fermi Paradox: Galactic Disasters. James notes, “He mispronounced my name but I am the Nicoll in Nicoll-Dyson Laser, which can reduce an Earth-sized world to vapour in a week at distances of up to a million light years.”

If anything, this video makes Cixin Liu’s Death’s End sound too cheerful.

(14) THE NAME OF MY LAST BAND. Just released on YouTube today — Live From the Space Stage: A HALYX Story is a full-length documentary.

For one glorious summer, an experimental, sci-fi band rocked Disneyland’s space stage. With a bass-playing Wookiee and an acrobatic frog, the band’s existence is nearly unbelievable, and the story behind its creation is just as incredible.

(15) TIME TO BREAK INTO THE PIGGY BANK. At Heritage Auctions, bidding is up to $180,000 for Frank Frazetta A Princess of Mars Painting Original Art (1970).

Possibly the most famous of all of the John Carter of Mars covers by Frazetta, the artist actually painted two versions in 1970, with the first being published as a Doubleday hardback dustjacket cover. Fearing that the original art would not be returned from the publisher, Frazetta immediately painted a version for himself – the stellar painting we’re offering – since he was so proud of the image. Frazetta personally related to Joe and Nadia Mannarino (see below), and presumably others, that he loved this second painting even more than the original (which he actually sold in the early 1970s). We’re showing the two paintings side-by-side online for review. Regardless of which version you prefer, both represent the quintessential heroic fantasy image, with the bold, strong hero, the voluptuous female at his legs, and surrounded by a dangerous alien environment.

(16) THE DOCTOR’S MONSTER. BBC shares some “Surprising secrets of writers’ first book drafts”.

…When Frankenstein first appeared in print in 1818, anonymously but with a preface by Percy Bysshe Shelley, plenty of readers assumed that the poet was its author. In Mary Shelley’s introduction to the 1831 edition, she wrote that people had asked her “how a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?” In keeping with the story’s eerie origins – the stormy nights and sunless summer days beside Lake Geneva – she put it down to a kind of visitation, the result of “imagination, unbidden, possessed”. Yet as the manuscript reveals, inky-fingered graft played a big role in allowing the doctor’s monster to evolve into the more tragic, nuanced creature that’s haunted our imaginations ever since. In fact, “creature”, Mary’s initial description, is later replaced by “being”, a being who becomes still more uncannily human thanks to other tweaks such as replacing the “fangs” that Victor imagines in his feverish delirium with “fingers” grasping at his neck.

Sadly, the refusal to believe that a woman barely out of girlhood could possibly have authored this transcendent Promethean fable has never quite gone away, and Percy’s notes on the manuscript have been used to bolster the theory that he at least co-authored Mary’s novel. While he’s certainly an astute line editor, the chief revelation here is domestic: the radical Romantic was a supportive, affectionate partner.

(17) FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. “Transparent Public Toilets Unveiled In Tokyo Parks — But They Also Offer Privacy”.

The idea of using a public bathroom with see-through walls may sound like the stuff of nightmares. But a famous Japanese architect is hoping to change that view, using vibrant colors and new technology to make restrooms in Tokyo parks more inviting.

“There are two things we worry about when entering a public restroom, especially those located at a park,” according to architect Shigeru Ban’s firm. “The first is cleanliness, and the second is whether anyone is inside.”

Transparent walls can address both of those worries, Ban says, by showing people what awaits them inside. After users enter the restroom and lock the door, the powder room’s walls turn a powdery pastel shade — and are no longer see-through.

“Using a new technology, we made the outer walls with glass that becomes opaque when the lock is closed, so that a person can check inside before entering,” the Nippon Foundation says.

The group is behind the Tokyo Toilet project, enlisting world-famous architects to create toilets “like you’ve never seen.”

(18) NOT COSPLAY. You couldn’t make this up: “Ninja museum: Thieves carry out heist at Japanese site”.

A ninja museum has been raided in Japan, with thieves making off with more than a million yen (£7,100).

The Iga-ryu Ninja Museum in central Japan is dedicated to the history of the famous Iga clan of ninja.

Police were called after an alarm was set off at 01:30 local time on Monday (16:30 GMT on Sunday), the museum said on Thursday.

Officers found the office door had been forced with what is thought to be a crowbar and the 150kg safe was missing.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Someone with time on their hands turns 2001 into 2020.

2020: an isolation odyssey is a reenactment of the iconic finale of 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968). Restaged in the context of home quarantine, the journey through time adapts to the mundane dramas of self-isolation–poking fun at the navel-gazing saga of life alone and indoors.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, Linda Deneroff, Chip Hitchcock, Paul DiFilippo, John A Arkansawyer, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Simon Bisson.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My personal opinions follow:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four more points follow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

(12) GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE.

But wait!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Only two species. Many others live in warmer waters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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