Pixel Scroll 1/22/21 Enzyme Summer

(1) KEEP YOUR EYE ON THAT PALANTIR. An insurrectionist wants a federal District Court to force the U.S. to adopt an interim government from the history of Middle-Earth: “Paul Davis Cites ‘Lord of the Rings’ in Lawsuit, Declares ‘Gondor Has No King’” – the case is briefed by Law and Crime.

Paul M. Davis, the Texas lawyer who was fired from his in-house counsel job after he recorded himself among a mob at the U.S. Capitol Complex on Jan. 6, has filed legal documents which set a new floor for legal embarrassment in U.S. jurisprudence. The documents employ a series of awkward references to — and ideas from — the temporary government of the Kingdom of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.

Davis’s lawsuit bombastically attempts to assert that Joe Biden is not a legitimate president and that a rightful heir to that office will someday return. Until then, the case foolishly argues that a federal judge might be able to appoint a group of “stewards” from the cabinet of former President Donald Trump to run most of the government from the White House. That should occur, the lawsuit lawlessly speculates, after the Secret Service escorts Biden and his wife out of the executive residence at the order of a federal judge.

…After a few lines of formalities, a six-page Amended Motion filed Thursday argued yet again for a restraining order.

“Gondor has no King,” the document says in its second paragraph, “to invoke a very appropriate quote from the J.R.R. Tolkien epic classic, ‘Lord of the Rings.’”

A footnote explains the analogy:

During the course of the epic trilogy, the rightful King of Gondor had abandoned the throne. Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as “Aragorn,” occurred at the end of the story. This analogy is applicable since there is now in Washington, D.C., a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice President, and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American People. Accordingly, as set forth in the Proposed Temporary Restraining Order, as a remedy the Court should appoint a group of special masters (the “Stewards”) to provide a check the power of the illegitimate President until this Constitutional Crisis can be resolved through a peaceful legal process of a Preliminary Injunction Hearing and a jury trial on the merits.

(2) INAUGURATION DAY PRESENTS. More examples of the Bernie Sanders meme. First, where he’s dropped into fine art: “Bernie Sanders Stars in Art History’s Greatest Works in New Viral Meme” at ARTnews.

…A cascade of similar images soon followed. The art historian Michael Lobel made a version in which Sanders inside a moody café from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks—itself the subject of one of the more memorable Covid-era memes—and others placed the senator within iconic works by Sandro Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh, ASCO, Joseph Beuys, and Georges Seurat. (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte with Bernie, anyone?) There was even a version where Sanders appeared seated atop a stylite column that appeared first in a 5th century Byzantine manuscript.

But no version of the newest Sanders joke proved more memorable than one created by the writer R. Eric Thomas, who inset him facing Marina Abramovi? for one famous performance that appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. MoMA picked it up, tweeting, “Bernie is present.” Something about Thomas’s rendition may help explain its charm. In most pictures of The Artist Is Present, Abramovi?’s steely eyes meet her viewer, almost daring anyone who sits before to look away. But in the meme version, Sanders looks away from her, his eyes cast toward the floor. In this meme, there seems to be a willful disregard of something that was construed by many as being great—an anti-establishment spirit that befits Sanders’s own views.

Then, StarTrek.com also ginned up some silly ones: “#BernieBeams into the Captain’s Chair”.

(3) COURT DECIDES AGAINST PARLER. “Amazon can keep Parler offline, judge rules” – the Seattle Times has the story.

… On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein said that forcing Amazon to get Parler back online goes against the public interest, given “the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol.”

“That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can — more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped — turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection,” she wrote. “The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.”

Amazon welcomed the judge’s ruling. In a statement, the company issued a rejoinder to critics who have said Amazon infringed on Parler’s First Amendment rights when it suspended Parler’s account.

“This was not a case about free speech,” the statement said. “It was about a customer that consistently violated our terms of service by allowing content to be published on their website that actively encouraged violence (and without an effective plan to moderate it).” …

(4) WILL GOOGLE GO? “Google threatens to leave Australia because of new media law” reports the Washington Post.

… The threat is the latest and most intense in a long-running battle that has pitted Australian lawmakers and news organizations against U.S.-based tech giants Google and Facebook. For years, news organizations in Australia have argued they should be paid when Internet companies aggregate news stories on their websites. Google and Facebook say their sites help people find news, and the resulting traffic to news websites is valuable on its own.The proposed media law would force the tech companies to negotiate with media companies on payments for previewing and linking to their content. If they can’t reach a deal, a government regulator would step in to set the rates. That arrangement is untenable, Mel Silva, the head of Google in Australia and New Zealand, said in prepared testimony released ahead of the hearing Friday. …The idea that Google should pay for showing news in its search results is not new. In Spain, Google shut down its news aggregation website in 2014 after the country passed a law requiring online platforms that profit off news links to share their revenue with media companies. Just this week, Google agreed to negotiate payments to French publishers.

In the United States, Google is facing multiple federal and state antitrust lawsuits that allege the company has used its domination of online search to benefit its other businesses and push out competitors.

“It seems very peculiar to me that effectively Google wants to blackmail Australian consumers and policymakers with threats to go ahead and leave this jurisdiction when these discussions are happening all around the world, including in the U.S. itself,” Australian Sen. Andrew Bragg said during the Senate hearing, which was broadcast remotely.

(5) WOTC LITIGATION ENDS. The lawsuit creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman filed against Wizards of the Coast last fall was settled without trial in December. “Dragonlance Writers End Lawsuit Against Dungeons & Dragons Maker” reported Comicbook.com.

A surprising lawsuit involving the seminal writers of the Dragonlance novels and the parent company of Dungeons & Dragons has seemingly ended. Last week, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the primary authors behind the popular Dragonlance novels, filed to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit against Wizards of the CoastWeis and Hickman filed the lawsuit in US District Court earlier this year, alleging that Wizards of the Coast breached a licensing contract to write a trilogy of new Dragonlance books by informing the pair’s publisher that they were no longer moving forward with the books without explanation. The duo, who claimed that a Dragonlance novel was already completed and that substantial work had begun on a second book, sought up to $10 million in damages in the initial lawsuit.

The filing noted that Wizards of the Coast had not formally answered their lawsuit, nor had they filed for a summary judgement. As Weis and Hickman filed for a dismissal without prejudice, the duo could hypothetically re-file their lawsuit at a later date.

(6) QUESTION TIME. Octothorpe is a podcast from John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty about science fiction and SF fandom. In episode 23, “A Lot of Foreshadowing”, the three “discuss the recent debate over the Hugo Awards and DisCon III’s approach to the same, before touching on some upcoming fannish events.” One segment is provocatively titled, “Are the Hugos a massive cankerous boil on the Worldcon that just needs to be completely purged?”

(7) FURLAN OBIT. Actress Mira Furlan, who gained fame playing Delenn on Babylon 5 and Danielle Rousseau on Lost, died January 20 at the age of 65. The Variety tribute is here.

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski gave a deeply emotional eulogy:  

… We’ve known for some time now that Mira’s health was failing…I’m not sure that this is the right time or place to discuss the sheer randomness of what happened…and have all been dreading this day. We kept hoping that she would improve. In a group email sent to the cast a while back, I heard that she might be improving.

Then came the call from Peter Jurasik. “I wanted you to know that Goran’s bringing Mira home,” he said.

“Do you mean, he’s bringing her home as in she’s better now, or is he bringing her home as in he’s bringing her home?”

“He’s bringing her home, Joe,” Peter said, and I could hear the catch in his voice as he said it.

And as a family, we held our counsel, and began the long wait, which has now ended.

Mira was a good and kind woman, a stunningly talented performer, and a friend to everyone in the cast and crew of Babylon 5, and we are all devastated by the news. The cast members with whom she was especially close since the show’s end will need room to process this moment, so please be gentle if they are unresponsive for a time. We have been down this road too often, and it only gets harder.

Bruce Boxleitner also mourned on Facebook:

…We have lost a light in our galaxy, but another has gained one. I will miss our talks, our laughs, our deep discussions about Hollywood and life. I will miss our dinners and trips abroad. I will miss the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. I will miss her captivating voice and contagious laughter. I will miss sharing with her one of the most gratifying experiences of my life: the relationship between Sheridan and Delenn.

(8) SAUNDERS APPRECIATION. The New York Times obituary of the famous fantasy writer has appeared: “A Black Literary Trailblazer’s Solitary Death: Charles Saunders, 73”. He died last May, and as reported here on January 1, had been buried in an unmarked grave until friends raised money for a headstone. The Times has an extensive obituary with photos and book covers.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf premiered on CBS where it would run for three seasons before moving to USA for a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who also created Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other great genre series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, Alex Cord and Jean Bruce Scott. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.
  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its audience reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 22, 1788 – George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron.  Mad, bad, and dangerous to know; but, as George Szell said of Glenn Gould, “that nut is a genius”.  Wrote fantasy among much else, e.g. “Darkness”The Giaour, Manfred.  It could be said that his rhymes were fantastic – “And sell you, mixed with western sentimentalism, / Some samples of the finest Orientalism” (Beppo, Stanza LI).  (Died 1824) [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the usual suspects are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.) (CE) 
  • Born January 22, 1925 – Katherine MacLean.  Five novels, fifty shorter stories.  One Nebula.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 1. Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.  Interviewed in NY Review of SF.  (Died 2019) [JH] 
  • Born January 22, 1934 Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk seriesand in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films.  He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy IslandTales of the UnexpectedNight GalleryThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician series but as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre… (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt.  I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really hurt. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like.  If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down where he voiced Hazel and The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1951 – Donna Ball, age 70.  Eight novels for us as D. Boyd, Rebecca Flanders; ninety all told, with other pen names too.  Award-winning dog trainer.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1962 – Alison Spedding, Ph.D., age 59.  Author and anthropologist.  Three historical-fantasy novels; one science fiction in Spanish; three other novels in Spanish; shorter stories, a play, nonfiction.  While living in Bolivia criticized the government; imprisoned, many fellow academics thinking it political; released on a surety.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1972 – Stephen Graham Jones, Ph.D., age 49.  Nine novels for us (about The Only Good Indians last year, which caught the attention of the NY Times Book Review, note that SGJ is himself Blackfeet), a dozen others; ninety shorter stories for us, two hundred others.  Texas Institute of Letters Award.  Stoker Award.  Professor of English at Univ. Colorado, Boulder.  See this from the ReaderCon 30 Program Book.  Special Guest at World Fantasy Con 2020.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1982 – Janci Patterson, age 39.  A dozen novels for us, a score of others; some with co-authors including Brandon Sanderson.  Customizes Barbie dolls, watches “reality” television.  [JH]

(11) SUPER AUCTION ITEM. You have until January 28 to bid on a “Fantastic 1941 Letter Signed by Jerry Siegel, Thanking Sheldon Mayer for Promoting ’Superman’’’. Current bid is $783.

Excellent letter by Jerry Siegel, creator of ”Superman”, thanking comic pioneer Sheldon Mayer for promoting the comic before it was published in ”Action Comics #1” in 1938. Dated 18 September 1941, letter reads in part, ”Dear Sheldon: I may be coming to New York inside a few weeks and I hope we can get together at that time and curse the comic business to our heart’s content.

Again I want to thank you for all you’ve done to help make SUPERMAN what it is. I’m very much afraid that if it weren’t for a chap named Sheldon Mayer, as far as syndication is concerned SUPERMAN might still be gathering dust, and Joe [Shuster] and I would be working for a living…[signed] Jerry”.

Sheldon Mayer was one of the first employees of the McClure Syndicate, headed by comics pioneer Maxwell Gaines. Although many have taken credit for discovering ”Superman”, this letter serves as ultimate confirmation that it was Mayer’s championing of the comic which led to its inclusion in ”Action Comics #1”.

(12) GUNN APPRECIATION. John Kessel has posted some of his correspondence with the late sf author and scholar James Gunn from 2018 on Facebook: showing the advice he gave about a recently published novella.

In the wake of sf writer James Gunn’s death in December, I’ve been thinking of him and what he meant to me. The publication of my novella “The Dark Ride” in this month’s F&SF reminded me that I had sent him a draft of the story and we had this correspondence about it, which helped me to shape the final version.

I thought I’d post these emails just to show how generous and engaged he was even in his late 90s. I’m so glad that I knew him….

(13) CHUCKED OUT THE AIRLOCK.  [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] “The queen’s rep in Canada calls it quits after probe into toxic workplace” in Politico. If the Queen is not in Canada, the Governor General is our head of state. Not SFnal in itself but what makes this SF-adjacent is Payette is getting the heave ho over permitting a culture of harassment that included —

Allegations [dating] to the earliest days of her tenure when she would reportedly put staff on the spot to quiz them on outer space, demanding they name every planet or correctly state the distance between the sun and the moon….

Payette was an astronaut before being appointed GG.

…And last year, CBC News reported that Trudeau’s office failed to check with Payette’s former employees during its vetting process. As it turned out, Payette had resigned from the Montreal Science Centre in 2016 following complaints of mistreatment of employees, according to the news outlet. She also left the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2017, the year she became governor general, after two internal probes into claims she had verbally harassed staff members.

(14) FINN DE SIECLE. MEL Magazine joins its voice to the continuing uproar: “Finn Deserved Better — And So Did Black ‘Star Wars’ Fans”.

…Later on, in perhaps the most exciting shot of the trailer (at least for me), we see Finn standing in a frozen forest. His eyes are steely, determined. He looks every inch the hero — defiant, ready. He turns on his lightsaber. Its blue glow leaps to life just as we see the villain Kylo Ren and his red lightsaber spitting hot energy from its hilt. All of that tension, all of that conflict, absolutely crackling with dramatic potential. Only for all of it to fizzle away in the three films that followed.

We started with a Black stormtrooper who becomes a conscientious objector, follows his moral compass and joins the rebels to risk his life in order to save the galaxy. Somewhere along the way, though, the filmmakers made that character boring. That’s why Star Wars fans are still so pissed at the great betrayal of Finn. It’s why his name was trending on Twitter on Tuesday, a full year after the final film of the newest trilogy was released in theaters.

That last point is key: Finn deserved better. Hell, we all deserved better. The “we” in this instance is Black sci-fi fans. We’ve had to live on some thin soup from Hollywood for far too long. (Although we do have to give a shout out to Star Trek for Capt. Sisko.) For Blerds like me, we held out a small hope that it might be different this time. That Star Wars might finally move on from its Victorian-Nazi melodrama past and embrace the diversity of our moment. Specifically, by creating a credible Black hero.

The first time Star Wars added a Black character, we got a space pimp. Lando Calrissian felt like he’d escaped from a Blaxploitation film or a 1970s malt liquor commercial. But at least he was cool — paper thin, but undeniably cool….

(15) DRAGON APATHY. Declan Finn complains that no one wants to talk about the Dragon Awards on his blog, in “Emerging Dragons”.  

…But I am no longer going to ask for more suggestions. I’m not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I’ve done this, no one WANTS a discussion. Almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears.

With the exception of three or four people who are genuinely trying to have a conversation, the authors don’t even read the post. Literally. Two years ago, when I last tried this, I had people who came by, asking me to to add them to the list … and they didn’t realize they were already on it.

It was worse last year when I said “We’re not playing this game,” and people made the same request– proving that they didn’t bother to read the post.

(16) BENEFIT FROM EXPERIENCE. More encouragement to get the vaccine from the Governator. Followed on FB by comments from a legion of anti-vaxxers, naturally.  

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The monologue on last night’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, starting around the 10:15 mark, has Colbert telling disillusioned Q-anon conspiracy theorists how to fill the void by taking up his own enthusiasm for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

(18) VIDEO OF A MUCH EARLIER DAY. “Steve Martin and Kermit The Frog In Dueling Banjos” on YouTube is a Funny or Die sketch from 2013, and come on, who doesn’t like Kermit The Frog or Steve Martin?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Rose, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/14/20 You’re The Nosferatu, On The Grave’d Durante

(1) TOPICAL TV IDEAS. The Vulture asked TV’s idle talent to take up the challenge: “If I Wrote a Coronavirus Episode”. Tagline: “Tina Fey, Mike Schur, and 35 more TV writers on what their characters would do in a pandemic.” If you scroll way down there’s one for Picard, although most of the others are funnier. By comparison, this bit for Sheldon Cooper is spot on —

“I’m not one to brag, but I was practicing social distancing back when it was called ‘Who’s the weird kid alone in the corner?’ And at the risk of sounding like a hipster, I was washing my hands 30 times a day before it was cool. I do, however, miss being with my friends. Sitting around eating Chinese takeout, sharing my scientific ideas and correcting theirs … that’s my happy place.” —Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D., The Big Bang Theory (Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro)

(2) SUPPORT AVAILABLE FOR WRITERS. Publishers Lunch has a standing free reference page listing organizations that offer emergency grants to authors and other creators. Two examples:

Poets & Writers has created a COVID-19 Relief Fund to “provide emergency assistance to writers having difficulty meeting their basic needs.” They will provide grants of up to $1,000 to approximately 80 writers in April. The board allocated $50,000, which has been supplemented by gifts from supporters including Michael Piestch and Zibby Owens.

We Need Diverse Books will provide emergency grants to diverse authors, illustrators, and publishing professionals “who are experiencing dire financial need.” They will give grants of $500 each, and are limiting the first round of applications to 70.

(3) A WORD IN DEFENSE. From Publishers Weekly:“Internet Archive Responds to Senator’s Concern Over National Emergency Library”.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle is defending the legality of the organization’s National Emergency Library initiative to a U.S. Senator who last week raised concerns that the effort may be infringing the rights of authors and publishers.

…In his three-page response to [Senator] Tillis, Kahle rejected those criticisms, and explained the creation of National Emergency Library using the Senator’s constituents to illustrate its utility.

“Your constituents have paid for millions of books they currently cannot access,” Kahle explained, adding that North Carolina’s public libraries house more than 15 million print book volumes in 323 library branches across the state. “The massive public investment paid for by taxpaying citizens is unavailable to the very people who funded it,” he writes. “The National Emergency Library was envisioned to meet this challenge of providing digital access to print materials, helping teachers, students and communities gain access to books while their schools and libraries are closed.”

Kahle further maintained that “the vast majority” of the books in the National Emergency Library, mostly 20th Century books, are not commercially available in e-book form, and said the collection contains no books published in the last five years.

“[For] access to those books, readers and students can continue to turn to services like OverDrive and hoopla,” Kahle explained, making what defenders say is a critical distinction: commercial providers offer patrons access to e-books; the National Emergency Library is providing stopgap digital access to scans of paper books that are locked away in shuttered libraries and schools. “That is where the National Emergency Library fills the gap,” Kahle insists.

(4) LEGACY. [Item by Steve Davidson.] From Faaneds on Facebook: A friend is going through the personal effects of a passed fan and came across a number of LOCs by Michael W. Waite. Does anyone here know if there are any family members/friends who would appreciate having these?

(5) HAVE A LISTEN. Wil Wheaton links to his reading of a Doctorow story — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: Return to Pleasure Island by Cory Doctorow”.

I was talking to my friend, Cory, over the weekend, and we decided that we would each read and release something the other had written, because why not?

I’m a huge fan and admirer of Cory both as a human and as a creative person. He’s been my primary mentor since I started writing professionally, and I owe him more than I’ll ever be able to properly repay. It’s not unreasonable to say that, without Cory’s guidance and kindness, I wouldn’t be a published author.

So it’s with excitement (and a little trepidation, because I don’t want to disappoint my friend) that I chose one of Cory’s fantastic short stories from way back in 1999, which he describes this way:

This is the story of the ogres who run the concession stands on Pleasure Island, where Pinocchio’s friend Lampwick turned into a donkey. Like much of my stuff, this has a tie-in with Walt Disney World; the idea came to me on the Pinocchio ride in the Magic Kingdom, in 1993.

You can grab my narration at my Soundcloud. I hope you enjoy it.

(Public domain ebook versions of the story are also available at Project Gutenberg.)

(6) SPACE VERSE. Asimov’s Science Fiction’s Emily Hockaday posted the “National Poetry Month Podcast 2020” today.

Happy National Poetry Month! We have a dozen poems here pulled from past and current issues to celebrate our poets this year. Each of these poems is striking in its own way, and I hope you enjoy the many voices and styles to come. First up is “All Saints Day” by Lisa Bellamy, read by Diana Marie Delgado, followed by “All the Weight” by Holly Day, read by Emily Hockaday, “The Celestial Body” read and written by Leslie J. Anderson, “The Destroyer is in Doubt about Net Neutrality” read and written by Martin Ott, “Unlooping” read and written by Marie Vibbert, “Attack of the 50 foot Woman” read and written by Ron Koertge, “The Language of Water,” by Jane Yolen, read by Monica Wendel, “Archaeologists Uncover Bones, Bifocals, a Tricycle” read and written by Steven Withrow, “Objects in Space” by Josh Pearce, read by R.J. Carey, “Small Certainties” by Sara Polsky, read by Emily Hockaday, “Palate of the Babel Fish” read and written by Todd Dillard, and finally “After a Year of Solitude” by Lora Gray, read by Jackie Sherbow.

(7) SOUNDS PRETTY NUTTY. In the Washington Post, as part of his annual celebration of Squirrel Week, John Kelly has a piece about the Norse god Ratatoskr, a squirrel with a giant horn in the center of his head who ferried messages up and down the great World Tree. “Meet Ratatoskr, mischievous messenger squirrel to the Viking gods”. Incidentally, long before there was File 770, Bruce Pelz’ Ratatosk was the fannish newzine of record.

…Most of what we know about the stories Vikings told each other comes from Snorri Sturluson, who was an Icelandic poet and lawyer, a combination not quite so rare then as now. Snorri (1179-1241) was ambitious. He journeyed from Iceland to Norway to ingratiate himself with leaders there and pick up skills….

(8) IN WORDS OF MORE THAN ONE SYLLABLE. “’I May Have Gone Too Far In A Few Places’ And 9 Other Famous George Lucas Star Wars Quotes” compiled by ScreenRant.

In May of 1944, George Walton Lucas Jr. was born, twenty-three years later, he graduated from USC, and a decade after that he changed the world forever by releasing Star Wars. The Star Wars franchise is a phenomenon like no other, and nobody, not even the maker himself, could have predicted its impact.

The headline quote is #9. Here is ScreenRant’s commentary:

…Before The Last Jedi came to be, the prequels were the kings of controversy. After seeing a rough cut of his film in 1999, Lucas said the famous quote to a small screening room “I may have gone too far in a few places.”

Ironically, in behind the scenes videos of The Phantom Menace, Lucas talks about how the key to these types of films is not to go too far. This quote shows Lucas’ self-awareness and references the disjointedness of the movie.

(9) SULLIVAN OBIT. Ann Sullivan, the Disney animator behind The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, has died at the age of 91. She is the third member of the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home to die as a result of the coronavirus. The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute.

… Sullivan re-entered the business in 1973, when she started at Filmnation Hanna Barbera. She later returned to Disney, landing credits on studio titles from the late-1980s to the mid-2000s. Sullivan worked in the paint lab on…1989’s The Little Mermaid…and 1992’s Cool World. She painted for the 1990 short The Prince and the Pauper; 1994’s The Lion King; 1995’s Pocahontas; 1997’s Hercules; 1999’s Tarzan and Fantasia 2000; 2000’s The Emperor’s New Groove; and 2002’s Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet. Sullivan also is credited as having worked as a cel painter on 1994’s The Pagemaster and for performing additional caps and painting on 2004’s Home on the Range.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 14, 2010 — In the United States, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (in French, Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec) premiered. It was directed by Luc Besson from his own screenplay. It was produced by Virginie Besson-Silla, his wife.  It starred Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Philippe Nahon, Gilles Lellouche and Jean-Paul Rouve. It was narrated by Bernard Lanneau. It is rather loosely based upon “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade” by Jacques Tardi. Critics world-wide loved it, and the box office was very good, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a oddly muted 54% rating. Be advised the Shout Factory! DVD is a censored PG rating version but the Blu-Ray is uncensored. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and if need be voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty-two episodes was I think the best of his puppet based shows though Captain Scarlet and the MysteronsFireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 14, 1935 Jack McDevitt, 85. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races.
  • Born April 14, 1936 Arlene Martel. No doubt you’ll best remember her as T’Pring in Star Trek’s “Amok Time” as it was a rather memorable episode. She also had roles in one-offs in a lot of genre series including Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestMission:ImpossibleThe Delphi BureauI Dream of Jeannie,  Man from AtlantisMy Favorite Martian,  The Six Million Dollar Man and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 14, 1949 Dave Gibbons, 71. He is best known for his work with writer Alan Moore, which includes Watchmen and the Superman story ”For the Man Who Has Everything” (adapted to television twice, first into the same-named episode of  Justice League Unlimited and then more loosely into “For the Girl Who Has Everything”.) He also did work for 2000 AD where he created Rogue Trooper, and was the lead artist on Doctor Who Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 66. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan”.
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 62. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar.
  • Born April 14, 1977 Sarah Michelle Gellar, 43. Buffy Summers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, I watched every episode. Great show. Even watched every bit of Angel as well. Her first genre role was as Casey “Cici” Cooper in Scream 2 followed by voicing Gwendy Doll in Small Soldiers. Her performance as Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions is simply bone chillingly scary. I’ve not seen, nor plan to see, either of the Scooby-Do films so I’ve no idea how she is Daphne Blake. Finally, she voiced April O’Neil in the one of latest animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. 
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 38. Her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window”  novella (lovely title that) won a Nebula Award, and her short story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” would do a short while later. Very impressive. I’ve read her “Eros, Philia, Agape” which is wonderful and “Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia” which is strange and well, go read it. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BE YOUR OWN VILLAIN. We’ve heard the saying that everyone is the hero of their own story. In contrast, Brian Cronin reminds readers about “That Time That Jerry Siegel Plundered the Funny Pages to Defeat Superman” at CBR.com.

In Meta-Messages, I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.”

Today, we look at Jerry Siegel plunder the Funny Pages as he, himself, becomes the villain of a Superman story involving other newspaper comic strips!

The whole thing went down in the opening story in 1942’s Superman #19 (by Siegel, Ed Dobrotka and John Sikela)… 

(14) DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH. ScreenRant tries to explain “Just What is the Direct Market In Comics and Where Did It Come From?”

With the coronavirus pandemic grinding the comic book industry to all halt, there has been much talk about what is to be done with the “direct market”. But just what exactly is the direct market, and how did it come to be? And perhaps more pressing, what will happen to the direct market in a post-COVID-19 world?

Believe it or not, there was a time comic books were purchased outside of comic book shop, carried by newsstands, grocery stores, and even gas stations. However, the comic book shop model, primarily engineered by Phil Seuling in 1972, offered several advantages. The system was known as the “direct market” because it bypassed traditional newspaper and magazine distributors. It offered a much more diverse line of content than the newsstands, including comic books aimed at an adult audience. One of the primary advantages for the distributor was that the comic books were unreturnable unlike newsstands, which would traditionally return all unsold merchandise…. 

Much history ensues. Then —

…Because of all of these factors and more, the future of the direct market is looking increasingly uncertain. In addition to the growing concern that many retailers will have to close their doors due to the coronavirus, the comic book industry itself seems destined for an overhaul. Some comic book shop owners are considering the possibility of re-negotiating with Diamond, while others are considering trying to bypass the current distribution system altogether. The direct market has served the comic book industry well for nearly fifty years, but it might be time to ask – what will best serve the comic book industry for the next fifty?

(15) GOOD REASON TO PREEN THEIR PLUMAGE. In “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Hugo Awards”, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry talk about their Hugo nomination for Nerds of a Feather, and some of the other works they’re glad made the final ballot.

Adri: There have been a few feelings knocking around! And about an hour of my life in which it has been unclear whether I should cry, shout, laugh, breathe, throw up, and indeed if I could do any one of those things without the others happening too.

Also, while I’ve definitely experienced the post-announcement Twitter love before, CoNZealand’s decision to schedule a streamed announcement at a timezone that worked for as many Hugo-voter-heavy countries as possible, and the general enthusiasm for people to get online at the moment and hang out, meant that the announcement feed and stream just felt so full of frenzied excitement and love for everyone. Definitely a very heightened moment and, yeah, I’ll absolutely take that finalist status, even if I was already swanning around Dublin wearing the “Finalist” badge ribbon last year.

Joe: I absolutely enjoyed that youtube sidebar chat during the announcement, even if it ultimately did amount to a bunch of people just mashing their keyboards at the same time in excitement.

(16) I’LL TAKE ‘DUBIOUS PRODUCT NAMES’ FOR $100. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This is what comes from not having any Humanities majors in your company… There’s enough obvious cheap-shot jokes that I’m not even going to bother including one here. From PRwire: “Pepperdata Introduces New Kafka Monitoring Capabilities for Mission-Critical Streaming Applications”.

With Streaming Spotlight, existing customers can integrate Kafka monitoring metrics into the Pepperdata dashboard, adding detailed visibility into Kafka cluster metrics, broker health, topics and partitions.

Kafka is a distributed event streaming platform and acts as the central hub for an integrated set of messaging systems. Kafka’s architecture of brokers, topics and data replication supports high availability, high-throughput and publish-subscribe environments. For some users, Kafka handles trillions of messages per day.

Managing these data pipelines and systems is complex and requires deep insight to ensure these systems run at optimal efficiency….

(17) HALL OF FAME. R. Graeme Cameron has finally received the hardware, and I enjoyed his description on Facebook.

Since I was not present when Eileen Kernaghan, Tanya Huff and myself were inducted into the CSFFA Science Fiction Hall of Fame during the Aurora Awards ceremony at Can-Con last year, CSFFA planned to present the plaque to me (and I assume to Eileen) at the Creative Ink Festival in May this year. But, as we all know, Covid-19 forced the CIF to cancel.

Consequently, CSFFA elected to mail me the plaque….

The Janus-like trophy features on one side the visage of an aging knight representing venerable fantasy, blended with vegetation and rather resembling a forest-spirit Don Quixote, an ancient book to the right of his beard, and on the other side the fresh face of a proud, young aviatrix representing the cutting edge of science fiction as perceived back in the 1930s, a rocket ship in flight just to the right of her neck. A most splendid and evocative trophy. Each inductee gets a plaque like this one. The trophy is on display throughout the year in various libraries.

(18) HIGH-SPEED HYPERLOOP PROJECTS WILL BEGIN OPERATION NO EARLIER THAN 2040. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Let’s make notes in our calendars so we can check whether they’re right…

Economics, not technology, pose the largest barriers to building the Hyperloop according to a new Lux report: “High-speed Hyperloop projects will begin operation no earlier than 2040”.

Lux has found that, while the Hyperloop concept is technically feasible, it will require significant development to become cost-effective. The Hyperloop differs from conventional rail because it operates in a vacuum system that reduces aerodynamic drag, thus enabling higher speeds and greater energy efficiency. There are four main design elements creating technical challenges with the Hyperloop: pillar and tube design, pod design, propulsion and levitation of the pods, and station design.

Lux Research found that pod design is the fastest-growing area for Hyperloop patent activity, with a focus on improving comfort and performance. Customer comfort is important due to the compact, enclosed spaces with no windows, which can increase the likelihood of customers getting sick. Optimizing pod performance is key to minimizing drag and reducing costs because pod design choices have a significant impact on tube design and aerodynamics. Propulsion and levitation systems have the least patent activity, in part due to the fact that Hyperloop will likely adapt magnetic levitation, or maglev, technology.

One of the biggest technical challenges will be identifying the optimal system pressure and minimizing leakage of the vacuum system, which, if higher than expected, can increase operating costs and reduce top speeds. “Selecting the Hyperloop’s tube pressure is the most important factor impacting cost, for both operational expenses and the initial capital needed for tube design and construction,” says Lux Research Associate Chad Goldberg….

(19) IN FRANCE. Is this anywhere near Remulac? Reuters reports: “Space scientists use COVID-19 lockdown as dry run for Mars mission”.

French space scientists are using the COVID-19 lockdown as a dry run for what it will be like to be cooped up inside a space craft on a mission to Mars.

The guinea pigs in the experiment are 60 students who are confined to their dormitory rooms in the southern city of Toulouse – not far removed from the kind of conditions they might experience on a long space mission.

When the French government imposed movement restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, space researcher Stephanie Lizy-Destrez decided to make the most of a bad situation, and signed up the student volunteers.

It’s not an exact simulation of space flight: tasks such as picking up samples from a planet’s surface using a lunar rover do not feature, and the students can break off from their virtual space journey for a daily trip outside.

Instead, they conduct computer-based tasks such as memory tests and mental agility tests. They keep a daily journal, and every five days have to complete a questionnaire.

(20) SOCIAL DISTANCING EARTH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spacecraft BepiColombo’s handlers have published a GIF of Earth as seen from the craft during a recent flyby. BepiColombo was slingshotting past Earth on its way to a Mercury survey mission. BC presumably wished us well in handling COVID-19, and made sure to stay far enough away not to pick up the virus. “BepiColombo takes last snaps of Earth en route to Mercury”.

The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission completed its first flyby on 10 April, as the spacecraft came less than 12 700 km from Earth’s surface at 06:25 CEST, steering its trajectory towards the final destination, Mercury. Images gathered just before closest approach portray our planet shining through darkness, during one of humankind’s most challenging times in recent history.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Cole Porter” Dern.]

Kryptonite or Horse Hockey?

Brad Meltzer’s new novel The Book of Lies claims to find the true origin of Superman in the 1932 death of Jerry Siegel’s father in Cleveland. The author outlined his case to Douglas Colton in USA Today:

“In 50 years of interviews, Jerry Siegel never once mentioned that his father died in a robbery,” says Brad Meltzer, a best-selling author whose novel, The Book of Lies, due Sept. 2, links the Siegel murder to a biblical conspiracy plot.

Michel Siegel died after a robbery, reportedly from a heart attack, though Meltzer writes he actually died of gunshots.

“[Think] about it,” Meltzer says. “Your father dies in a robbery, and you invent a bulletproof man who becomes the world’s greatest hero. I’m sorry, but there’s a story there.”

Either a story, answers Oregon columnist Steve Duin, “Or a book to sell.” Duin accuses Meltzer of pretending to break new ground on an angle that’s been previously explored by Gerard Jones (Men of Tomorrow) and Noblemen (Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman).

Cleveland journalists re-investigated the story, speaking with Siegel’s surviving relatives:

Jerry Siegel also never connected his father’s death to Superman before he himself died in 1996. And his widow Joanne, doesn’t think the robbery made Siegel or his co-creating friend Joe Shuster invent Superman to fight such crimes.
     In that period — the night of June 2, 1932 — police were called to his father’s second-hand clothing store at 3560 Central Ave. According to the police report, three men came into the shop and walked out with a suit without paying.
     Michel Siegel, 59, collapsed in the store and died.
     “At no time were any blows struck or any weapons used,” the report states.
The death certificate says Siegel had chronic myocarditis and died of heart failure. It reports no bullet wounds.
     Marlene Goodman and Irving Siegel, both cousins of Jerry Siegel, said most family members knew the truth, but some thought Michel was shot.

Whether Meltzer’s version is right or wrong, in helping create the superhero Siegel undoubtedly drew on many things — perhaps even the reign of The Untouchables’ Eliot Ness as Director of Public Safety in Cleveland during the mid-1930s, when he clamped down on gangsters while running both the police and fire departments.

Below (from USA Today): Artist Joe Shuster, artist Neal Adams, writer Jerry Siegel and Jerry Robinson, who invented The Joker in 1939, celebrate Siegel and Shuster’s agreement in 1975 with Time Warner

Shuster, Adams, Siegel, Robinson