Pixel Scroll 9/17/19 Lady Scrollhill’s Rosebud Pixlet

(1) HEADHUNTING. LAD Bible previews a project coming to YouTube on September 25: “A Mockumentary Has Been Made About Star Wars’ Most Famous Blooper”.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… a stormtrooper smashed their head on a door in the Death Star – and people have been wanting to know who it was ever since.

The scene occurs in Star Wars: A New Hope and has become a cult moment for Warsies (that’s what Star Wars fans call themselves apparently). Now, a filmmaker has taken it upon himself to make a mockumentary about the blunder, entitled The Empire Strikes Door.

(2) YOUR BEDTIME IT IS. The Disney Bedtime Hotline is back online. Polygon tells how “You can now call Yoda to wish you a good night”.

Good news to all the insomniacs out there. Disney’s Bedtime Hotline returns from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30. The hotline which debuted last August, gave fans a chance to hear bedtime messages from the core Disney cast of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, or Goofy.

The hotline returns for the next two weeks, this time with a lineup taking advantage of Disney’s full trove of IP. In addition to Mickey, callers can also get messages from Woody, Jasmine, and Elsa and Anna, as well as as some unexpected choices from Disney properties. Specifically Yoda and Spider-Man.

That’s right, Yoda is a Disney character and now he tells you about the importance of sleep as you curl up for the night.

Calling 1-877-7-MICKEY — toll free!

(3) FULL FATHOM FIVE. In The Guardian’s weekly segment on “Jumping The Shark,” Ben Gazur contends this is “How Babylon 5 went from space opera to space junk”.

Babylon 5 was a show that should never have been commissioned. Five seasons of the United Nations set in space, anyone? Well, set your phasers to stunned because while Star Trek gets all the glory – what with its big-name actors, great special effects and lasting cultural cachet – it was Babylon 5 that became every true sci-fi fan’s secret favourite.

(4) PREVIEWS OF MOUNT TBR. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson reports on “3 Crackling Young Adult Reads To Welcome Fall”, two of which are genre works.

In Akwaeke Emezi’s Pet, angels have rid the city of Lucille of all its monsters. That’s what Jam has been taught, and she has no reason to doubt it, as she lives a happy life surrounded by her loving parents and her best friend, Redemption. No reason, until a strange and frightening creature crawls out of one of her mother’s paintings, intent on hunt down a monster hiding in their midst. The creature is called Pet, and it tells Jam that her duty is to help search out the evil that has taken root in Redemption’s house. Jam isn’t sure she’s the right person for the task — but what choice does she have, when no one else will even admit that there may still be monsters lurking in the shadows?

…After making her entrance last year with The Light Between Worlds, which asked what happens to the children cast out of portal fantasies once the adventure is over, Laura Weymouth returns with A Treason of Thorns, a full-on alternate history fantasy that imagines an England that is home to Great Houses — sentient buildings that enrich or destroy their regions depending on how well they are managed by their human Caretaker.

(5) JANIS IAN DONATES COLLECTION. Brown University Library announced the acquisition: “Network of Women Writers and Readers Crux of John Hay Library’s Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

The John Hay Library is now home to renowned recording artist, writer, and activist Janis Ian’s collection of personally inscribed works of science fiction and fantasy, many by women and LGBTQ authors. 

The John Hay Library at Brown University is delighted to announce the acquisition of Janis Ian’s personal library, including collections of books of contemporary science fiction and fantasy authors inscribed to her. Among these authors are Anne McCaffrey, George R. R. Martin, Mercedes Lackey, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Tanith Lee, Diane Duane, and many others. In all, the Library received approximately 200 volumes from Ms. Ian’s collection.

(6) STALLMAN GONE. “Richard Stallman Resigns from MIT”Slashdot has the story.He’s also resigned as President from the Free Software Foundation.

Multiple Slashdotters are reporting the unfortunate news that famed free software advocate and computer scientist Richard Stallman has resigned from MIT. Slashdot reader iamacat writes:

Following outrage over his remarks about Jefferey Epstein’s victims, Richard Stallman has resigned from his position in MIT, effective immediately.

Stallman wrote in an email,

I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT. I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations.

CSAIL is MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

(7) MESSAGE FROM PTERRY? “‘Grim reaper’ stolen from Russian street” – he was gone in sixty seconds.

The Russian city of Arkhangelsk caused a stir by putting up a statue of the Grim Reaper on a roadside to put motorists off speeding, only for thieves to steal it later in the day….

The black-shrouded figure, made to order by a craftsman from local pine, was meant to “discourage drivers from speeding up on that stretch of road since it’s been repaired”, spokeswoman Tatyana Simindei told the site.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 17, 1964Mothra Vs. Godzilla premiered in the U.S.
  • September 17, 1976 — NASA named its first Space Shuttle after a starship from some sci-fi TV show – Enterprise.
  • September 17, 1978 — The original Battlestar Galactica premiered on television. It would last but a single season.
  • September 17, 1982 The Powers of Matthew Star first aired. It ran one season. Harve Bennett (Trek films II–V) was one of its creators and Leonard Nimoy directed the “Triangle” episode while Walter Koenig wrote the “Mother” episode. The original pilot, “ Starr Knight” as written by Steven E. de Souza, writer of The Running Man aired as the final episode. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 17, 1908 John Creasey. English crime and SF writer who wrote well over than six hundred novels using twenty-eight different names. His SF writings were mostly in the Dr. Palfrey series, a British secret service agent named Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Palfrey, who forms Z5. I’ve not read them, so how are they as SF?  None of these appear to be available from iBooks but they’re available from Kindle. 
  • Born September 17, 1917 Art Widner. He was a founding member of The Stranger Club which created  Boston fandom. He chaired Boskone I and Boskone II which were held in 1941 and 1942, they being the very first two Boston cons. Fancyclopedia 3 has a very detailed  look at him here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 17, 1920 Dinah Sheridan. She was Chancellor Flavia in “The Five Doctors”, a Doctor Who story that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character’s original actor, William Hartnell, had died. (Died 2012.)   
  • Born September 17, 1920 Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 17, 1939 Sandra Gimpel, 80. Performer and stunt woman. Though you’ll literally not recognize her, she was the salt monster aka the M-113 creature (as it was called in the credits) in “The Man Trap” episode of the original Trek. In “The Cage” episode, she played a Talosian. As a stunt woman, she’s been on genre shows ranging from Lost in Space to Lucifer and even appeared on films like Escape from New York
  • Born September 17, 1951 Cassandra Peterson,68. Definitely better known as Elvira, Mistress of The Darkness, a character she’s played on TV and in movies, becoming the host of Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation in LA in 1981. She’s a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever which was her debut film, and is Sorais in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.
  • Born September 17, 1962 Paul Feig, 56. I see that he and Katie Dippold were nominated but didn’t win a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation for their Ghostbusters film. How did it do in the actual voting? 
  • Born September 17, 1965 Bryan Singer, 54. Director of such genre film as including X-MenSuperman ReturnsX-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse
  • Born September 17, 1973 Jonathan Morris, 46. SFF television series are fertile grounds for creating spinoff book series and Doctor Who is no exception. This writer has only written four such novels to date but oh, the number of Big Finish audiobooks that he’s written scripts for now numbers in the high forties if I include the Companions and the Jago & Lightfoot series as well. 

(10) LEGO’S NEW GLOBAL CAMPAIGN. From behind a paywall at The Drum:

…The result is ‘Rebuild the World’, Lego’s most significant global brand campaign since the 90s, which was created by BETC in collaboration with The Lego Agency.

Ultimately, the push seeks to position the toy as something that can strengthen creative resilience and problem-solving capabilities in kids – an idea originally floated by BETC in a world where children are more likely to pick up an iPad than open a toybox.

Underpinned by bold, playful creative that will run across TV, online, OOH and cinema, Marcelli describes the campaign as “a new, modern expression of the true, deep foundations” of the brand, and the “perfect interpretation” of its mission to inspire future generations.

At the heart of the drive is a film directed by Traktor Creative, a duo who have previously worked with The Prodigy and Madonna, which shows what the world would look like if it obeyed the rules of Lego play.

(11) DON’T LESNERIZE. “Common cold stopped by experimental approach” reports BBC.

Scientists think they have found a way to stop the common cold and closely related viruses which can cause paralysis.

Instead of trying to attack them directly, the researchers targeted an essential protein inside our cells which the viruses need to replicate.

The approach gave “complete protection” in experiments on mice and human lung cells.

However, the US-based researchers are not ready for trials in people.

(12) THE BUZZ. You are invited to “Meet The Nuclear-Powered Self-Driving Drone NASA Is Sending To A Moon Of Saturn” — includes video simulation.

On the face of it, NASA’s newest probe sounds incredible. Known as Dragonfly, it is a dual-rotor quadcopter (technically an octocopter, even more technically an X8 octocopter); it’s roughly the size of a compact car; it’s completely autonomous; it’s nuclear powered; and it will hover above the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

…”Almost everyone who gets exposed to Dragonfly has a similar thought process. The first time you see it, you think: ‘You gotta be kidding, that’s crazy,’ ” says Doug Adams, the mission’s spacecraft systems engineer. But, he says, “eventually, you come to realize that this is a highly executable mission.”

NASA reached that conclusion when, after a lot of careful study, it gave Dragonfly the green light earlier this summer. “This revolutionary mission would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said when the roughly $1 billion project was selected in June. “A great nation does great things.”

For Shannon MacKenzie, a postdoc on the mission, there’s no destination that could be greater than Titan. The largest moon of Saturn, it has dunes, mountains, gullies and even rivers and lakes — though on Titan, it’s so cold the lakes are filled with liquid methane, not water.

“It is this complete package,” she says. “It’s this really unique place in the solar system where all of these different processes are coming together in a very Earthlike way.”

(13) NOT-SO-HOT BOTS. BBC asks, “Russia and robots: Steel junk or a brave new world?”

Russia likes to boast of its robots – but at the same time it seems to have a somewhat troubled relationship with them.

It has endured a series of very public robotic mishaps, but all is not lost.

Amid much fanfare and praise for the Roscosmos space agency, Russian robot Fedor was launched into space on board a Soyuz 14 spacecraft in August.

Fedor made history as the first such robot ever to be sent into space by Russia, and within moments he was reporting on his progress and all was apparently going to plan.But then, mission control in Houston broke the news that Fedor’s attempt to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) had to be aborted because of a technical problem.

Before his spaceflight, Fedor had been busy impressing observers with his activities. State TV showed him driving a car, firing guns and doing push-ups – but sceptics were critical. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was scathing in a post on Twitter.

“This Fedor the robot is what the Putin regime is all about. The PR idiots at Roscosmos came up with the idea, and engineers had to send a hundred kilos of useless steel junk into orbit,” Navalny wrote…

Alyosha, Boris and Igoryok

Last year, a robot called Boris made an appearance on national television. He announced that he was good at mathematics, but added that he would like to learn how to compose music. He also danced.

Before Boris, Russian TV also reported excitedly about another robot, a huge steel thing called Igoryok, but nobody’s seen it move – or even do anything….

(14) FATHER AND SON HORROR. Netflix has released a trailer for In the Tall Grass, a film based on a novella by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. It becomes available October 4.  

Some places have a mind of their own. Based on the novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill, when siblings Becky and Cal hear the cries of a young boy lost within a field of tall grass, they venture in to rescue him, only to become ensnared themselves by a sinister force that quickly disorients and separates them. Cut off from the world and unable to escape the field’s tightening grip, they soon discover that the only thing worse than getting lost is being found.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 9/15/19 Rikki, Don’t Scroll That Pixel, It’s The Only One You Own

(1) SOUND AND FURY. Locus Online has a fine summary of recent developments in “Audible’s Caption Controversy”.

Audible, Amazon’s audiobook publishing arm, announced plans for “Audible Captions,” a fea­ture that displays the text of a book along with the narration on listener devices. Audible said the feature would be “available on hundreds of thousands of audiobooks at launch” – a decla­ration that was met with surprise and alarm by publishers who haven’t licensed the rights to publish such text to Audible. Publishing the text without permission would likely be a violation of copyright.

The Association of American Publishers filed a lawsuit on August 23, 2019 in the southern district court of New York to block the program….

(2) RECEIVED WISDOM. New “Worldcon Runner’s Guide Updates” are posted on the WSFS web site.

The Worldcon Runner’s Guide Committee has issued updates to several guide sections. These are now available on the main Guide page. The sections that have been updated are:

(3) JOE ON JOE. In a teaser for the Joe Lansdale documentary — All Hail the Popcorn King: Joe Hill talks Lansdale inspiration”

Joe Hill is currently one of the hottest scribes around. His popular book, NOS4A2 has been adapted for an AMC series. Netflix will be partnering with producer Carlton Cuse on a 10 episode version of Hill’s comic book series, Locke and Key.

Recently, the busy writer sat down with Hansi Oppenheimer, the director of the upcoming documentary on Joe Lansdale, All Hail the Popcorn King. He discussed his deep admiration and fondness for his fellow author.

As an impressionable 13-year-old, Hill read Lansdale’s The Drive In and was transformed. He made such a deep connection with the novel that he felt that it was written especially for him. Which is one of the best compliments to receive when you are a wordsmith. It is what you strive for, to make an impact on your readers.

(4) AUTUMN LEAVES. Entertainment Weekly’s Kristen Baldwin includes a couple of genre works on her list of “The 8 must-watch new TV shows this fall”.

First, a disclaimer: With approximately 183 TV series premiering every hour in America, it would be all but impossible for any one critic to view all the new fall shows. That said, I was able to screen 31 of the programs making their debut in the coming months — and now that my eyes have readjusted to sunlight, I humbly submit this report.

One of them is Evil. The other is —

Watchmen

Oct. 20, 9 p.m., HBO
Confession: I know nothing about Watchmen. Never read the comic or saw the (polarizing) 2009 film. I had to pause many times while watching the pilot so I could look up characters and backstories on Wikipedia. With that said, I can’t wait to see more. Set 30 years after the comics, Watchmen takes place in a world where police hide their identities due to terrorist attacks and a long-dormant white supremacist group wants to start a race war. The show is expensive-looking but not hollow. There’s a humanity to the characters that is often lacking in comic book adaptations, due in large part to the exceptional cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson. Hardcore fans will have to make up their own minds, but this novice is intrigued.

(5) FOUNDATIONS OF HORROR FILMMAKING. SYFY Wire thinks fans should go ape over “Fay Wray’s underappreciated career as a genre queen”.

Fay Wray is remembered best for her role in the original King Kong as Ann Darrow, the woman who is kidnapped and carried about like a rag doll while Kong goes on his city-wide rampage. Yet she had a much longer career than just that one film, spanning several different genres and working for more than half a century. In her early years in Hollywood, she would have been better known for a series of westerns she had done in the silent era than anything else, but even at that, she’d also been in several comedies and romances. Wray was a working actor for most of her life, so her filmography is mostly all over the place.

Of course, we’re mostly here for Wray’s career as a Scream Queen. In the time leading up to what would become her definitive role, she starred in a series of low-budget horror movies that are now considered as much a part of classic horror canon as Frankenstein or The Mummy….

(6) GROWING UP GRYFFINDOR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall at Financial Times, Alice Ross discusses how YA authors in Britain are increasingly interested in politics.

The second legacy often credited to Harry Potter is that the series helped to form a generation of liberal thinkers.  In Harry Potter and the Millennials (2013), political scientist Anthony Gierzynski published th results of his survey of more than 1,000 college students.  He concluded that readers of Harry Potter were more often to diversity and more politically tolerant than non-fans…

…Modern authors of children’s books both in the UK and the US–many of whom hail from the Harry Potter generation–tend to feel strongly about social or moral issues, and they bring this into their writing.

‘I really do believe that all writing is political and you have to try to do that; you are not just bringing yourself to your work,’ says Kiran Millwood Harris, whose debut novel The Girl of Ink and Stars won the 2017 Waterstone Children’s Book Prize. ‘I see some people saying, ‘I don’t want to be political’ but actually now it’s kind of immoral not to speak up or take a stand as some people don’t have that luxury.  Her latest book The Way Past Winter deals with the environmental crisis, increasigly a topic coming up in children’s books.

(7) DYSTROPIA. Michelle Goldberg’s opinion piece “Margaret Atwood’s Dystopia, and Ours” in the New York Times coincidentally shows how hard it is for fictional commentary to keep pace with cultural changes.

…And it’s not just in America that truth has lost its political salience. Naked censorship continues to exist, but it’s augmented by the manipulation of search algorithms, and by trolls and bots harassing dissidents and spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories. Truth is less suppressed than drowned out. Contemporary propaganda, write P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking in “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media,” “is colorful and exciting, reflecting the tastes of the digital age. It is a cocktail of moralizing, angry diatribes, and a celebration of traditional values, constantly mixed with images of scantily clad women.” There’s a solemn churchlike hush in Gilead. Modern authoritarianism is often as lurid and cacophonous as a casino.

Dystopian fictions that extrapolate from this shift are starting to appear. (Though young adult novels had a head start: “The Hunger Games” foresaw the nightmare of fascism run as a reality show.) There’s a scene in “Years and Years,” a recent series co-produced by HBO and the BBC, where Vivienne Rook, the sly British demagogue played by Emma Thompson, is asked about the spread of fraudulent, digitally created videos of her political rivals making inflammatory statements. “Oh, of course they’re fake videos. Everyone can see they’re not real,” she says to an interviewer. Then she adds, with faux concern, “All the same, they really did say those things, didn’t they?” Soon after, she is elected prime minister…

… “Writing dystopias and utopias is a way of asking the reader the question, ‘Where do you want to live?’” Atwood said when I talked to her last year….

(8) SCHELLY OBIT. Comics fan, writer, and historian Bill Schelly (1951-2019) died September 12 of cancer. His books included The Golden Age of Comic Fandom (1995; rev. ed. 1999) published by his own company, Hamster Press, Harvey Kurtzman, The Man Who Created “Mad” (Fantagraphics, 2015), and his autobiography Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom – The Whole Story (North Atlantic Books, 2018). Carl Slaughter recommended Schelly’s biography Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionaryto Filers in 2016.

Many friends have left comments on his Facebook page. Neil Caputo penned “Bill Schelly: In Tribute”, Mark Evanier ends his appreciation “Bill Schelly, R.I.P.” at News From Me by saying:

Bill was quite good…just a lovely, talented man. I’m sure going to miss talking to him on the phone and at conventions, and I’m sorry we aren’t going to get all the other books that he would have written. Such a loss.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 15, 1965 — CBS debuted Irwin Allen’s  Lost In Space as “The Reluctant Stowaway” episode seeing the Jupiter 2 being sabotaged by  Dr. Smith who became part of the inhabitants. The theme music was composed by a little known composer then credited as, Johnny Williams.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1890 Agatha Christie, or to giver her full name of Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller). ISDB lists her Harley Quin tales as being genre as they think the lead character is supernatural though no reviewers I can find think that he is. Anyone here who has read them? They also list one Hercule Poirot story, “The Big Four”, as genre – it apparently involved the use of atomic explosives in a 1927 story. Weirdly iBooks has almost nothing by her but Kindle has works beyond counting. (Died 1976.)
  • Born September 15, 1925 Carlo Rambaldi. He won Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects in 1980 and 1983 for, respectively, Alien and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which was for the mechanical head-effects for the Alien creature and the design of the E.T. himself. The 1976 version of King Kong earned him an Oscar for Best Visual Effects as well. He also worked on Dune, Conan the Destroyer, King Kong Livesand films you’ve likely never heard of such as Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 79. 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? 
  • Born September 15, 1943 John M. Faucette. He published five novels and one short story. He left seven unpublished novels in various states of completion at his death. Two of his novels; Crown of Infinity and Age of Ruin, were published in the Ace Doubles series. None of his works are in print  in digital or paper format currently including his Black Science Fiction anthologywhich he as an African-American SF writer was very proud of. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 15, 1946 Howard Waldrop, 73. I think that the 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 is most excellent. A generous selection of his short fiction and novellas are available at iBooks and Kindle. 
  • Born September 15, 1956 Tommy Lee Jones, 73. Best known as Agent K in the Men in Black franchise, he’s has done other genre with the first being in Batman Forever as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. He’s Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger as well. 
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 57. My first encounter with her was the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much is 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. 
  • Born September 15, 1987 Christian Cooke, 31. He’s Ross Jenkins, a UNIT Private in two Tenth Doctor stories, “The Sontaran Stratagem” and “The Poison Sky”. Genre wise, He’s also been Luke Rutherford-Van Helsing in Demons, a six-part series from the Beeb, and he’s Frederick Beauchamp in the second season of The Witches of Eastwick.
  • 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.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows what happens when aliens reach the border.

(12) CLASSIC REVIVED? The Far Side web page made this announcement:

Uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen.

A new online era of The Far Side is coming!

(13) SCOOBY TAXONOMY. Eleni Theodoropoulus, in “How Scooby Doo Revived Gothic Storytelling for Generations of Kids” on CrimeReads, says that Scooby-Doo is really a Gothic series rather than mystery, as she discusses how the show’s supernatural elements made it so popular.

.. From its first episode, “What a Night for a Knight,” Scooby Doo establishes the very atmosphere that is integral to the gothic genre. The episode opens onto an empty country road under a full moon when a pickup truck rolls into view. The crate in the back opens. An armored knight rears his head and fixes his glowing eyes on the driver. Danger is imminent. “What a nervous night to be walking home from the movies, Scooby Doo,” says Shaggy, echoing the viewer’s sentiment. Moments later they come across the abandoned pickup truck where the suit of armor sits behind the wheel. Pristine, it shines in the moonlight. Suddenly, the head of the armor rattles and tips over, landing at their feet. Boy and dog chuckle nervously before they run away in what will become their signature manner of dealing with problems. The next two seasons of Scooby Doo, Where Are You! follow in this same vein, resting on a balance between suspense and fear, mystery and horror.

Instrumental to evoking these feelings in the viewer was less the plot itself than the atmosphere framing it….

(14) PLAYING FOR TIME. Cecilia D’Anastasio relates the “Confessions Of A Teenaged Strip-Mall GameStop Delinquent” at Kotaku.

… Once a week, I’d enter that GameStop to ask whichever bored employee was manning the place when they’d get Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii, and whether they’d give it to me early. I wanted to play a video game before anybody else, and I wanted it to be Super Smash Bros. Brawl so I could get really good and nobody would ever be able to catch up. Certainly, I felt, GameStop had that power and would be generous with it. Theo, who worked at that GameStop, told me many times: Cecilia, it comes out in December. Each time, I’d fuss, forget what he said, and distract myself with some other game they had pre-installed on the Wii kiosk in the store. Then I’d go in again the next week….

… Back then, I was usually grounded. Each sentence lasted for a week, two weeks, a month, and eventually, it all blurred into an endless, sprawling, dusty-grey dream. My mom theorizes that I’d purposefully do bad teen stuff so she’d ground me. That way I could avoid my increasingly complicated friendships at the strip. Time would spin on there without me: break-ups, fights, pranks, insults. In the world of Final Fantasy XI, I had comrades who needed me. As my dedication to leveling up heightened, so too did my in-game friends’ expectations of me as a community member. A couple times a week, one would reach out to me on a forum, or on Myspace, or eventually even through text message, asking me to log on and help them with some level grinding, some quest.

Then came the emotional labor. As a teenager, I did not have the tools to counsel the cat girl FlameKitty, the avatar of an older man, through his joblessness, his unpaid bills, his loneliness. I could not offer authoritative advice after a married mother of five fell in love with another Final Fantasy XI companion, whose shadowy forum profile picture featured a katana. …

(15) A FAMILIAR FACE. The Waterloo (ONT) Public Library is doing a sff author panel October 5 – details on the programs calendar. You should recognize at least one of the participants.

James Bow moderates a panel of five other authors talking about Canada as a setting for science fiction and fantasy novels. Why should New York, Los Angeles, or London have all the fun? Canada boasts some of the world’s best science fiction and fantasy writers, and some of the most innovative tech sectors. We have a part to play in the wider science fiction community, and we intend to represent.

Science Fiction and fantasy writers Erin Bow, James Nicoll, Leah Bobet, James Alan Gardner and (maybe – still to be confirmed ) Sarah Raughley join moderator James Bow in a free-flowing discussion of what Canada can contribute and has contributed to science fiction and fantasy. The event at the Main library will be followed by the launch of James Bow’s new urban fantasy novel, “The Night Girl”. Books will be sold and authors are available to sign copies. Everyone welcome

(16) BOARD OF EQUALIZATION. FastCompany thinks “‘Ms. Monopoly’ is not as patronizing as Hasbro’s version for millennials, but it’s not empowering either”.

…However, last year, Hasbro shook the table with Monopoly for Millennials, which critics universally bemoaned as an “insulting experience.” The game’s tagline of “Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway” seemed to signify that Hasbro was perhaps more interested in wooing back older players (who also like dunking on young adults) rather than genuinely appeal to a new generation discovering the joys of game night. (The reasons why millennials can’t afford homes are varied and complex and have nothing to do with pouring our income into artisanal coffee and avocado toast—xoxo, a millennial.)

Then just last month there was Monopoly for Socialists, another widely panned bit of pandering to older people who might still be afraid of the s-word that the game-centric site Polygon dubbed “horrible, even as a parody.” The release also led to the surely unintended wider dissemination of Monopoly’s roots as a game created by a woman named Elizabeth Magie to spread the message that landlords and real-estate hoarding are societal ills, yet it was appropriated by men and turned into a pro-capitalist pastime.

Now, there’s Hasbro’s latest addition to the Monopoly family: Ms. Monopoly. Its tagline is “The first game where women make more than men.”…

(17) TRACKING DOWN BARGAINS. Contact Mr. Muffin’s Trains for all your Hell-bound “O” Gauge model train needs….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Walk The Dog Before I Sleep on Vimeo is an animated music video by Drew Christie of a song by Brian Cullman.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, Steve Johnson, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 6/26/19 Pixel Scroll Powers Activate!

(1) HILL HOUSE. Whatever DC Comics’ other problems may be, they’re pretty sure they can sell this: “DC Launching New Horror Line From Writer Joe Hill”.

Hill House Comics will consist of five miniseries and debut this October. Just days after announcing the closure of the DC Vertigo imprint, DC is signaling that it hasn’t moved away from creator-owned comic book material. The publisher has announced a new pop-up imprint, Hill House Comics, curated by horror writer Joe Hill.

The line of five original miniseries — each one targeted to readers 17 and older — will feature two titles written by the Fireman and Heart-Shaped Box author himself, with all five titles including a secondary strip, “Sea Dogs,” also written by Hill. Other titles will be written by The Girl With All The Gifts author Mike Carey, playwright and The Good Fight screenwriter Laura Marks, and critically acclaimed short story writer and essayist Carmen Maria Machado. Artists for the line include Sandman veteran Kelley Jones, as well as The Unwritten’s Peter Gross.

(2) CAFFEINE SEEKERS. Ursula Vernon has the most interesting conversations. Thread starts here.

(3) WESTERCON/NASFIC. The Spikecon program is live — https://spikecon.org/schedule/

(4) NET FANAC. In 2017, The Guardian tracked down these behind-the-scenes fan creators: “Watchers on the Wall: meet the rulers of the world’s biggest TV fan sites”. Whovian.net’s Dan Butler said:

I was 12 when Doctor Who was relaunched in 2005, and at school it was seen as nerdy. Because I had no one to talk to about it, I created a website to show my love. I wrote reviews of the episodes and used a website builder, then later I built a site from scratch.

What I loved about the show was the idea that you could be walking down the street and meet the Doctor, and your life could change forever. I liked the balance between domestic drama and science fiction – the first series was like watching a soap one scene, and Star Trek in the next. For me, Christopher Eccleston, who was my first Doctor, is the closest to how I think the part should be; if you walked past him, he wouldn’t stand out. Since then, the Doctors have been more flamboyant – more alien.

(5) WHERE PULP HISTORY WAS MADE. This was once the headquarters of Street & Smith’s pulp magazine empire, which after 1933 included Astounding: “The 1905 Street & Smith Building – 79-89 Seventh Avenue” at Daytonian in Manhattan

In 1928 the firm took made an innovative marketing move by hiring the Ruthrauff & Ryan Advertising Agency to produce a radio program to promote Detective Story Magazine.  Called “The Detective Story Hour,” it was introduced and narrated by a sinister voice known as “The Shadow.”  His tag line became familiar to radio listeners across the country:  “The Shadow knows…and you too shall know if you listen as Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine relates for you the story of…” whatever story was featured that week.

As it turned out, The Shadow’s character was so successful that it detracted from the Detective Story sales.  Street & Smith decided the best way to handle the problem was to introduce a new magazine featuring The Shadow.

(6) STAND ON ZANZIBAR. Extra Credit makes John Brunner sound absolutely prescient.

How do we cope with a crowded world we as humans were never evolutionarily designed for? Stand on Zanzibar was written in 1968 but it uncannily, accurately predicts many of our present day’s social tensions and stressors. However, it also has a certain optimism that makes it stand out among other dystopic fiction we’ve discussed.

(7) ARISIA CORRECTS GOH LIST.  Saladin Ahmed proved to be unavailable after Arisia 2020 prematurely announced him as a Guest of Honor. There was a tweet —

He had also been added to the Arisia 2020 website (still visible in the Google webcache at this time). When his name was taken down without an announcement, there was curiosity about the reason.

I asked Arisia President Nicholas “phi” Shectman, and he replied:

Saladin was invited and let us know that he was interested but had to check availability. We misunderstood and made an announcement (and put his name on our web site) prematurely. It turns out he’s unable to make it this year. We’ve apologized to him privately and are preparing a public retraction.

(8) OTHER ARISIA NEWS. Arisia Inc.’s discussion of how to improve its Incident Report process, and the determinations made about some of the IR’s (with no names cited) are minuted in the May issue and June issue of Mentor.

The June issue also gave an update about the litigation over Arisia’s cancellation of plans to use two strike-affected hotels (for the 2019 event):

Hearings for the Westin and Aloft disputes are still scheduled for July 11 and June 25 respectively. We have hired Deb Geisler as an expert witness to testify about how hard it is to change hotels at the last minute, in support of our assertion that the deadline we gave the Westin for the strike to be resolved was the actual latest we could wait before canceling with them. I still think there is an 80% chance that we will prevail and if we do we will still be in the Westin. I also still expect to know the answer in late July or early August.

…Deb is a professor at BU, teaches non-profit event management, has chaired Intercon, we mainly selected her because she has academic credentials

Deb Geisler also chaired Noreascon 4 (2004).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 26, 1904 Peter Lorre.  I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in Americanized version of Casino Royale which an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series as Le Chiffre. (James was called Jimmy. Shudder!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 26, 1910 Elsie Wollheim. The wife of Donald A. Wollheim. She was one of the original Futurians of New York, and assisted them in their publishing efforts, and even published Highpoints, her own one-off fanzine. When he started DAW Books in 1972, she was the co-founder, and inherited the company when he died. Their daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) now runs the company along with co-publisher and Sheila E. Gilbert. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 26, 1950 Tom DeFalco, 69. Comic book writer and editor, mainly known for his Marvel Comics and in particular for his work with the Spider-Man line. He designed the Spider-Girl character which was his last work at Marvel as he thought he was being typecast as just a Spider-Man line writer. He’s since been working at DC and Archie Comics.
  • Born June 26, 1969 Lev Grossman, 50. Author of most notable as the author of The Magicians Trilogy which is The Magicians, The Magician King and The Magician’s Land. Perennial best sellers at the local indie bookshops. Understand it was made into a series which is yet another series that I’ve not seen. Opinions on the latter, y’all? 
  • Born June 26, 1969 Austin Grossman, 50. Twin brother of Lev. And no, he’s not here just because he’s Lev’s twin brother. He’s the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible which is decidedly SF as well as You: A Novel (also called YOU) which was heavily influenced for better or worse by TRON and Crooked, a novel involving the supernatural and Nixon. He’s also a video games designed, some of which such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Tomb Raider: Legend are definitely genre. 
  • Born June 26, 1980 Jason Schwartzman, 49. He first shows up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Gag Halfrunt,  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s personal brain care specialist. (Uncredited initially.) He  was Ritchie in Bewitched, and voiced Simon Lee in  Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. He co-wrote Isle of Dogs alongwith Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura. I think his best work was voicing Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 
  • Born June 26, 1984 Aubrey Plaza, 34. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation which at least one Filer has insisted is genre. She voiced Eska in recurring role on The Legend of Korra which is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. She was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Julie Powers. Currently she’s Lenny Busker on Legion. 

(10) MCINTYRE MEMORY BOOK. Remembering Vonda, the memorial book of anecdotes and sentiments about the late Vonda McIntyre, is not only available for sale as trade paperback ($12.12), but can be downloaded as a free PDF.

TRADE PAPERBACK 
FREE PDF

Jane Hawkins had an idea: to collect all the lovely stories written around Vonda’s death, and to put them in one place for us all to enjoy. This book is that place.Stephanie A. Smith and Jeanne Gomoll joined forces to edit the book. Vonda’s community—her friends, colleagues, readers, and admirers—shared their fondest memories, stories, praise and love for the dear friend they had recently lost.

All proceeds from books sold through LuluDotCom will benefit Clarion West.

(11) DEAL TERMINATOR. Unfortunately, most of the article is behind Adweek’s paywall, but the photo is funny: “Arnold Schwarzenegger Kicks ‘Gas’ as a Used Car Salesman in This Parody for Electric Vehicles”.

It’s no surprise that a cheesy used-car salesman like Howard Kleiner, sporting a man-pony, a Hawaiian shirt and a porn ‘stache, would be into throwback gas guzzlers. For him, it’s V8 or nothing, and if you pick the wrong vehicle on his lot, he may hand you a snide bumper sticker that says, “Carpool lanes are for sissies.”

(12) HISTORY THAT IS EVEN MORE ALTERNATE THAN USUAL. Jered Pechacek is determined to explain to us “WHY you can’t LEGALLY MARRY CLAMS in the STATE OF MAINE.” Thread starts here. Even easier to follow at Threadreader.

Oh yes, let freedom ring.

(13) CONVERTIBLE FALCON. Not much gets by Comicbook.com“Funko’s Massive Star Wars Millennium Falcon with Han Solo Pop is Live”.

Today, out of nowhere, Funko launched a Deluxe Star Wars Millennium Falcon with Han Solo Pop figure today that must be among the largest that they have ever produced. It measures a whopping 5.5″ tall, is 10.5″ wide and 13.25″ long with a price tag to match – $64.99.

(14) THE MOUSE THAT ROARS. NPR tells you how it’s going to look from now on: “‘Endgame’ Nears All-Time Record, And The Age Of The Disney Mega-Blockbuster Is Upon Us”.

There’s been some question about whether Avengers: Endgame will knock global box-office champ Avatar out of first place in Hollywood’s record books.

…Now, you’d think the threat that Disney might swipe the crown away from Fox would prompt wails of anguish, but it’s hard for the folks at Fox to be too upset.

Because these days, Disney owns Fox.

Which means Disney doesn’t just own the Marvel Universe — and Star Wars, which it bought a few years ago — it now also owns Avatar. And that fact is about to change the way the rest of Hollywood is forced to do business.

…In its first week, Avengers: Endgame sold 88% of the movie tickets that were purchased in North America, leaving just 12 percent to be split by more than a hundred other movies that might as well not have been open. Go back to other mega-blockbusters, and you see the same thing. they take up all the oxygen. Avengers: Infinity War, The Last Jedi, The Force Awakens, Black Panther each took in about 80 percent of their opening weekends, crushing everything else at the multiplex. Small wonder that other studios have learned to steer clear of these all-consuming box office behemoths.

…Every studio opens something big in late December, which has resulted for years in a happy flotilla of blockbusters that play to different audience segments, lifting all boats.

But Disney recently made an announcement that’s going to change that. Now that the company controls all of the franchises in the 2-billion-dollar club (Marvel, Star Wars and Avatar), it doesn’t have to play chicken with other studios about opening dates — it can just claim them.

And it’s done that … for the next eight years.

(15) IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. “Spirited Away: Japanese anime trounces Toy Story 4 at China box office” — BBC has the numbers.

Japanese animation Spirited Away has dominated the Chinese box office over its opening weekend, making more than twice as much as Disney’s Toy Story 4.

The Studio Ghibli film grossed $27.7m (£21.8m), according to Maoyan, China’s largest movie ticketing app.

Spirited Away was officially released in 2001, but only now, 18 years later, has it been released in China.

However, many Chinese viewers grew up with the film, having watched DVDs or pirated downloads.

…China has a strict quota on the number of foreign films it shows.

One analyst told the BBC last year that political tensions between China and Japan in the past could be why some Japanese movies had not been aired in China until very recently.

(16) HOW TO FIND IT AGAIN. WIRED’s Gretchen McCullough praises Hugo-nominated Archive of Our Own in “Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online”.

…The Archive of Our Own has none of these problems. It uses a third tagging system, one that blends the best elements of both styles.

On AO3, users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling. Wrangling means that you don’t need to know whether the most popular tag for your new fanfic featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is Johnlock or Sherwatson or John/Sherlock or Sherlock/John or Holmes/Watson or anything else. And you definitely don’t need to tag your fic with all of them just in case. Instead, you pick whichever one you like, the tag wranglers do their work behind the scenes, and readers looking for any of these synonyms will still be able to find you….

(17) SCOOPS AHOY. Delish says get ready to stand in line in Indiana, er, Burbank: “Baskin-Robbins Is Recreating The Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Shop From ‘Stranger Things'”.

Deep into any Netflix binge of Stranger Things, it’s easy to get sucked into the misadventures of Eleven and co. and wonder what a day in the life of a character would be like. Baskin Robbins is making this marathon-fueled fever dream one step closer to a reality. The ice cream retailer announced on Wednesday that they’ll be recreating the Stranger Things Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Shop.

Lick your ice cream cone like its 1985 at a Burbank, CA, installation in its Baskin-Robbins location. Designed to reflect the ice cream parlor located inside the food court of Starcourt Mall—which is frequented by Hawkins, IN locals—you can visit from Tuesday, July 2 to Sunday, July 14.

Not only does a press release boast replicas of nautical décor and staff uniforms (like you could forget Steve Harrington and Robin’s shifts scooping sundaes there), but also show-inspired treats. Previously announced Stranger Things flavors, which have been teased relentlessly on the company’s Instagram, will be ready for consumption and include:

Flavor of the Month, USS Butterscotch: Inspired by the Scoops Ahoy shop at the Starcourt Mall in Hawkins, IN, the July Flavor of the Month is a decadent butterscotch-flavored ice cream with butterscotch pieces and a toffee-flavored ribbon. Also available in pre-packed quarts.

(18) SPIDER-MAN THEME REVISITED. Mark Evanier pointed out this music video on News From Me.

We love a cappella singing on this site and Will Hamblet told me about this one. It’s the theme from the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon show as rendered by a vocal quartet called Midtown. The snazzy video was, they say, shot entirely on an iPhone using the iMessage comic filter.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kathy Sullivan, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/19 ///Pixel.Scroll.Comment Is In The Middle Of Nowhere In Australia

(1) CATS SLEEP ON $FF. Cat Rambo issues a warning about “Writing Contests and Fees”, and rebuts several arguments she’s heard trying to justify them.

Here’s one of her answers:

Charging a fee means better submissions. Great reason for editors and magazines; meaningless to writers and in fact, means people that self-reject will be even more likely to do so. It also ensures economically disadvantaged people don’t get to participate. The price of a latte for one person may be the next person’s daily food budget.

(2) PROBLEMS FOR JUDGE WHO ENGAGED KRAMER’S COMPUTER SERVICES. More revelations about the judge, from the Gwinett Daily Post. Recent news proves that not only did the judge know about Kramer, but that she was in phone contact with him. She currently is being asked to recuse herself following making false statements and recording the DA during a meeting without his permission or knowledge. “Gwinnett DA files motion for Superior Court judge to recuse herself from all criminal cases”.

Just days after a court filing alleged that Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader expressly gave a convicted sex offender access to the county’s computer network, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is calling for her to recuse herself from all criminal cases.

…In Friday’s filing, which included an affidavit, Porter said he confronted the judge about her computer being monitored, but “at no time during this meeting did Judge Schrader disclose that she had any direct knowledge of this monitoring, or that she had hired Ward, Karic and Kramer to do so.”

The judge also recorded the meeting “through a video on her phone without (Porter’s) knowledge or consent,” Porter wrote in the affidavit.

On March 15, when the GBI interviewed Schrader, she accused Porter of hacking her computer, Porter’s affidavit said.

“Because Judge Schrader has alleged that I committed a criminal offense against her, I have grounds to reasonably question her impartiality in any criminal case that my office handles before her,” Porter’s affidavit said. “This is further supported by the fact that Judge Schrader has surreptitiously recorded our private conversations without my knowledge or consent, while feigning ignorance of the very individuals she had employed and allowed to access the entire Gwinnett County Computer network.”

(3) AGED, BUT NOT GOLDEN. Is reviewer Christopher Priest so eager to lash out at a writer who died 30 years ago, or was this an irresistible opportunity to downcheck a favorite of some of his living American colleagues? He reviews Farah Mendlesohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein for The Spectator: “Robert A. Heinlein: the ‘giant of SF’ was sexist, racist — and certainly no stylist”.  

…Mendlesohn describes how Heinlein, who when younger had made a well-earned name for himself as an author of serious and innovative speculative fiction, became a rotten writer in the second half of his career. He always told stories well, but his style was execrable. From Starship Troopers (1959) onwards, his books had an endlessly hectoring, lecturing tone, almost always phrased in long and unconvincing conversations full of paternalistic advice, sexual remarks, libertarian dogma and folksy slang. Reading one of his later novels produced the weird effect of meaningless receptivity: you could get through 20 pages at a gallop, but at the end you couldn’t remember anything that had been said, by whom or for what reason. The next 20 pages would be the same (but seemed longer).

… At the end of the war he began a series of juvenile novels, aimed unerringly at young readers but told in the same didactic voice. These novels, not published in the UK until years later when Heinlein was famous, had a profound effect on their American readers. There is still today a generation of middle- aged and elderly American science fiction writers for whom Heinlein is in a position of seminal influence, similar to Hemingway in other literary circles. Heinlein’s influence on modern American science fiction is not universal, but still detectable….

(4) SWATTER GETS 20 YEARS. On December 28, 2017 Andrew “Andy” Finch was killed when police officers in Wichita, Kansas responded to a 911 call about a hostage/murder situation. Tyler Barriss, who made the call, has now been convicted and sentenced: “20 years for man behind hoax call that led to fatal shooting”.

A California man was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for making bogus emergency calls to authorities across the U.S., including one that led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man following a dispute between two online players over a $1.50 bet in the Call of Duty: WWII video game.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Tyler R. Barriss, 26, under a deal in which he pleaded guilty in November to a total of 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats. The plea agreement called for a sentence of at least 20 years — well over the 10 years recommended under sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors believe it is the longest prison sentence ever imposed for the practice of “swatting,” a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, particularly a SWAT team, to descend on an address.

(5) LIKE A JAWA MARRIOTT. Take one look at the picture and you can have no doubts: “The upside down hotel said to have inspired Star Wars faces demolition”.

Much of the shooting for the original Star Wars movies took place in Tunisia, and legend has it that one local landmark made a powerful impression on its creator, George Lucas.

The influence of Hotel du Lac in Tunis, shaped like an upside-down pyramid with serrated edges, would later be seen in the fictional Sandcrawler vehicle used by the Jawas of the Tatooine desert planet in the film.

(6) WOMEN AT THE FOREFRONT. The Bustle lists “12 Female-Driven Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels That You Definitely Don’t Want To Miss”. One of them is —

‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ by Samantha Shannon

A millennium ago, a powerful, evil dragon, known only as the Nameless One, was locked away in the Abyss. The people of three nations want to keep the dragon sealed away, but fear that his return is imminent. In Samantha Shannon’s sweeping new fantasy novel, three women, one from each nation, must join forces if they want to keep their world safe.

(7) ADVANCED DEGREES. As Women’s History Month winds up, Yahoo! Entertainment explores the “Six Degrees of Peggy Carter: Why the S.H.I.E.L.D. Founder Is the Lynchpin of the Entire MCU”.

While there may not be direct links from Peggy to every single Avenger, her status as a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. links her intrinsically to the heroic group and their efforts to save the world from evil time and time again. So here is a very unofficial, fan-centric look at the impact Peggy Carter has had on the MCU, and the ways in which she helped bring Earth’s mightiest heroes together as a team. “All we can do is our best,” after all….

2. Iron Man

A “self-made man” in the same way that Kylie Jenner is a self-made billionaire, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) likely spent his childhood years on the receiving end of some very disapproving glances from his father’s friend and close confidante. Howard’s working relationship with Peggy — sans fondue, of course — is established in The First Avenger, but their friendship is explored even further in Agent Carter’sstellar two-season run on ABC. The pair teamed up to save the world more than a few times, forging a bond so strong, it’s impossible to believe that Peggy wasn’t a part of young Tony’s life — and that she didn’t have an impact on the hero he grew up to be.

And besides that, if Howard had died in Agent Carter’s season one finale, as he came very close to doing, Tony would have gotten scrubbed from the timeline, Marty McFly-style. Thanks, Aunt Peggy.

(8) CLASSIC TREK CONTRIBUTOR At Den of Geek, “Star Trek’s D.C. Fontana Talks the Origin of Spock’s Family”.

… For fans of Star Trek: Discovery, specifically, Fontana’s script for the animated episode “Yesteryear,” has been the visual and thematic backbone of nearly all of Discovery Vulcan-centric flashbacks in the second season, which has informed this version of Spock’s character. And, for those who love Spock parent’s— Amanda Grayson and Sarek—Fontana is the person who straight-up invented them.

…In The Original Series, Amanda and Sarek only appeared in “Journey to Babel,” written by Fontana. But, because that episode also featured a huge diplomatic summit on the Enterprise, this also means she created several of the big classic Trek aliens, too, including the Andorians and the Tellarites, who have both made huge appearances in Discovery first two seasons.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads similarly to Heinlein. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1930 John Astin, 89. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 69. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at the airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film.
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 61. Voice actor primarily known for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 20. She’s only here because in researching Birthdays for this date, one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics. Though IMDB has a cast listed for it, that’s about all I could find on it. If I was betting a cask of Romulan ale, I’d wager this was one of the productions that Paramount got shut down three years back. 

(10) IN THE ZONE Some TV history leading up to the Jordan Peele reboot, in the New York Times: “‘The Twilight Zone’: Here’s Why We Still Care”.

Today we live in a world where the words “Twilight Zone” are used as an adjective whenever anyone wants to describe stories (or real-life events) that are fearless, insightful, ironic and just a little bit spooky. And that theme song was killer too.

(11) FLIGHTS OF FANTASY. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky analyzes a new graphic novel: “In ‘She Could Fly,’ A Teen Wrestles With A Host Of Psychological Mysteries”.

“Would you rather be able to fly or turn invisible?” It’s the archetypal party question. It was already popular way back in 2001, when This American Life addressed it, and the years haven’t lessened its appeal. As recently as 2015, Forbes posed the question to 7,065 “business and professional leaders … across the globe” and Vulture brought it up with the stars of Ant-Man.

Fly, or turn invisible? The question’s popularity is probably due to its uncanny psychological subtext. The two powers don’t seem to conflict at first, but a closer look reveals that they represent opposing tendencies. To fly is to be triumphant, dominant, powerful. To be invisible is to recede, to hide.

Christopher Cantwell nods to this duality in She Could Fly, a graphic novel whose protagonist wishes she could fly and feels like she’s invisible…
Luna seems to be suffering from a particularly intense form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but she hasn’t been diagnosed or received any treatment. Taking it for granted that there’s no help for her, she shuts out such well-meaning people as the aforementioned guidance counselor. Luna has only one source of hope, and it’s a doozy: A mysterious woman spotted flying, superhero-style, around the skies of Chicago.

(12) MODERN MILSF. Andrew Liptak intends this as a compliment, I wonder if Hurley takes it as one? In The Verge: “The Light Brigade is a worthy successor to Starship Troopers”.

The world Hurley presents in The Light Brigade is a feudalistic nightmare, and makes a sharp commentary on the growing influence and dangers of a world ruled by corporations. Corporations control all aspects of the lives of the citizens, from the information they have access to, to how they’re educated and where they live, their lives given up to supporting whatever unknowable corporate goals their overlords have planned. It’s a perverse twist on Heinlein’s arguments about serving to earn citizenship, which implied that one has to earn their freedom through service. In Hurley’s world, freedom is an illusion. It doesn’t matter what you do, you end up serving your host corporation.

(13) THEY’LL SCARE THE CHOCOLATE OUT OF YOU. If you thought this happened only in Monty Python, not so, says Open Culture: “Killer Rabbits in Medieval Manuscripts: Why So Many Drawings in the Margins Depict Bunnies Going Bad”.

In all the kingdom of nature, does any creature threaten us less than the gentle rabbit? Though the question may sound entirely rhetorical today, our medieval ancestors took it more seriously — especially if they could read illuminated manuscripts, and even more so if they drew in the margins of those manuscripts themselves. “Often, in medieval manuscripts’ marginalia we find odd images with all sorts of monsters, half man-beasts, monkeys, and more,” writes Sexy Codicology’s Marjolein de Vos. “Even in religious books the margins sometimes have drawings that simply are making fun of monks, nuns and bishops.” And then there are the killer bunnies.

Hunting scenes, de Vos adds, also commonly appear in medieval marginalia, and “this usually means that the bunny is the hunted; however, as we discovered, often the illuminators decided to change the roles around.”…

Numerous illustrations at the link.

(14) SURVIVAL AT STAKE. “Tasmanian devils ‘adapting to coexist with cancer'” – BBC has the story.

There’s fresh hope for the survival of endangered Tasmanian devils after large numbers were killed off by facial tumours.

The world’s largest carnivorous marsupials have been battling Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) for over 20 years.

But researchers have found the animals’ immune system to be modifying to combat the assault.

And according to an international team of scientists from Australia, UK, US and France, the future for the devils is now looking brighter.

“In the past, we were managing devil populations to avoid extinction. Now, we are progressively moving to an adaptive management strategy, enhancing those selective adaptations for the evolution of devil/DFTD coexistence,” explains Dr Rodrigo Hamede, from the University of Tasmania.

First discovered in north-eastern Tasmania in 1996, the disease has since spread across 95% of the species’ range, with local population losses of over 90%.

(15) CAMELIDS VISIT COMIC CON. Two events in the same facility find they are unexpectedly compatible.

(16) PLATE SPECIAL. AMC’s series based on the novel by Joe Hill premieres June 2. Here’s the NOS4A2 “A Fight For Their Souls” official trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/19/18 The White Zone Is For Scrolling And Filing Only. There Are No Ticky-Boxes In The White Zone

(1) MORE MEXICANX. John Picacio announced more picks to receive Worldcon 76 memberships from the Mexicanx Initiative.

(2) MANY DOLLARS WERE MADE. From NPR: “‘Black Panther’ Breaks Records And Barriers In Debut Weekend”

Black Panther pounced on the weekend box office, breaking cultural barriers and earning the highest debut ever for a February film, with an estimated three-day domestic gross of $192 million, said Disney, Marvel’s parent company.

The opening was the fifth highest-earning of any film, according to Disney. The only other movies that have brought in more are Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World and The Avengers, according to The Associated Press.

(3) WAKANDA. Abigail Nussbaum weighs in on “A Political History of the Future: Black Panther” at the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog:

From architecture to interior design to costuming, every aspect of Wakanda was designed from the ground up to incorporate traditional African imagery while projecting it into a bold, positive future. Costume designer Ruth Carter’s bywords for the film were “Beautiful. Positive. Forward. Colorful.” Camille Friend, head of the movie’s hair department, has spoken about her determination to feature only natural black hair, in varying styles reflecting the different characters’ personalities. (In one amusing scene, no-nonsense Dora Milaje leader Okoye (Danai Gurira) complains about having to wear a Western-style wig while undercover. Later, during a fight, she throws the wig in her opponent’s face as a distraction.) Star Chadwick Boseman has explained his decision to give T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda, an African accent as an attempt to forestall the preconception that as a cosmopolitan member of the elite, he would naturally have been educated in Europe. In every respect, Black Panther is hard at work crafting an image of African life that is sophisticated, knowledge-based, and futuristic, while at the same time producing a society that is just, prosperous, and benevolent.

(4) CATALANO’S HAT TRICK. Frank Catalano has had three sf-related stories on GeekWire this week:

“I interviewed Peter S. Beagle about his memories of Pittsburgh, where he is getting his SFWA Grand Master Award this year, and also about Seattle, where he used to live. It was done as a study in contrasts between GeekWire’s home city of Seattle and Pittsburgh, a city it is highlighting for the month of February. I happened to think Beagle and the SFWA Nebula Conference were a natural tie.”

Beagle said he came to the University of Pittsburgh as a writing student in 1955, when he was 16 years old. “It was the Steel City of legend then: legendary for its griminess, its foul air, its wretched baseball team, the blazing mills along the river going night and day,” he recalled. “Seeing it from an airplane at night (which was my first sight of the city) was truly like being welcomed to hell.”

Yet the city grew on him. “I came to cherish Pittsburgh, as I still do, even though there literally isn’t a brick on a brick remaining of the mid-fifties town I knew,” he said.

“I also interviewed Ramez Naam, author of the Nexus trilogy of science-fiction thrillers, about his take on why the world is trending more toward the positive than the negative (plus the status of turning Nexus into something more than a novel), and had him re-visit some predictions he made in 2015, for my podcast on science fiction, pop culture and the arts. It led to two stories, the first on the state of the world and tech (and the state of Nexus), and the second on his predictions”:

If you were to ask globally known clean energy expert Ramez Naam what makes him optimistic about technology and the future, it may boil down to one word: scale.

Naam has a long history of thinking about the effects of scale, even before his current role as co-chair for energy and the environment at Singularity University. In his award-winning Nexus science fiction trilogy, Naam tackled the implications of widespread brain-to-brain communication. And in his past role as a computer scientist at Microsoft leading teams working on early versions of Outlook, Internet Explorer, and Bing, Naam came to appreciate what sheer magnitude can do.

“I learned that we can create tools that really improve people’s lives, and that technology can scale to help billions of people,” Naam said. “And that, I think, inspired me with the power of using our minds and our imaginations to make the world better.”

Many of these what-ifs recall a frequent theme of Naam’s writing and speaking: building resilience, both organizationally and individually, to technological change. “Technology moves faster than society, and society even has multiple strata,” he explained. Each is subsequently more sluggish, starting with how fast the next generation learns, to how fast we learn, to how fast organizations learn, and finally to how fast government learns.

So to deal with rapid change, Naam said, “We have to be more experimental as a society.” Governments may have to try different policies just to see which ones work. “That would be anathema to the way that politicians voice certainty of, ‘X will do Y.’ But that’s how science works. It’s how innovation in business works,” he said.

“Finally — and this is a personal favorite — a story that Tacoma will soon have a park named for Dune, honoring Frank Herbert. Why a personal favorite?  Back in 1986, I was asked by Frank Herbert’s family to help field news media calls about his literary legacy when he died (at the time, I was very active in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and had been an officer of the organization).  And the park’s setting is especially appropriate, as my story notes.”

There likely won’t be any sandworms, but that’s not needed to spice up this news: Tacoma, Wash., native Frank Herbert, best known for the hugely popular Dune science-fiction novels, is getting a namesake park in his home town.

The Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners has approved naming an 11-acre waterfront site “Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park,” and a winding pedestrian loop being built on the same site the “Frank Herbert Trail.” The public space is currently under construction on land that once housed the former ASARCO copper smelting operation, next to the Tacoma Yacht Club boat basin.

(5) JOE HILL ON VINYL. HarperAudio, the audio imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, will publish Dark Carousel, a “vinyl-first” audiobook by New York Times bestselling author Joe Hill on April 20, a release timed to coincide with Record Store Day on April 21. Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover of Dark Carousel along with an exclusive excerpt from the audiobook.

 Says author Joe Hill, “My hard rockin’ fantasies are pretty well documented at this point — the hero of my first novel was, after all, a world-famous heavy metal rocker. I’ve always wanted to have my own LP, and the idea that one of my stories is being released as an audiobook on vinyl blows my Beatles-quoting, Stones-fixated, Zeppelin-obsessed mind. Even better, I’m on the record with Matthew Ryan, a great American rocknrolla. His cover of “Wild Horses” is the best version of the song since the original. I’m so excited for readers and listeners to drop the needle on this story and Matt’s song.”

Written about a balmy summer night in 1994. Dark Carousel is the tale of four teenagers out for an evening of fun on the boardwalk who take a ride on the “Wild Wheel” – an antique carousel with a shadowy past – and learn too late that decisions made in an instant can have deadly consequences. What begins as a night of innocent end-of-summer revelry, young love, and (a few too many) beers among friends soon descends into chaos, as the ancient carousel’s parade of beasts comes chillingly to life to deliver the ultimate judgment for their misdeeds.

(6) HAVE YOU ORDERED YOURS YET? Hasbro wants 5,000 pre-orders to greenlight production: “Hasbro’s first HasLab toy is a replica of Jabba the Hutt’s barge”.

At this year’s Toy Fair in New York, Hasbro announced HasLab, a new program that aims to bring to life special creations like a massive, four-foot long recreation of Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge. The company is taking inspiration from platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, too: In order for the barge to become a real for-sale production item, Hasbro wants to gather 5,000 $499 pre-orders by midnight on April 3rd.

If the project reaches its funding goal, Jabba’s Sail Barge (or The Khetanna if you’re a Star Wars geek) will come with a 64-page booklet with behind-the-scenes details, set photos, interviews and blueprints of the actual set piece in the film as well as production information on the toy. The barge also comes with a 3.75-inch scale Jabba the Hutt and soft cloth sails for the top of the sand boat.

(7) JOHN BROSNAN. Kim Huett’s next Doctor Strangemind post is “John Brosnan & the Abomnibus”. In 1969 John joined a group of other young Australians who were planning to travel by double-decker bus to England. The attempt was somewhat less than successful…

Something that John wrote extensively about in the early days was his attempt to travel by bus from Australia to England. Up until the eighties there was something of a tradition among young Australians to visit ‘Mother England’ before settling down to lives of quiet desperation in the sun-baked suburbs of Australia. Most such adventurers travelled to the mother country via cruise liner, a few lucky ones flew there, but John, being inexplicably drawn to doing everything the hard way, decided that he would spend several months of 1969 travelling to ‘Ye Merry England’ with a group of other young Australians in a double-decker bus. My impression from what he wrote is that he enjoyed it more in retrospect than he did at the time…

Huett is keeping Brosnan’s non-book material alive. There’s a PDF collection that can still be downloaded for free from eFanzines. More recently Dave Langford asked Huett to put together a new, even larger version, which can be downloaded for free here.

(8) CANDLE TIME. Steven H Silver celebrates another author with “Birthday Reviews: Jonathan Lethem’s ‘Lostronaut’” at Black Gate.

…Lethem won the World Fantasy Award for his collection The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye. He has been nominated for the Nebula Award four times, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award three times, and the Shirley Jackson Award, Sidewise Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award one time, each. His novel Gun, with Occasional Music received the William L. Crawford Award and won the Locus Poll for best first novel….

(9) NEW TWIST ON PARK MAPS. Mental Floss reports “A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style”:

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports

Click here to see his impressive Yellowstone National Park map.

(10) HUGO RECS. Strange at Ecbatan’s Rich Horton wrapped up his Hugo recommendations with “Final 2018 Hugo Recommendation Post” – Semiprozine, Fancast,  Best Related Work, Professional Artist.

The others in the series are:

(11) FILLING IN SOME BLANKS. Mark Kaedrin also shares his picks for “Hugo Award Season 2018”, beginning with —

The nomination period for the 2018 Hugo Awards is open, so it’s time to get out the vote before the requisite whining and bitter recriminations start in earnest. I’ve read a bunch of eligible works, but of course not all will make the cut. Here’s where I’m at right now:

(12) CHOCOLATE CHAMPS. Congratulations to Filer Daniel P. Dern for scoring second in Boskone 55’s Chocolate for Trivia event.

CHOCOLATE TRIVIA SCORES

Bob Devney  52
Dan Dern  44
Tim Liebe  27
Peter Turi  23

(13) QUICKER SIPPER. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Shimmer #41 [February stuff]”.

The stories from Shimmer Magazine’s February offerings excel in coming from interesting viewpoints. From ghosts of boys who never were and never should have been to bags full of dreams and magic, the character work here involves narrators whose primary function is to accompany someone else. In that these are two excellently paired stories that highlight the ways in which these companions, these burdens, these people relate to those who carry them. And the stories offer two widely different takes on that theme, one of the narrators kind and helpful and loving and the other…well, not so much. The stories show just how much these presences can help the people carrying them, and just how much they can hurt as well. To the reviews!

(14) GUITAR CITY. A popular movie has paid off in more than one way: “A Town In Mexico Sees Guitar Sales Soar Thanks To The Movie ‘Coco'”.

Real-life sales of guitars like Miguel’s guitar have soared thanks to the movie. And not just in U.S. stores. A small town in Mexico’s western highlands, famous for its generation of guitar makers, is also enjoying a Coco boon.

Paracho, in the state of Michoacán, is the former home of the very guitar maker who helped design the instrument seen in the film.

(15) NOT EXACTLY THE AGE OF AQUARIUS. A marker for the beginning of the Anthropocene: “‘Loneliest tree’ records human epoch”.

It’s been dubbed “the loneliest tree on the planet” because of its remote location, but the Sitka spruce might represent something quite profound about the age in which we live.

The tree, sited on Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean, records in its wood a clear radioactive trace from the A-bomb tests of the 1950s and 60s.

As such, it could be the “golden spike” scientists are seeking to define the start of the Anthropocene Epoch – a new time segment in our geological history of Earth.

The suggestion is that whatever is taken as the golden spike, it should reflect the so-called “Great Acceleration” when human impacts on the planet suddenly intensified and became global in extent.

This occurs after WWII and is seen for example in the explosion in plastics production.

(16) THE GANG’S ALL HERE. It’s 1963 and producer Roger Corman turns to Poe for his forty-seventh movie. Galactic Journey tells whether it’s worth seeing: “[February 18, 1963] An Odd Beast (Roger Corman’s The Raven)”.

The Raven hit theaters last month not so much to terrify audiences, but to reel them in with a star studded cast and a light, Edgar Allan Poe-flavored, fantasy comedy story. Starring Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Hazel Court, the film is very loosely based around the narrative Edgar Allan Poe poem by the same name. By this I mean that Hazel Court is, of course, the sassy and longed-for Lenore, and Vincent Price quotes segments of the poem. There the similarities end.

(17) A BETTER USE FOR THAT MONEY. K. Tempest Bradford argues her fundraiser is a bargain at half the price.

(18) SPEAKING UP. Sophie Aldred gives Uncanny Magazine readers a captivating account of “My Voice-Over Life”.

Sophie Aldred has been working as a professional actress, singer, and director for the last 35 years in theatre, TV, film and audio. She is perhaps best known as the 7th Doctor Who’s companion, Ace, who beat up a Dalek with a baseball bat….

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved to read stories to her brother. She liked to put on funny voices for all the different characters and found that she was rather good at mimicking accents and odd vocal characteristics. Sometimes her brother would beg her to stop reading as he had had enough; sometimes she listened.

The little girl also liked listening to the radio programmes that her Mummy had on in the kitchen while she was making supper for Daddy who came in hungry and tired from the office (it was the 1960’s after all). Although she didn’t understand any of the so-called jokes, she loved a man called Kenneth Williams, whose strangulated vocal gymnastics she tried to imitate, and another one called Derek Nimmo, who you could tell was rather vague and very posh just by the tone of his voice….

(19) I SEE FOUR JELLYBEANS! A psychiatrist in a mental hospital has a disturbing conversation with one of his patients, a brilliant mathematician, in the SF short film The Secret Number by Colin Levy.

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

AudioFile’s Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks of 2017

AudioFile, a print and ezine, reviews audiobooks to “recommend good listening, top-notch performances and dynamic listening experiences.” The editors annually honor their choices of the best audiobooks across a variety of categories.

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2017 Best of Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks. They are listed here with links to the AudioFile reviews and, for some, a sample sound clip. (To see the winners in all the other categories, page through the AudioFile 2017 Best Audiobooks ezine.)

2017 Best of SCI-FI, FANTASY & HORROR Audiobooks

THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden, read by Kathleen Gati

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM by J.K. Rowling, Newt Scamander, read by Eddie Redmayne

GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX by Stephen King, Richard Chizmar, read by Maggie Siff

IT DEVOURS! by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor, read by Cecil Baldwin

NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman

SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Stephen King, Owen King, read by Marin Ireland

THE STONE SKY by N.K. Jemisin, read by Robin Miles

STRANGE WEATHER by Joe Hill, read by Wil Wheaton, Dennis Boutsikaris, Kate Mulgrew, Stephen Lang

MARVEL: THANOS by Stuart Moore, read by Richard Rohan and a Full Cast

UNIVERSAL HARVESTER by John Darnielle, read by John Darnielle

Exclusive Narrator Video

  • Robin Miles, narrator of THE STONE SKY

Pixel Scroll 11/3/17 Third Pixel To The Right And Scroll On ‘Til Morning

(1) DISCLAIMERS. Daniel Dern noticed this disclaimer on latest 30-second Justice League trailer (at the very end): “Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence”

“Accurate. Intriguingly specific,” he says. “Makes me wonder what other disclaimers might be.” And he suggests —

  • For THE MAGICIANS

“Cussing, pouting, and attitude. Do not attempt these magic experiments without proper protective gear and spells.”

  • For THE EXPANSE

“Warning: If you’ve read the rest of the books, you know things keep getting worse.”

  • For A GAME OF THRONES:

“Warning: It’s not Bob who’s your uncle.”

(2) KINGS OF THE PUBLISHING WORLD. The family that sells together rings cash register bells together…. “Stephen and Owen King and Joe Hill are all on the New York Times bestseller list right now”.

In what’s a first for the Kings, three out of five members of the family are all on the New York Times bestseller list as of this week.

Stephen King and his youngest son, Owen, collaborated on the highly entertaining horror yarn “Sleeping Beauties,” about a mysterious mystical occurrence that puts all the women of the world to sleep — and if they wake up, well, watch out. That book came out on Sept. 26 and immediately shot to the top of the hardcover fiction list; it still remains at number four, five weeks in.

Meanwhile, Joe Hill, the eldest of the King kids, last week released “Strange Weather,” a collection of four novellas about the supernatural and horrific. It debuted this week at number nine on the hardcover fiction charts.

(3) GRIPE SESSION. ComicsBeat’s Heidi MacDonald covers the complaints about the Central Canada Comic Con held in Winnipeg: “When a con goes badly: Area man claims C4 Winnipeg was ‘The Worst Convention I Have Ever Attended’”. According to webcomics creator Michael McAdam —

Blanket statement that remained true for the entire weekend: No volunteer anywhere could answer any questions. They were confused, lost, disjointed, or had incorrect information. In fact, a Facebook friend of mine tried to attend on Saturday- and was given so many incorrect directions to registration that he gave up and left without entering the con! Think about that: a paying attendee, who wants to come in and spend his money, can’t even get directed to the proper entrance due to absolute incompetence and ignorance. How many people do you think gave up? How much in terms of potential earnings was lost due to stupidity?

Followed by lots more like that.

(4) THIS JUST IN. Meanwhile, back at World Wombat HQ….

(5) BINTI MEETS TED. Tor.com tells how “Nnedi Okorafor’s TED Talk Explains Afrofuturism vs. Science Fiction Using the Octopus Analogy”, including this quote from Okorafor:

This idea of leaving but bringing and then becoming more is at one of the hearts of Afrofuturism, or you can simply call it a different type of science fiction. I can best explain the difference between classic science fiction and Afrofuturism if I used the octopus analogy. Like humans, octopuses are some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. However, octopus intelligence evolved from a different evolutionary line, separate from that of human beings, so the foundation is different. The same can be said about the foundations of various forms of science fiction.

(6) ORIGINAL CUT DISCOVERED. Bradbury scholar Phil Nichols made a discovery:

In the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies today I discovered the original release version of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, previously considered lost. The film previewed badly in 1982, and the Disney studios panicked and decided to rework the film. The lost version has never been released, and is believed never to have been screened since that preview.

(7) PARK PLACE. There was a summer groundswell of public support to name a Tacoma park after Dune author Frank Herbert. Metro Parks Tacoma Public Information Officer Michael Thompson answered Andrew Porter’s request for an update with this statement:

Still under consideration, still no decision. Our planning department is dealing with several construction projects, so the decision probably will be pushed back to later in the year instead of “fall.”

Herbert was born in Tacoma in 1920 and lived there as an adult. The idea to name a newly developed park for him was first suggested in 2013.

(8) RUSSELL OBIT. Pioneering television director Paddy Russell (1928-2017) has died at the age of 89. Doctor Who News paid tribute:

Patricia Russell, known to all as Paddy, had a long and distinguished career as one of the first female Directors in British television….

In the 1950’s Television was crying out for theatre staff to work in the new medium and Russell was recruited as a production assistant, working with the famed director Rudolph Cartier. Acting as the director’s eyes and ears on the studio floor, Russell worked on some of the most innovative and pioneering dramas of the day including the Quatermass science-fiction serials as well as the 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four starring Peter Cushing.  …Her first encounter with Doctor Who came in 1966 when she became the first female Director to work on the show. She helmed the First Doctor story The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve.

…It was eight years later that Russell returned to the show working on the six-part Jon Pertwee story Invasion of the Dinosaurs. It was a story fraught with technical difficulties in the attempt to bring dinosaurs to London using the primitive methods available in the early 1970’s. While not always successful it was a story Russell was very proud of.

…Two more stories followed, both staring the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. In 1975 she directed the fan favourite Pyramids of Mars, followed in 1977 by the Horror of Fang Rock. She had a prickly relationship with the lead actor whom she found increasingly difficult to work with….

(9) TODAY’S DAY

International Speculative Poetry Day

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association persuaded the State of Minnesota to declare November 3 to be International Speculative Poetry Day.

International Speculative Poetry Day seeks to highlight the vibrant legacy and extraordinary achievement of speculative poets. It seeks to introduce communities to the delights and benefits of reading and writing speculative poetry as well as make speculative poetry an important and innovative part of our cultural life.  Speculative poetry has produced some of the nation’s leading creative artists and influential books, performances, and exhibitions, inspiring other artists, educators, and community builders around the world.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 3, 1957 – Laika becomes the first dog in space.

And the bards of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association have put up a page of verse honoring the pioneer, “Remembering Laika”.

This year, November 3rd coincides with the 60th anniversary of Laika’s historic mission into outer space. (That’s 420 in space dog years!) She advanced Earth’s knowledge and paved the way for space exploration and much of our modern world today.  Several of our SFPA members recently shared poems inspired by Laika and our canine companions to mark the day. A special thanks to them and Dr. Suzie GeeForce for illustrating the occasion! You can also find additional poems by our members in our list-serv.

  • November 3, 1976 — The original Carrie debuted

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY KAIJU

  • Born November 3, 1954 Godzilla. (I think this means it’s the day the film was released.)

(12) WAVES. Lela E. Buis questions whether some TV participants are “Asking for contradictory things?”

I’m probably going to get into serious trouble with this post, as it touches on third wave feminism. Various people have urged me to address the topic before and I’ve just not gotten to it. Up front, let me say I’m a second wave feminist, and I have opinions that sometimes diverge sharply from the current platform.

Here’s the issue: A while back I watched a panel discussion on the Weinstein scandal, and I was struck with some contradictions. This show was Friday, Oct. 13, Third Rail with Ozy asks: Is sexual harassment inevitable in the workplace? Along with Colorado College Professor Tomi-Ann Roberts, the panel included three younger women.

Roberts related her personal experience with Weinstein as a 20-year-old and her subsequent decision that she wasn’t cut out for work in Hollywood. The panel then went on to define sexual harassment in the workplace to include compliments on appearance and beauty. Hm. Okay, second wave question here: Roberts looks professional. She’s got on a boxy jacket and restrained hair and makeup, but the other women look like they’ve spent hours on their appearance, plus a big chunk of change. They have on form-fitting clothing, heavy make-up and trendy hair styling. Why?

If we assume appearance is expression and therefore a type of speech, what are they saying?…

And she continues from there with her analysis.

(13) ANOTHER ATWOOD IN DEVELOPMENT. This one is based on a historical novel: “Margaret Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace’ adapted as Netflix series”.

Another Margaret Atwood novel is getting the Hollywood treatment, this time on Netflix.

In “Alias Grace,” a six-episode Netflix miniseries starring Sarah Gadon, an Irish immigrant working as a maid in Canada in the 1840s is accused of murdering her boss and his mistress. Her case is covered with breathless scrutiny, making the young woman infamous.

Based on Atwood’s historical novel, Gadon plays Grace, who recounts her life story to a young psychiatrist trying to help jog her memory.

(14) IT IS TO BLUSH. Slate’s Sam Adams declares “Stranger Things’ “Punk” Episode Is Unbelievably Awful”

The second season of Stranger Things—or, if we must, Stranger Things 2—effectively recaptures the meme-spawning magic of its first. But for a season that mostly follows the template of “What if that thing you liked, but more?” the new episodes make a pronounced departure in splitting Millie Bobbie Brown’s Eleven off from her group of demogorgon-fighting pals, most of whom think she’s disappeared or dead. As the series’ breakout character, played by its strongest young actor, Eleven is a natural candidate to carry her own largely self-contained storyline, but the strain of building a new world for her to inhabit taxes the Duffer brothers’ self-mimicking skills to the limit, and finally exhausts them altogether in its seventh episode, “The Lost Sister.” The result is an unmitigated embarrassment…

(15) BRINGS THE HAMMER. NPR’s Chris Klimek says “‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Is Hela Good”:

Ragnarok, an incontrovertibly bitchin’ word that refers in Norse myth to the final, winner-take-all smackdown between good and evil, is an awfully heavy subtitle for a movie as affably insubstantial as The Mighty Thor’s mighty third.

Catching us up on what your friendly neighborhood Thunder-God (and your friendly neighborhood Incredible Hulk) were doing while they were absent from last year’s Captain America: Civil War, the movie earns the backhanded compliment of being the best Thor picture by an Asgardian mile, and the more sincere one of being not in the least a chore to sit through. It’s funnier and prettier than most of the other Marvel movies, having figured out that adopting the visual palette of Frank Frazetta’s glossy swords n’ monsters n’ muscles fantasy paintings — rather than trying to cross that uncanny valley into photorealism — is a good way to make the wall-to-wall CGI less fatiguing. Half the frames in this film would look right at home airbrushed on the side of a 1978 Ford Econoline “shaggin’ wagon” van, which would almost certainly be blasting Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” a vintage headbanger that the Thor 3 soundtrack Ragna-rocks twice. (I am getting choked up thinking about all the 10-year-olds who will see this thing and shortly thereafter download their very first Led Zep.)

(16) GOURD EMERGENCY. Or, why they call it “felonious abandonment of zucchini”: German man believes 11-pounder is unexploded bomb, calls police: “German police find ‘WW2 bomb’ was big courgette”.

The 5kg (11-pound) courgette had probably been thrown over a hedge into the 81 year old’s garden, police said.

Luckily no evacuation was required in Bretten, a town near Karlsruhe in south-west Germany.

The last part is by no means a joke — On 3 September 65,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Frankfurt, so that a 1.4-tonne British bomb could be defused. It was the biggest evacuation in post-war German history for an unexploded bomb alert.

(17) THIRSTING FOR ACTION. SyFy Wire looks forward to seeing “Beer-loving giant ants terrorize teens in trailer for It Came from the Desert

New levels, man — new levels. In the never-ending quest to escalate campiness to heights that beggar irony, here comes a movie. A movie, based on a Commodore Amiga video game from the late 1980s, about giant ants; ants that live in the desert; ants who enjoy beer straight from the keg and can only be vanquished — at great personal cost — by a mostly-expendable cast of libidinous teens.

You know how these things make us feel.

If you gamed in the ‘80s, you may remember It Came from the Desert, an Amiga title that drew heavy inspiration from Them! and other B-horror flicks from the 1950s. As the game’s protagonist, Dr. Greg Bradley traversed the Nevada desert landscape, staging desperate battles against radioactively-mutated ants in a variety of interesting locations.

Now Cinemaware, the game’s original developer, is teaming with Finnish VFX effects studio Roger! Pictures to revive the goofy premise in a live-action format. The trailer for the eponymous movie seems to lie somewhere between a proof of concept and an enticing synopsis of what we’re (admittedly) hoping will end up as a finished product.

 

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

Review: Strange Weather by Joe Hill

Review by Mike Glyer:  Three of the four short novels in Joe Hill’s Strange Weather merge nightmarish technology and mythic predicaments in a way bound to fascinate sff fans, while the fourth is rooted in gun-related horrors the daily news won’t let us escape. All four tales are radically enriched by Hill’s exploration of the characters’ interior lives and relationships.

Joe Hill takes questions before signing at Vroman’s in Pasadena on May 25, 2016.

Years ago I lamented the fact that while a commercially-successful author like James Michener filled his epic bestsellers with heart-tugging characters, science fiction remained exclusively populated by the same two-dimensional figures that had marked it from the beginning, possessing just enough heroism and sentiment to explore the idea that was the reason for the story. That changed a generation ago, but I always appreciate a writer like Joe Hill, who’s ready to explore why someone makes the choices he or she does when plunged into the crucible of a science fictional crisis.

George Alec Effinger once explained that if you had a certain goal – like writing an sf novel that was also a mystery — you had to “budget” the wordage needed to honor the tropes of each genre. Similarly, for Joe Hill to drill into his characters’ backgrounds and emotional lives as he does in these short novels requires more wordage to unfold than it would to isolate on the sf/horror ideas underlying them had they been written in the days of sf’s pulp origins.

Snapshot

In Snapshot, a 13-year-old nerd finds himself the only force standing between an elderly couple and the menace of “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug with a mysterious Polaroid-style camera that erases memories snap by snap.

The nerd, named Mike, tinkers on all kinds of projects, his latest being a confetti-firing party gun which obligingly obeys Chekov’s Law by the end of the story.

The wife in the couple once was a younger Mike’s caregiver, someone who helped raise him and now seems mentally ravaged by age. Although the “real” reason is an otherworldly camera in the hands of an evildoer, Hill takes full advantage of the opportunity to explore the end of human life, memory, and the loss of relationships in the face of frailty and illness.

Snapshot summoned the same emotional response from me as Keith Laumer’s “Long Remembered Thunder,” which is about a student who has to master an alien weapon to save his teacher and the person she loves. But I would add that while Laumer worked within a narrower frame of archetypes and sentiment, Hill frequently hits on compelling psychological, ethical and spiritual truths about his characters.

If Snapshot has any weakness, it’s that the story has more than one ending. Somebody needed to tell the author the story was over. Not that the extra wordage did any harm to my enjoyment of what had gone before – and maybe Hill just needed me to see what happened later on to an interesting family, the way Tolkien planned to do at the end of The Lord of the Rings until his friends talked him out of it.

Loaded

Loaded, the second short novel, is inspired by America’s gun culture, racial injustice, and the routine bloody sacrifice of fact-based truth at the altar of patriotic mythology. It’s painful to read, with a constant flow of tragedy, not just a tragic ending.

This is horror. Just keep waiting for the people you like to die. They will.

Aloft

Aubrey Griffin doesn’t really want to jump out of an airplane, he just wants to impress Harriet, and is on the verge of backing out until fate intervenes in the form of a strange-looking cloud.

He’s yet another of Joe Hill’s fat, farting heroes whose self-indulgence and denial must be explored on the way to unraveling the protagonist’s one-sided romantic aspirations, before he finally realizes he won’t be missed from the world any more than the guy in Bruce Jay Friedman’s Steambath.

Aubrey Griffin’s abortive parachute jump lands him on an impossibly solid cloud, where his human willingness to yield to delusions and wish-fulfillment may cost him his life. Aloft revolves around an idea that’s a classic sf mix of myth and mystery, made science fictional by repeated hints that it might all be a product of alien technology. Hill effectively draws on traditions like Shakespeare’s Caliban, the trials of Psyche in classical literature, and doubtless even more things than I recognized.

What is the cloud really made of? Will Aubrey survive? Having just read Loaded, I was feeling that was unlikely, and was marking time til the author arbitrarily decided which of the many dumb decisions Aubrey was making ought to be the one that killed him. Instead, Hill surprised me, and in the end it’s a new life, not the afterlife, that Aubrey is headed for.

Rain

The final of these four novels is Rain. On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of crystal spikes that tear apart everyone who can’t quickly get to cover. The first casualties include the protagonist’s girlfriend. The protagonist, Honeysuckle Speck, is a black lesbian and the girlfriend was in the middle of moving in on that fateful day.

And the neighborhood she was moving to is loaded with characters —

  • Russian expat dope dealers
  • a kid who likes to pretend to be a vampire
  • a house full of cultists and their leader

— not to mention loving mothers and absent fathers.

The crystal rain is not a single Fortean event — Hill pays Vonnegut a brief homage – this climate calamity is spanning the world and might be irreversible, reminiscent of Ice-9.

Honeysuckle wants to tell her girlfriend’s family what has happened, but can’t raise them on the phone, so she decides it’s her duty to walk to Denver and tell them, despite the risk of further shard-filled stormclouds. This quest also gives Hill his wanted opening to view the human race breaking down under the strain, to honor those who unexpectedly prove to be remaining pillars of social order, and to show how quickly the jackals come out.

Hill is very inventive and sometimes has trouble “killing his darlings,” getting rid of a really clever bit of wordplay that breaks character or throws you out of the narrative. (Like a reviewer who refuses to strike a gaudy phrase like “climate calamity.”) However, most of them remain carefully embedded in the flow of the story and ring true as insights the characters discover about themselves.

The quest and the view of many different people under pressure would seem like the point of the story – and it really is. Maybe Rain is another story with more endings than it needs, because before it concludes Hill also reveals how the weather crisis was caused, in a rather Twilight Zone-married-to-the-X-Files kind of way. But no harm was done, I didn’t become any less interested as he worked through the denouement, so neither I nor Hippocrates have reason to object.

Joe Hill, of course, is known as one of America’s leading horror writers. I come away from this collection rethinking my notions about the horror genre – which I not only identify with dark events and toxic emotional experiences, but with portentous and slow-as-molasses reveals. Strange Weather’s four short novels all move right along, quickly dispatching characters to meet their trouble or doom, and mapping the way with a personal history that needs to be solved just as much as the monster/invention/disaster that may end everyone before they can. I don’t know whether this book has made me a fan of horror, but it’s certainly made me a fan of Joe Hill.

Joe Hill meets Ray Bradbury for the first time at 2009 Comic-Con. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Pixel Scroll 10/23/17 A Long Scroll To A Small Angry Pixel

(1) ASKING FOR A MULLIGAN. The Hugo Award Book Club casts aspersions on a 2001 winner in “Harry Potter and the Undeserved Hugo”.

If Hugo Award voters had the prescience to have recognized (via award or nomination) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1998, perhaps it would be more forgivable. But looking at the situation with 15 years of hindsight, it feels like the Hugos were just bandwagon jumping on an established series that was already extraordinarily popular.

It seems to me that honouring the book with a Hugo Award did nothing to help it find new readers, and this feels like an abdication of what the award should be about.

(2) SOUND THE HORN. Since being chastised for misspelling Froot Loops, John King Tarpinian has been doing penitential research about the cereal. Those of you who were saying you can’t get unicorn burgers may want to know you can get unicorn breakfast cereal, for a limited time — “Unicorn Froot Loops Are Now Enchanting Store Shelves”.

Kellogg’s is giving early mornings a major dose of magic. According to Delish, the cereal giant is remixing its fan-favorite Froot Loops with a very 2017 makeover: unicorn.

Almost unrecognizable without Toucan Sam, eagle-eyed shoppers are sure to get pulled in by the rainbows, stars, and a very cute unicorn. The limited-edition cereal comes with new packaging that features the as-yet-unnamed animated unicorn complete with a requisite rainbow mane, but the real magic is inside the box.

While standard Froot Loops are already a Technicolor addition to any breakfast, the unicorn version is a little more subdued, but ups the ante when it comes to trendy hues.

(3) SPEAKING UP. Neil Gaiman voiced a character on The Simpsons on Sunday – a Coraline parody was part of the latest “Treehouse of Horror” episode.

A.V. Club reviewed the overall effort: “The Simpsons walks us through a visually ambitious but forgettable Treehouse Of Horror”.

The 28th “Treehouse Of Horror” carries on the venerable Simpsons institution by, as ever, tossing a whole lot of stuff at the screen and seeing what sticks. To that end, this year’s outing gives us: An Exorcist parody, a Coraline parody, Homer eating human flesh (just his own, but still), stop-motion segments, horror and fantasy-specific guest stars, a little light Fox standards-pushing (Homer does, as stated, eat human flesh), and the usual string of hit-or-miss gags. That last part isn’t really a criticism in itself. Freed up from the need to calibrate the heart-yucks equation, a “Treehouse Of Horror” rises or falls on the strength of its jokes, although the annual Halloween anthology provides its own unique degree of difficulty.

(4) ON THE CANVAS. Walter Jon Williams does a draft cover reveal for the next book in the Praxis Series. He has been making a heroic effort to complete it but  the book isn’t cooperating, as he says in “Punch Drunk”.

I haven’t been posting for several days, because I’ve been trying to finish  The Accidental War, which (according to the publisher) is Book IV of the Praxis series, but which (according to me alone, apparently) is Book VI, because I count Impersonations and Investments, and they don’t.

See?  It even has a cover!  Though this may not be the actual cover when it’s released, at the moment it’s just sort of a cover suggestion the art department is playing with.

Wow!  Sure looks like MilSF, doesn’t it?

(5) PENRIC. And at Goodreads, Lois McMaster Bujold has shared “The Prisoner of Limnos cover sneak peek” with art by Ron Miller.

So, as promised, here is the e-cover of the new Penric & Desdemona novella. It will be #6 in the current internal chronology (and publishing order.)

The vendor-page copy will read:

“In this sequel novella to “Mira’s Last Dance”, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary.

“Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.”

(6) PRODUCT PLACEMENT. Adweek tells how “A Baby Dragon Brings the Heat for Doritos on Twitter”.

You don’t have to be a Targaryen to know the value of a baby dragon.

When Doritos U.K. released a limited edition of extra-hot tortilla chips called Heatburst this past spring, it became part of the conversation on Twitter by creating its own “celebrity”—a comical, fire-breathing baby dragon—to represent the new flavor.

As described in the video below, the Heatburst campaign, with the hashtags #HeatWillCome and #BabyDragon, centered on the dragon character. It launched with a series of quirky videos where the baby dragon innocently ignited virtually everything around him. As awareness for the product grew, the baby dragon became a Twitter character in his own right, inserting himself into pop-culture moments and current events to keep the brand top of mind. Doritos U.K. did this using a full-range of Twitter formats, including branded emojis, GIFs, and conversational videos.

(7) CONTINUED WEINSTEIN AFTERMATH. The Hollywood Reporter says female animators sent a letter to executives at major animation studios insisting on an end of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Among the 217 women and gender-nonconforming people who signed the letter are Netflix’s head of kids programming Jenna Boyd, Bob’s Burgers producer and writer Wendy Molyneax, Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar and Danger & Eggs co-creator Shadi Petosky, as well as animators of BoJack Horseman, Adventure Time and The Powerpuff Girls.

The full text of the letter is at The Wrap (“Women Animators Pen Open Letter on Sexual Harassment: ‘This Abuse Has Got to Stop’”.) The demands include:

  1. Every studio puts in place clear and enforceable sexual harassment policies and takes every report seriously. It must be clear to studio leadership, including producers, that, no matter who the abuser is, they must investigate every report or face consequences themselves.
  2. The Animation Guild add language in our constitution that states that it can “censure, fine, suspend or expel any member of the guild who shall, in the opinion of the Executive Board, be found guilty of any act, omission, or conduct which is prejudicial to the welfare of the guild.” To craft and support the new language, we ask that an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Committee be created to help educate and prevent future occurrences.
  3. Our male colleagues start speaking up and standing up for us. When their co-workers make sexist remarks, or when they see sexual harassment happening, we expect them to say something. Stop making excuses for bad behavior in your friends and co-workers, and tell them what they are doing is wrong.

(8) MAKING LIGHT. Overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis is Galactic Journey’s review of the November 1962 Fantastic.

It seems likely that the threat of violence, which hangs over our heads in these troubled times, makes it necessary for us to make light of traditional terrors.  We laugh to keep from screaming.  As an example, on the same day that China invaded India, Bobby Picket’s novelty song, The Monster Mash, reached the top of the charts.

Appropriately, the latest issue of Fantastic features another comic version of old-fashioned horrors….

It’s Magic, You Dope! (Part 1 of 2), by Jack Sharkey Lloyd Birmingham’s cover art, which reminds me of the macabre cartoons of Charles Addams, captures the spooky but laughable nature of this short novel by editor Cele Goldsmith’s resident comedian.

(9) YESTERDAY’S DAY

(10) THE MALL’S OUR DESTINATION. At Pornokitsch, Jared takes us shopping: “Malls, Mallrats and Browsing”.

Doug Stephens wrote a powerful piece on how ‘to save retail, let it die’. In it, he lists all the ways in which retail is doomed (hi, Amazon!) on his way to a, more-or-less, familiar conclusion: retail spaces need to become experiences.

Stephens posits that the future retail spaces aren’t about buying products at all, but about:

  1. gathering data
  2. selling experiences that involve the products

Imagine, I suppose, the LEGO store, but solely with the build-your-own minifig display. And lots of covert measurement over which pieces everyone uses… (Ok, this must happen already, but still. Imagine!)

Then, presumably, we all go home and receive Snapchats telling us that a new set of our favourite LEGO can be purchased, right now. Just wink acceptance, and your facial recognition purchasing programme will do the rest. Then, when you lose a piece, you shout at Alexa, and the replacement follows. Whatever. That sort of thing. All beside the point.

(11) LOU ANDERS. Variety includes Lou Anders’ good news in “‘Dark Matter’ EP Vanessa Piazza Sets Multi-Year Producing Partnership With eOne”.

Piazza is also developing “Masked,” based on the original super-hero fiction anthology edited by Lou Anders, who will also be involved in the series adaptation. Notable comic and graphic novel writers, including Lilah Sturges, Paul Cornell, and Gail Simone whose short stories appear in the book, will contribute to the anthology series, working with Piazza and executive producer and showrunner Joseph Mallozzi.

(12) INDIE FOCUS. The inaugural issue IndiePicks Magazine is now on the street.  You can read an electronic copy via their website.  Subscriptions to the electronic and paper versions are also available.

Their sff reviewers appear to be Alan Keep and Megan McArdle.  Their horror reviewer is Becky Spratford.  And their YA reviewer is Magan Szwarek.

(13) EARLY ELECTRONIC MUSIC. NPR on the creator of the Doctor Who theme: “Forebears: Delia Derbyshire, Electronic Music’s Forgotten Pioneer”.

All that changed in 1960 when she went to work at the BBC as a studio manager. She soon became enamored of the Radiophonic Workshop, a division of the media conglomerate dedicated to electronic experimentation. The invention of tape recording in the 1950s allowed sounds to be manipulated in entirely new ways; in a time when radio dramas ruled popular entertainment, the Workshop was a creative — and coveted — place of employment. In 1962, Derbyshire was assigned a position at the workshop, where she’d work for over a decade, becoming a sound specialist and a leading voice in musical counterculture: The weirder her soundscapes became, the more wondrous they felt. She created music for the world’s first fashion show with an electronic soundtrack (and considering the commonality of techno/dance music on the runway, she left a legacy in that field, too). She organized robotic noise in a way that felt truly alien, shocking sounds whole decades ahead of this music’s time.

(14) GUARD YOUR ARTISTIC FREEDOM. Max Florschutz issues a warning in “Being a Better Writer: Preaching to the Choir” at Unusual Things.

They adjust the story that they’re telling so that it is no longer aimed at the general audience, but at those who already buy into it. And that means changing the presentation.

For example, say someone writes a story that is going to preach to the choir with regards to one of the US’s political parties (which happens a lot, unsurprisingly). Writing a story that appeals to the group already supporting that party is going to result in a different story than one written to a general audience. A story that was written for a general audience on the topic would need to, for starters, approach all of its topics from a neutral starting point, as it would need to assume that those approaching the work didn’t share or even know of the authors ideas and views. It would then need to examine the ideals it wanted to present from a variety of points, answering the reader’s questions and concerns—which could be fairly vast—as it attempted to explain the stance of the author. It would also need to do so while maintaining a level voice and giving the various viewpoints a fair shake.

But if we compare that to a title written for an audience that wants to be preached too, most of that will disappear. For example, that audience does not want to start from a neutral point. They’ve already left that ground. They want a position already ensconced in their stance. Nor do they want to examine their own beliefs from a variety of angles—that can raise uncomfortable questions and truths that they’d rather not deal with—so each angle approached must be designed to reinforce that safe space they’ve already built for themselves by making sure that all other ideas, themes, etc, are wrong. It also can’t have a level voice nor give equal treatment to other views; after all, those views are wrong. Lastly, to preach to the choir, the work needs to reinforce the idea that the audience is safe where it is, that they have made the right or smart decision by believing what they believe.

And the truth is, creating this kind of work is extraordinarily popular. Everywhere. Because there’s a guaranteed audience as long as the “choir” exists. Michael Moore films, for example? One-hundred percent preaching to the choir. Baptist-ploitation films like God’s Not Dead? Also preaching to the choir. And many, many others—crud, you readers along could probably fill the comments with thousands of works from all sides of any spectrum or idea that preach to the choir. It works because it appeals to a set audience that wants to be told that they’re right, to be reinforced without thinking critically (or in some cases, by being giving a thought that sounds critical, but actually isn’t). And that audience? They eat this kind of pandering up.

… So, with that said—specifically the bit about a quick buck—why wouldn’t you want to preach to the choir? Why not go for it?

Well, the answer is pretty simple: Once you do, it’s hard to go back. Once you’ve started writing stories that support that little “safe zone,” you’ve effectively shackled yourself to it and to that audience. That audience is going to want more of the same, and if you don’t deliver it, they will become unhappy.

(15) I’M NOT OKAY, YOU’RE NOT OKAY. Douglas Smith spends the first four paragraphs of “On Writing of a Different Culture” at the SFWA Blog apologizing for world history before getting to the point:

So, yes, I was a tad paranoid of being accused of cultural appropriation.

Let me first explain why I was drawn to Cree and Ojibwe culture for The Wolf at the End of the World.

If you think you’re doing something wrong, wouldn’t it be better to not do it? If you haven’t done something wrong, why are you apologizing?

(16) JOE HILL. Lisa Taylor reviews “Strange Weather by Joe Hill” for The Speculative Herald.

Strange Weather is a collection of 4 short novels, each telling a unique story. They are all independent of one another, and could be read in any order. I may not rate this one quite as high as most of the works I’ve read by Hill, but I suspect most of that comes from my preference for longer works. The stories are quick and varied covering funny to horrifying to creepy and the main character in each are varied.

(17) PERSONAL BEST. Here’s a record that will appear with an asterix next to it.

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