Pixel Scroll 7/24/21 Scrollship Pixel, Stranded 77000 Light Years From Earth In The Delta Variant

(1) OMENANA. The new issue of Omenana Speculative Fiction Magazine is available to read online. The tri-monthly magazine takes submissions from speculative fiction writers from across Africa and the African Diaspora.

Omenana is the Igbo word for divinity – it also loosely translates as “culture” – and embodies our attempt to recover our wildest stories. We are looking for well-written speculative fiction that bridges the gap between past, present and future through imagination and shakes us out of the corner we have pushed ourselves into.

(2) WINNIPEG WORLDCON BID. The Winnipeg in 2023 Worldcon bid will hold a “Question Time” Zoom session on Sunday, July 25, at 1:00pm CDT. The session will also be streamed live on their YouTube channel.

We will start off with standard questions and then take submitted questions. Questions may be submitted via our social media accounts , Discord server and our “Contact Form“. During the session, questions may be submitted through Zoom and YouTube chat. As with all “Question Time”, moderation will be applied.

(3) SUMMIT MEETING. There’s a photo on the Chicago Worldcon Facebook page showing that Chicon 8 Chair, Helen Montgomery, and DisCon III Chair, Mary Robinette Kowal, “met up in DC yesterday for convention strategizing. They have Plans with a capital P for their attendees!”

(4) A SECOND BLACK SUPERMAN IN DEVELOPMENT. Collider reports, “Michael B. Jordan Developing His Own Black Superman Project for HBO Max”.

Sources say that Outlier Society has hired a writer who is currently working on the script, though we were unable to ascertain their identity. Though it was initially unclear whether the Val-Zod project would be a movie or a limited series, sources have since reached out to clarify that as of right now, it is, in fact, being written as a limited series that Jordan will produce and possibly even star in, though he has yet to officially commit on the latter front.

As previously reported, J.J. Abrams and his company Bad Robot are set to produce a Black Superman movie for Warner Bros. that is expected to follow the Kal-El/Clark Kent version of the character. Though Clark Kent is traditionally depicted as white in the DC comics, the character will be played by a Black actor in the Bad Robot movie, which will likely be directed by a Black filmmaker, as Abrams is simply expected to produce. Author and cultural critic Ta-Nehisi Coates is already hard at work on the script for that project.

While Jordan did work with Warner Bros. on developing a Black Superman movie at one point, he recently shot down rumors that he would star in Abrams’ new film, saying “I’m flattered that people have me in that conversation. It’s definitely a compliment, but I’m just watching on this one.”

The question is, why?

A recent editorial penned by Jamie Broadnax for Black Girl Nerds provides some context and prompted Collider to do some digging, as Broadnax’s sources told her that “Jordan has not wanted to engage in conversations about racebending Kal-El for the same reasons many of the fans are pushing back on the current Warner Bros. re-imagined version of Clark Kent, but that he would be interested in engaging on a Black Superman project centering on the Val-Zod storyline.”

(5) CANADIAN SFF HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES. Stan Hyde, the late Monica Hughes, and Jean-Louis Trudel are the 2021 inductees into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame reports Robert J. Sawyer. He and Carolyn Clink, along with fellow jurors Clint Budd, Marcie Tentchoff, and Chris Sturges, made the selections. Here are excerpts from the citations (full text at the link).

Stan Hyde is an exemplar of passionate, lifelong devotion to SF&F fandom and fan activity, specifically in the areas of club organization, writing, film media, and model kit making, painting, and collecting.

Stan is also noted for the numerous articles he has written for G-Fest, a magazine devoted to the topic of Godzilla, about whom Stan is a world-renowned expert and recognized as such by Toho Studios where he is always welcome. (He visits once every two years on average.)

Monica Hughes (1925-2003), an Officer of the Order of Canada, wrote about 40 books including more than 20 that ISFDB covers as speculative fiction novels. Although she spent a large part of her life writing, she was almost fifty when her first book was published (Gold-Fever Trail: A Klondike Adventure, a Canadian historical novel.) …Invitation to the Game (Toronto: HarperCollins, 1990) won the Hal Clement Award as the year’s best science fiction novel for young adults.

Jean-Louis Trudel holds degrees in physics, astronomy, and the history and philosophy of science. Since 1994, he has authored (alone or in collaboration with Yves Meynard as Laurent McAllister) three science fiction novels published in France, four fiction collections, and twenty-six young adult books published in Canada…. He has received several literary distinctions, including the “Grand Prix de la Science-Fiction et du Fantastique québécois” in 2001 and several Prix Aurora Awards.

(6) WELCOME TO THE THE TAR TAR PITS. SYFY Wire tells about “La Brea: Trailer for NBC sci-fi series strands Los Angeles family in time”. “When a massive sinkhole opens in the middle of Los Angeles, those who fall find themselves in a strange world.” At the risk of being a party pooper, I can see this show lasting about one week.

Can anyone explain how there’s a hole in the Earth — the kind that supernaturally swallows up hapless Los Angeles residents and spits them out in the frightening primeval past? That’s just the first mystery launching with NBC’s La Brea, the highly awaited sci-fi series that’s set to make its TV debut this fall….

On the other side of the time warp are Gavin’s wife and son, all while a “disparate group of strangers” work alongside the family’s stranded half to “uncover the mystery of where they are and if there is a way back home,” according to NBC’s earlier series description. Are all these stuck strangers merely the random victims of fate, or might they be connected by something deeper?

(7) NOW STARRING. “John Barrowman sparks backlash after tagging M Night Shyamalan in criticism about his new film Old”The Independent has the story.

Torchwood star John Barrowman has attracted criticism for a negative social media post about M Night Shyamalan’s new film, Old.

The actor repeatedly called the film “s****”, and claimed that he had received a refund after seeing it in a cinema, in a message which tagged Shyamalan himself.

Old is directed by Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) and tells the story of an island where people age extremely rapidly….

(8) A QUOTATION. “There is no trick or cunning, no art or recipe, by which you can have in your writing that which you do not possess in yourself.” —Walt Whitman

(9) BACK TO THE ORIGINAL FUTURE. The Hollywood Reporter says “’Back to the Future’ Writer Asks Universal to Destroy Censored Version of Sequel”. Like they say, it’s the cover-up that gets people in trouble.

Bob Gale is asking fans not to be too hard on Netflix for a censored version of Back to the Future: Part II, which was streaming for a short while. 

Fans of the series were irate when they discovered a tiny portion of the 1989 sequel was changed, poorly. It has since been replaced with the standard version. The alteration happened when Marty (Michael J. Fox) finds the Oh La La magazine within the sports almanac dustcover. The moment was cut short, with the cover of the magazine edited out. 

Gale, the screenwriter of the beloved trilogy, explained what happened and why it was not Netflix’s fault. 

(10) PATRICIA KENNEALY-MORRISON (1946-2021). Author Patricia Kennealy-Morrison died a few days ago reported Liz Williams on Facebook. She wrote eight books and a collection of short stories in her genre series The Keltiad. She also wrote the Rennie Stride mystery series. She was a widely-read rock journalist, and widow of the late Jim Morrison of The Doors. 

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2003 – Eighteen years ago at Torcon 3, Neil Gaiman wins a Hugo Novella for Coraline. (Other nominated works were “Bronte’s Egg” by Richard Chwedyk, “Breathmoss” by Ian R. MacLeod, “A Year in the Linear City” by Paul Di Filippo, “The Political Officer” by Charles Coleman Finlay and “In Spirit” by Pat Forde.) It also won a Nebula,  a Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction, along with a Stoker for Superior Achievement in a Work for Young Readers. It would become an animated film written and directed by Henry Selick, and both musicals and operas were based off it. 
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (Chinese edition), art by Sija Hon
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (Chinese edition), art by Sija Hong

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 24, 1878 Lord Dunsany whose full name and title was a jaw dropping Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany. So ISFDB lists him as genre for the Jorkens body of work among works. H’h. Gary Turner, who some of you will recognize from Golden Gryphon Press and elsewhere, reviewed The Collected Jorkens: Volumes One, Two, and Three for Green Man, so I’ve linked to the review here. They also list The King of Elfland’s Daughter which I’m going to link to another review on Green Man as it’s a audio recording with a very special guest appearance by Christopher Lee. (Died 1957.)
  • Born July 24, 1916 John D. MacDonald. Though better known for the Travis McGee series which I really like, he wrote three genre novels of which I think the best by far is The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. He also wrote some sixty genre short stories, many of them collected in End of The Tiger which is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1986.)
  • Born July 24, 1936 Mark Goddard, 85. Major Don West, the adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith, on Lost in Space. Other genre appearances were scant. He played an unnamed Detective in the early Eighties Strange Invaders and he showed up on an episode of The Next Step Beyond which investigated supposed hauntings as Larry Hollis in “Sins of Omission”. Oh and he was an unnamed General in the Lost in Space film.
  • Born July 24, 1951 Robert Hood, 70. Australian horror writer who won a William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review for “Weight of Water: Vengeance from Beyond the Grave?” and another Atheling for “Divided Kingdom: King Kong Versus Godzilla”. The latter is included in David Brin and Leah Wilson’s King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape.  He won a Ditmar for his Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales collection, and an Australian Shadows Award for his Peripheral Visions: The Collected Ghost Stories.
  • Born July 24, 1951 Lynda Carter, 70. Wonder Woman of course. But also Principal Powers, the headmistress of a school for superheroes in Sky High; Colonel Jessica Weaver in the vampire film Slayer;  Moira Sullivan, Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite-empowered mother in the “Prodigy” episode of Smallville; and President Olivia Marsdin In Supergirl. She has a mid credit appearance in Wonder Woman 1984 as Asteria. 
  • Born July 24, 1964 Colleen Doran, 57. Comics artist and writer. The work she’s done includes Warren Ellis’ Orbiter graphic novel, Wonder WomanLegion of SuperheroesTeen Titans, the “Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman and her space opera series, A Distant Soil. She also did portions of The Sandman, the “Dream Country” and “A Game of You”. She’s tuckerized Into Sandman as the character Thessaly.
  • Born July 24, 1971 Patty Jenkins, 50. Director of Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984, she appears in Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics as herself in ‘The Truth About Wonder Woman’ episode. She’s the director and producer of the forthcoming Star Wars film, Rogue Squadron. She’ll also be directing Gal Gadot in Cleopatra
  • Born July 24, 1981 Summer Glau, 40. An impressive run in genre roles as she’s was River Tam in the Firefly series and of course the Serenity film, followed by these performances: Tess Doerner in The 4400, as Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bennett Halverson in Dollhouse (is this worth seeing seeing?), Skylar Adams in Alphas, and Isabel Rochev who is The Ravager in Arrow. Her latest role is Miss Jones (The Water Wu) on The Wu Assassins series. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump introduces a familiar character whose phone asks a well-known question.

(14) PEELE’S NEXT. “’Nope’: Jordan Peele Unveils Title of 2022 Horror Movie” in The Hollywood Reporter. I guess that’s clear enough.

(15) EYECATCHERS. See the ads for sff books that appeared in the New York Times back in the day: “Advertisements for the Otherworldy”. Includes Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury.

Science Fiction was extraordinarily popular in the 1940s and 1950s — and so were books about U.F.O.s. Coverage of mysterious objects in the night sky was plentiful in The Times, too. On July 6, 1947, the front page featured an article headlined “Flying Saucers Mystify Experts; May Be Prank of Nature.” Two days later, a follow-up appeared, also on the front page, with a more provocative headline: “‘Disks’ Soar Over New York, Now Seen Aloft in All Colors.” It should perhaps come as no surprise that those years saw the Book Review filled with ads looking to sate this interest in the extraterrestrial and dystopian.

(16) LOOKS FAMILIAR. [Item by David Doering.] Surely this design is no accident! Whoever designed this high school in PA deserves a medal. (Or at least a Hugo.) I wonder if the school mascot is the Falcon??

(17) NOLAN APPRECIATION. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, in “Logan’s Run Writer Passes Away”, remembers the help William F. Nolan gave him when Zicree was researching his Twilight Zone book.

…And he was an astonishing man. He was basically — the great thing about Bill Nolan was not only was he very articulate and very enthusiastic but he had kept notes on everything and recordings on everything and so he knew an enormous amount about Charles Beaumont and Ray Bradbury and all of these characters who were central to what i was working on but also central to science fiction…

(18) TALK TO THE DOCTOR. Louis Moorhouse, a blind fan who’s been raising money for Living Paintings, to make a set of Touch to See books about Doctor Who, interviews Tom Baker in this YouTube video.

Blind Doctor Who super fan meets one of his heroes, Tom Baker, thanks to inspirational fundraising campaign. Louis,19, from Bradford, has been blind since he was 18 months old. A few weeks ago, Louis launched a fundraising campaign on Crowd Funder in an attempt to raise £15,000 to make it possible for a charity, Living Paintings, to make a set of Touch to See books which will bring him and other blind and partially sighted people closer to the incredible world of Doctor Who. Having blasted through his first fundraising target Louis is now looking to raise an incredible total £25,000 to support the charity that has helped him since he was two years old. Louis says of his motivation to carry on with the campaign:“Living Paintings has had such a hugely positive impact on my life, from the first time I received a book and found out what Thomas the Tank Engine looks like (until then I had no idea what a train with a face could possibly mean), to helping me learn to read and express myself. I wouldn’t be who I am today without this wonderful charity and I hope people continue to support me on this journey so I can help other children facing the struggles I overcame with their help.” Louis and Living Paintings have been overwhelmed by the support shown by the Doctor Who community and this week he met one of his favourite ever Doctors on Zoom, the wonderful Tom Baker.

(19) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. This is a NASA video that dropped on July 14 about June flybys of Jupiter and Ganymede.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Jannie Shea, David K.M. Klaus, David Doering, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/21 Please Pixel Carefully As Our Menu Scrolls Have Recently Changed

(1) WHAT ELSE BELONGS ON THAT SHELF? At Kalimac’s corner, blogger DB answers “if Tolkien is …”

A recent conversation presented me with a chance to answer the question, “If Tolkien is my favorite fantasy author, who are my other favorites?”

To answer this, I’m going to have to turn back to a long-ago time, before recent fantasy giants like Martin and Pratchett, before even Donaldson and Brooks, not quite before the Ballantine Unicorn’s Head series but before I was aware of it, and report on my perplexity at the recommendations I was getting from friends and helpful librarians for “things like Tolkien” to read after him. They were sword-and-sorcery authors like Robert E. Howard, and the likes of comic-book superheroes. I tried these things, but I was not even remotely attracted to them. I could see the superficial resemblance – battles involving mighty heroes, often in a semi-barbarian pseudo-medieval landscape – but that’s not what Tolkien was about, or what he was like. They were badly written, crudely plotted, and their heroes were all like Boromir. The likes of Frodo and Sam didn’t even exist there. They only had the crude surface resemblance, and not what I went to Tolkien for: his soul, his depth of creativity, his sense of morality. I quickly learned that surface resemblance has nothing to do with what makes Tolkien distinctive or worthwhile. That inoculated me against falling for all the Tolclones to come just because they were Tolclones, as so many did (and the Jackson movies are Tolclones in that respect).

What gave Tolkien quality I learned when I read the original Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin. These books were not very like Tolkien in surface appearance, but they had the depth of creative impulse, and a sure sense of moral imperative. Le Guin’s moral principles were different from Tolkien’s, but they were consistent, and morally defensible, and above all they were palpable. That’s what taught me that a coherent moral vision was what made for a real resemblance to Tolkien….

(2) CAPTAIN JACK. “John Barrowman gives his side of the story after tales of his naked antics on TV sets re-emerged” in a Daily Mail interview. He seeks to justify or mitigate several reports of his past on-set behavior, the details of which come after this excerpt.  

…Then a couple of months ago the sky fell in. Following accusations of sexual harassment against Noel Clarke, who played Mickey Smith – the boyfriend of Billie Piper’s character Rose – in Doctor Who from 2005 until 2010, historic footage emerged on YouTube of a sci-fi convention, Chicago Tardis, in 2014, released by The Guardian newspaper which had investigated Clarke’s behaviour on the Doctor Who set. 

In an interview in front of a live audience, Clarke is seen regaling fellow cast members Annette Badland and Camille Coduri with tales of John’s behaviour on the set of Doctor Who, exposing himself ‘every five seconds’. Clarke then jokes with the audience not to do this at their workplace or they might go to prison.

The allegations levelled against Clarke are extremely serious. At least 20 women have come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and bullying, ‘inappropriate touching and groping’ and secretly filming naked auditions before sharing the videos without consent. 

He denies all the allegations, but BAFTA has since suspended the Outstanding Contribution award it bestowed on him just weeks earlier, and the BBC has shelved any future projects he was working on with them.

Now John’s behaviour on the sets of both Doctor Who and Torchwood has come under scrutiny once again. The furore has led to a video of Captain Jack Harkness being expunged from the current immersive Doctor Who theatre show Time Fracture, a planned Torchwood audio production featuring John and former Doctor Who lead David Tennant being scrapped and doubt about whether he will be invited back to the Dancing On Ice panel. 

…  ‘The moment has come to set the record straight,’ he says from the Palm Springs, California, home he shares with his husband Scott Gill. ‘This is the first time – and the last – I will address this subject. And then I plan to draw a thick black line under it.’…

(3) FOR SOME OF YOU, BEWARE SPOILERS. In an appearance on The Tonight Show, Mark Hamill talks about voicing Skeletor in the He-Man continuation Masters of the Universe: Revelation and how he pulled off the coolest surprise ever in The Mandalorian.

(4) RESCUE MISSION. In “The Haunted Mind of Shirley Jackson”, New Yorker reviewer Zoë Heller argues the importance of a new Shirley Jackson biography.

Here’s how not to be taken seriously as a woman writer: Use demons and ghosts and other gothic paraphernalia in your fiction. Describe yourself publicly as “a practicing amateur witch” and boast about the hexes you have placed on prominent publishers. Contribute comic essays to women’s magazines about your hectic life as a housewife and mother.

Shirley Jackson did all of these things, and, during her lifetime, was largely dismissed as a talented purveyor of high-toned horror stories—“Virginia Werewoolf,” as one critic put it. For most of the fifty-one years since her death, that reputation has stuck. Today, “The Lottery,” her story of ritual human sacrifice in a New England village (first published in this magazine, in 1948), has become a staple of eighth-grade reading lists, and her novel “The Haunting of Hill House” (1959) is often mentioned as one of the best ghost stories of all time. But most of her substantial body of work—including her masterpiece, the beautifully weird novel “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” (1962)—is not widely read…. 

… In a new, meticulously researched biography, “A Rather Haunted Life,” Ruth Franklin sets out to rescue Jackson from the sexists and the genre snobs who have consigned her to a dungeon of kooky, spooky middlebrow-ness….

(5) SCARY MOVIES. SYFY Wire says these are “The 25 scariest sci-fi movies ever made, ranked”.

… As Aliens celebrates 35 years of thrilling audiences, SYFY WIRE revisited some memorable sci-fi scare-fests and ranked the best of the most terrifying movies both science fiction and horror have to offer…. 

15   Scanners (1981)

Director David Cronenberg’s Scanners is firmly indoctrinated into the Cult Movie Hall of Fame, thanks in large part to an iconic scene early in the film that features an exploding head. 

Scanners is a barebones sci-fi thriller about a man capable of telekinesis and psychokinesis forced to hunt down others like him. His hunt takes him and audiences on a dark and unsettling tour of where government bureaucracy and supernatural science intersect, where individuals with the ability to weaponize thoughts are subjugated by those who think of them only as threats. Despite its low-budget trappings, Scanners packs in a considerable amount of deep thematic ideas among all the gore and unsettling bits. 

(6) WINCHESTER. Edward M. Lerner suggests his book signing in Virginia on August 7 is the right destination if you’re ready to fly the coop. “SF and Nonsense: Has the time come? Are we (as opposed to my protagonists) *less* doomed?” (And the area boasts some historic sites worth visiting, too.)

Is anyone ready to get out of the house and resume “normal” life? And I don’t mean to observe Bastille Day. (I hear a resounding chorus of “YES!“)

Then please join me for my first post-COVID book signing, upcoming on Saturday, August 7th (2 to 4 PM) for Déjà Doomed. 

Unfamiliar with this, my latest novel?  That’s easily remedied. “DÉJÀ DOOMED is … finalement here 🙂” is what I posted on its recent release date. Naturally, I’ll be happy to discuss it — or pretty much anything — in person.

Where? you ask. The Winchester Book Gallery, on the lovely walking mall of scenic, historic Winchester, VA. 

(7) NOT OFF THE SHELF. Jayme Lynn Blaschke’s video “A Moment of Tiki: The Wall Is Lava” is a progress report on his DIY tiki bar.

Episode 29 of A Moment of Tiki is now live on the YouTubes! This time out I walk viewers through a build of a faux lava accent wall. I spent the bulk of last summer building out this project in the Lagoon, and it was more of a time-consuming than I’d anticipated. Editing all the footage taken over the course of several months proved a challenge unto itself.

Still, this is a vision I had way back when I started this whole crazy home tiki bar build project…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2006 – Fifteen years ago, Eureka premiered on the SciFi Channel. It was created by Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia. It had a very large ensemble cast: Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton. Debrah Farentino. Jordan Hinson, Ed Quinn, Erica Cerra, Neil Grayston, Niall Matter, Matt Frewer, Tembi Locke and James Callis were the principal performers. It had a five-year run and lasted seventy-seven episodes plus a handful of webisodes. Though set in Oregon, it, like so many SF series, was filmed in British Columbia. Though critical reception was decidedly mixed, it did very well in the ratings and the SciFi Channel allowed it to wrap up properly. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most excellent eighty-eight percent rating.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 18, 1913 Red Skelton. Comedian of the first order. The Red Skelton Hour ran for three hundred and thirty-eight episodes.  I remember Freddie the Freeloader. He’s here because ISFDB says he wrote A Red Skelton in Your Closet which is also called Red Skelton’s Favorite Ghost Stories. He also has cameos in Around the World in Eighty Days and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, both of which I consider at least genre adjacent. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 18, 1913 —  Marvin Miller. He is remembered, if he’s remembered for it, for being the voice of Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet. He would reprise that role myriad times in the next few decades in such films and series as The Invisible Boy, the first Lost in Space series and Gremlins. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 18, 1933 Syd Mead. Best remembered on his design work on such films as Star Trek: The Motion PictureBlade RunnerTron2010: The Year We Make ContactShort CircuitAliensJohnny Mnemonic, and Blade Runner 2049. There’s an excellent look at him and his work, Visual Futurist:The Art & Life of Syd Mead. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 18, 1938 Paul Verhoeven, 83. Responsible for Starship TroopersTotal Recall, Hollow Man and Robocop. He’s made the final list for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation three times (Starship TroopersTotal Recall and Robocop) but has not won it. 
  • Born July 18, 1966 Paul Cornell, 55. Author of both the Shadow Police series and the Witches of Lychford novella series which are quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who including his Ninth Doctor story”Father’s Day” which was nominated for a Hugo, Primieval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won two Hugo Awards for best fancast, one at Chicon 7 and one at LoneStarCon 3. And he scripted quite a bit of the Captain Britain and MI: 13 comic series as well — very good stuff indeed.
  • Born July 18, 1967 Van Diesel, 54. Guardians of The Galaxy franchise (“I am Groot!”) and other MCU films, The Iron Giant, xXx which is more or less genre, the Chronicles of Riddick franchise and The Fifth Element which I absolutely adore. He’s apparently in the third Avatar film. 
  • Born July 18, 1982 Priyanka Chopra,  39. As Alex Parrish in Quantico, she became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit very nicely into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre as Krrish 3, an Indian SF film she was in. She’s got a major role in the still forthcoming Matrix 4 film.
  • Born July 18, 1994 Taylor Russell, 27. Judy Robison on the current Lost in Space series. She had a recurring role as Evelyn on Falling Skies, and she’s done a lot of horror films given her age.

(10) MAX LEGROOM. Scott Stinson explains why “Mad Max: Fury Road is a ridiculous masterpiece — flaming guitar bad guy says it all really” at National Post.

…Fury Road is a thrill ride, is what I’m saying. Our hero Max is captured right off the jump by a bunch of marauding fellows, imprisoned and used as a blood donor. His captors call him a blood bag, which really underscores the unlikelihood of a fair trial and eventual release. It’s quickly established that the gang is beholden to a cult leader, Immortan Joe, who has respiratory and skin problems but does control the water supply, the source of his power. Next comes Furiosa, a bad-ass truck driver who is leading a supply run. (There is a shortage of everything in this world except sand and orange lens filters.) But, wait! Furiosa is actually double-crossing ol’ Joe and has stowed away his harem of wives. Joe is greatly displeased and a convoy heads off in pursuit, with Blood Bag Max strapped to the front of one of the vehicles rather awkwardly.

This all happens with such quick pacing that it feels like it could have been one of those “previously on” catch-up scenes on a TV series…. 

(11) MR. GREEN HAS ARRIVED. Here’s another argument why “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” BasedCon organizer Robert Kroese tweeted —

(12) CREATIVE DIFFERENCES. Fansided discusses “How Dr. McCoy’s age changed Star Trek’s The Way to Eden” in The Original Series.

…Once [D.C.] Fontana turned her draft of the script in, a producer told her McCoy wasn’t old enough to have a twenty-one-year old daughter because he was Kirk’s “contemporary,” even though DeForest Kelley, the actor who portrayed Dr. McCoy, would have been 48 in 1968.

Fontana was livid that the writers’ guide wasn’t even read so that the script could be considered. She requested her name be removed from it, choosing instead to use her pseudonym “Michael Richards.”…

(13) COPTER ON TITAN. The Planetary Society tells “How Dragonfly will explore Saturn’s ‘bizarro Earth’ moon, Titan”. But it won’t arrive until 2037.

Why send a typical lander when you can send a dual-quadcopter?

That’s the question Dr. Elizabeth Tuttle and her team at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory asked when they developed NASA’s next New Frontiers mission to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The dual-quadcopter, aptly named Dragonfly, will carry a suite of instruments designed to analyze Titan’s surface, which can vary from pure water ice to crumbly, orange-tinted organic sands.

Over a series of flights throughout its three-year nominal mission, Dragonfly will hopscotch over Titan’s surface, investigating new places to visit and previously identified safe sites. Dragonfly’s science instruments include a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer to analyze the elements beneath its ski-like legs, a UV light to detect fluorescent, organic molecules, and a mass spectrometer to analyze more complex, biologically relevant samples….

Life on Titan, if it exists or ever existed, would need to adapt to a life of Antarctic-like temperatures, near-constant twilight, and transient liquid water. What sort of life could possibly survive in such a hostile environment?

That’s exactly what Dragonfly aims to investigate by flying to Selk Crater, a geologically young impact crater just 800 kilometers (about 500 miles) north of where Cassini’s Huygens probe landed in 2005. 

(14) THE CLAWS THAT CATCH. An #OwlKitty parody video from 2019: “If Baby Yoda was a Cat (Mandalorian + OwlKitty)”

(15) TENTACLE TIME. This link was sent together with a note of concern that Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’s soliloquy “Octopuses” is probably too profane for a Scroll item, “but it’s genre-adjacent and really funny.” So you know. From the transcript —

…And before we start, I am fully aware that there are plenty of amazing animals in the ocean, which is, as we know, a big wet trash bin full of God’s weirdest typos….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Creating The World Of Harry Potter:  The Magic Begins is a 2009 documentary, which Warner Bros. posted to YouTube in April, about the making of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone.  It has a lot of behind-the-scenes footage which if you’re a hardcore Harry Potter fan you’d want to see,  I thought the footage of filming was interesting and the adults in the interviews are British pros who know how to be entertaining.  The kids are a lot less interesting.  I dunno what the British equivalent of “inside baseball” is but here are two things I learned:  the Hogwarts uniforms come from the films and not the books because J.K. Rowling declared that Hogwarts students didn’t have uniforms.  She was persuaded that uniforms were the right look for the movies.  Dame Maggie Smith declared that her character, Professor McGonigall, was Scottish, so her hat isn’t a witch’s hat but some sort of Scottish hat. Harry Potter fans will find this worth an hour.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/12/21 The Scroll Of His Pixels, The Click Of His Files

(1) OKORAFOR RECRUITED TO INTERPLANETARY INITIATIVE. Nnedi Okorafor will join the faculty at Arizona State University:

I’ve just accepted an appointment at Arizona State University as a Professor of Practice as part of the Interplanetary Initiative and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I’m a professor again! This time, on MY terms and in a way that accommodates and compliments my heavy and active life as a published author and screenwriter (I won’t be teaching classes, but I will show up in some).

A small fact that makes me smile: They based my contract on those of an astronaut and a senator who hold the same type of position at the university.

The Interplanetary Initiative webpage says it “is a leading space center, creating private-public partnerships and driving our positive human space future for exploration by finding the key needs and filling them with interdisciplinary teams.”  

(2) DINING ON ANOTHER PLANET. Esquire tells the “Planet Hollywood Origin Story – How Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and More Celebs Started Planet Hollywood”.

…This was opening night of the Planet Hollywood on Rodeo Drive. Every celebrity you could imagine was there. It was the hottest ticket in town. ABC aired a special event, Planet Hollywood Comes Home. The cops shut down the street. All this for a chain restaurant that served chicken coated in Cap’n Crunch. And not just a chain restaurant but a theme restaurant. A Rainforest Cafe with celebrities. It seems unfathomable now that stars would go along with this.

But they appeared to be having a ball. For a few years in the nineties, these stars dropped any pretense of hauteur, while everyone else succumbed to their love of celebrity by paying ten dollars to eat a burger under the Terminator’s leather jacket. Cheesy? Yes. A massive—but fleeting—success unlike anything before it? A resounding yes.

By the start of the next decade, the enterprise would collapse, falling into bankruptcy twice, and the bold-faced names who reveled there would begin to walk away. Today, there’s a tendency among the stars involved to be overcome with sudden amnesia. It seems they’d rather we all just forget about the whole thing.

…They needed an action star, someone with appeal in the U. S. and overseas, so they started with a moon shot: Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom Barish had worked with on The Running Man. It didn’t get much bigger than Schwarzenegger in the late eighties, early nineties. He was hot off The Terminator and Total Recall. On Valentine’s Day, after the actor wrapped a scene for Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Barish told him about the plan for a Hollywood restaurant. He accepted immediately. Barish left the set with his first star locked in as Schwarzenegger’s family arrived with Valentine’s Day balloons for him…

…Todd went to the studios to ask for donations—some would only lend items, demanding the right to get them back whenever they wanted. And he bought items that went up for auction, bidding against private collectors. He dug around in musty attics, damp garages, secondhand shops. He found the ships from Ben-Hur in the middle of a Nebraska cornfield. The ax Jack Nicholson wielded in The Shining, still caked in fake blood, was buried in the back of the garden shed of a guy who worked on the film.

“We asked what he wanted for it,” Todd told the Los Angeles Times in 1995, “and he said, ‘Well, I’ll need another ax.’ That was an easy deal.”…

(3) STRACZYNSKI’S NEW COMICS. You can’t read his mind but you can read his comics. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers about his upcoming project:

“When are you going to tell another story about telepaths?” I’ve been asked at conventions over the years. (The second most frequent question I get asked is, “Where is the restroom?”) Having explored the subject area a fair bit in both #Babylon5 and #Sense8, it’s something I have a great interest in given all of the societal implications.

I waited until I had a story worth telling, one that would let me dive deep into the subject matter…which became TELEPATHS, a new 6 issue comic miniseries from AWA. Details and sample art by the amazing Steve Epting can be found at the link below.

SYFY Wire has some of the art: “J. Michael Straczynski shares a first look at his new comic series ‘Telepaths’”.

…“I’ve always been fascinated by questions of privacy and what defines the self,” he continues. “And the fact that so often we are defined by our secrets, by the things that we don’t tell anyone and what happens when suddenly all of that is out in the open and there’s nowhere to hide. That to me is the most interesting part. And I started thinking about this for a long, long time. I thought I have more things to say about this. I want to get it out in another story.”

This led to Telepaths, a book that is very much an ensemble that includes police officers, White House staff members, MIT professors, and even convicted murderers. Everyone has their secrets they are hiding, but once the incident happens, many of those secrets are no longer kept hidden. “That’s a larger application of this story is, maybe you’re having an affair and your partner has that power, so that person’s going to know,” he explains. “There’s no such thing as having a secret life or dreams or goals or ambitions. It’s all going to be on display.”

(4) CENSORSHIP HITS HONG KONG CINEMA. “China’s Censorship Widens to Hong Kong’s Vaunted Film Industry, With Global Implications” reports the New York Times.

…The city’s [Hong Kong’s] government on Friday said it would begin blocking the distribution of films that are deemed to undermine national security, marking the official arrival of mainland Chinese-style censorship in one of Asia’s most celebrated filmmaking hubs.

The new guidelines, which apply to both domestically produced and foreign films, come as a sharp slap to the artistic spirit of Hong Kong, where government-protected freedoms of expression and an irreverent local culture had imbued the city with a cultural vibrancy that set it apart from mainland megacities.

…The updated rules announced Friday require Hong Kong censors considering a film for distribution to look out not only for violent, sexual and vulgar content, but also for how the film portrays acts “which may amount to an offense endangering national security.”

Anything that is “objectively and reasonably capable of being perceived as endorsing, supporting, promoting, glorifying, encouraging or inciting” such acts is potential grounds for deeming a film unfit for exhibition, the rules now say.

The new rules do not limit the scope of a censor’s verdict to a film’s content alone.

“When considering the effect of the film as a whole and its likely effect on the persons likely to view the film,” the guidelines say, “the censor should have regard to the duties to prevent and suppress act or activity endangering national security.”

(5) PUBLISHER TAKES CAPTAIN JACK COMIC OFF WEBSITE. Radio Times reports more consequences of the Barrowman allegations: “Doctor Who graphic novel centred around Captain Jack Harkness on hold”.

Plans for a Doctor Who graphic novel centring around Captain Jack Harkness are on hold following allegations that John Barrowman had frequently exposed himself on the sets of Doctor Who and Torchwood.

All mentions of the graphic novel, referred to as ‘Doctor Who 2021 Event’, have been removed from the Penguin Random House website.

The now-deleted synopsis for the novel revealed that the story tied-in “directly with episode two of the hotly-anticipated series 13,” suggesting Barrowman may have filmed scenes for the upcoming 13th series….

(6) GET ACQUAINTED WITH WINNIPEG BIDDERS. The Winnipeg in ’23 Worldcon bidders got me this last night:

Join the “Winnipeg in ‘23” Worldcon bid committee movers and shakers at one of our Zoom socials, where you can hear the latest news, ask questions, and get to know our crew better. We’re dedicated to bringing you an absolutely stellar 81st World Science Fiction Convention in 2023. Winnipeg has lots of cool plans in the works, which we’d love to share with you! Sign up links and more information are here.

We will also stream our socials to our YouTube channel here.

Sign up here for June 12 at 8:00pm CDT

Sign up here for June 13 at 1:00pm CDT

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 12, 1987 — On this date in 1987, Predator premiered. The first in the franchise, it was directed by John McTiernan and written by Jim and John Thomas. It was produced by Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and John Davis.  As you know, it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers. There would be four Predator films including one currently in production plus three Alien cross-over films as well. With the exception of Roger Ebert, critics generally hated it which didn’t stop it from being very successful at the box office. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-eight percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 12, 1856 – Georges Le Faure.  Among a dozen popular swashbuckling novels, War Under Water against Germany; The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist (with Henry de Graffigny, 4 vols.; tr. in 2 vols. 2009) with an explosive that could destroy the world, a Space-ship faster than light, visits to other planets, aliens.  Verne was first but not alone.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1921 – James Houston.  Canadian Volunteer Service Medal in World War II.  Drew and painted in the Eastern Arctic; civil administrator of western Baffin Island.  Brought Inuit carvings to Montreal, where Canadian Handicrafts Guild held autumn sales with queues stretching out the door and down the block; introduced printmaking to the Inuit with similar success.  Master designer for Steuben Glass.  Thirty books for children & adults, some ours.  Producer & director of documentaries.  Four honorary doctorates.  Inuit Kuavati Award, Metcalf Award (twice), Massey Medal.  Acrylic & aluminium – I said he was Canadian – sculpture Aurora Borealis 70 ft (20 m) high at Glenbow Museum, Calgary.  Memoirs, Confessions of an Igloo Dweller and Zigzag.  See here.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1924 — Frank Kelly. All of his short fiction was written in the Thirties for Astounding Science Fiction and Wonder Stories. The stories remained uncollected until they were published as Starship Invincible: Science Fiction Stories of the 30s. He continues to be remembered in Fandom and was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996. Starship Invincible is not available in digital form. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1927 — Henry Slesar. He had but one genre novel,Twenty Million Miles to Earth, but starting in the Fifties and for nearly a half century, he would write one hundred sixty short stories of a genre nature, with his first short story, “The Brat” being published in Imaginative Tales in September 1955.  He also wrote scripts for television — CBS Radio Mystery Theater (which, yes, did SF), Tales Of The Unexpected, the revival version of the Twilight ZoneBatmanThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., and genre adjacent, lots of scripts for series Alfred Hitchcock did. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born June 12, 1930 — Jim Nabors. Fum on The Lost Saucer, a mid sixties series that lasted sixteen episodes about two friendly time-travelling androids from the year 2369 named Fi (Ruth Buzzi) and Fum (Jim Nabors) who land their UFO on Earth. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born June 12, 1940 — Mary A. Turzillo, 81. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her “Mars is No Place for Children” story, published first in Science Fiction Age. Her first novel, An Old Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog, and a revised version, Mars Girls was later released. Her first collection to polish her SWJ creds is named Your cat & other space aliens. Mars Girls which I highly recommend is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1946 – Sue Anderson.  Fannish musicals with Mark Keller, performed at 1970s Boskones: RivetsRivets ReduxMik Ado about Nothing (i.e. alluding to both Gilbert & Sullivan, and Shakespeare), The Decomposers. George Flynn, Anne McCaffrey, Elliot Shorter are gone, but Chip Hitchcock was in some or all and may yet explain what really happened.  Three short stories (one posthumously in Dark Horizons 50); this cover with Stevan Arnold for Vertex.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1948 — Len Wein. Writer and editor best known for co-creating (with Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing and co-creating Wolverine (with Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr.) and for helping revive the X-Men. He edited Watchmen which must have been interesting dealing with Alan Moore on that. He’s a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1953 — Tess Gerritsen, 68. ISFDB lists her as genre so I’ll include her even though I’m ambivalent on her being so.  They’ve got one novel from the Jane Rizzoli series, The Mephisto Club, and three stand alone novels (GravityPlaying with Fire and The Bone Garden). All save Gravity couldbe considered conventional thrillers devoid of genre elements. (CE) 
  • Born June 12, 1963 – Franz Miklis, age 58.  Austrian artist active for decades in fanart (see here and here) and otherwise (see here and here).  Edited Galacto-Celtic Newsflash.  A hundred covers, three hundred interiors for e.g. Future Magic, LoneStarCon 3 the 71st Worldcon, Jupiter JumpThe Nat’l Fantasy FanOpuntiaVisions of Paradise.  Artbooks Vance World (part 1, paintings; part 2, crystal cities & flying palaces); Behind the Event Horizon.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1964 — Dave Stone, 57. Writer of media tie-ins, including quite a few in the Doctor Who universe which contains the Professor Bernice Summerfield stories, and Judge Dredd as well. He has only the Pandora Delbane series ongoing plus the Golgotha Run novel, and a handful of short fiction. (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1970 – Claudia Gray, age 51. A score of novels, a few shorter stories.  Website here (“Bianca, Tess, Nadia, Skye, Marguerite, and Noemi aren’t that much like me.  For example, they all have better hair”; also “Read as much as you can….  Read the stuff you love.  Read the stuff you never thought you’d love”).  [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1985 – Madeleine Roux, age 36. A dozen novels (some NY Times Best-Sellers), half a dozen shorter stories.  Fiction Weblogs (for some of us, blog is a drinkAllison Hewitt Is TrappedSadie Walker Is Stranded.  Has read Pride & PrejudiceFrankensteinLolitaThe Adventures of Huckleberry FinnOne Hundred Years of SolitudeSlaughterhouse-Five.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio enjoys a practical joke on Dracula.
  • Non Sequitur has a heap of dino humor.

(10) FABLES TO CONTINUE. DC Comics announced that Bill Willingham’s Fables series will resume in September with Batman vs. Bigby! A Wolf in Gotham: “Fables Returns!”

…“I’ve wanted to do this since the very first year of Fables,” says writer Bill Willingham. “Why? Because Batman is a detective, and Bigby is a detective, and I love a well-crafted story crossing over characters from two different fictional worlds. It’s automatically a fish-out-of-water story for at least one of the main characters, and that sort of story always works. Plus, I knew from the very beginning of Fables that my fictional universe would allow for many ways to get Bigby Wolf into the DCU and Gotham City. Even though those cosmic story structures wouldn’t be introduced in the Fables books for a year or more, they were baked in from the very beginning.”

Then, on sale the first week of May 2022, the main story line continues with Fables #151—just in time for the 20th anniversary of Fables #1. Fables #151 is the first installment of “The Black Forest,” a 12-issue arc that picks up where the story left off in Fables #150, and is also a perfect jumping-on point for new readers. The series also reunites the core creative team, with pencils by Mark Buckingham, inks by Steve Leialoha, colors by Lee Loughridge, and letters by Todd Klein….

(11) WANTED TO GROW UP TO BE RUMPOLE. The author of the Phryne Fisher series tells CrimeReads about her days practicing law: “Kerry Greenwood’s Life In Crime”.

…My practice was far more colorful than most. Rumpole never prosecutes, and neither did Greenwood. I worked for the Legal Aid Commission and gave free advice and legal representation to anyone who needed it. Because appearing in court seemed to me the most important thing I could do with my life, I volunteered. I didn’t want to sit in a cosy office anyway. I wanted to be doing Rumpole things, and be an advocate for those who had no voice of their own. At the height of my career I was appearing in three different courts every week. ‘Anyone for Legal Aid?’ I would ask. Oh yes. Word got around about me. As my writing career blossomed I reduced my hours. By the end I was paid for five hours a week (around $A130), and for this trifling sum I would represent my twenty-odd clients in court and out of it; and stagger home knowing that whatever I was doing this for, it certainly wasn’t for the money….

(12) SAIL, HO. The Guardian comments on prospects for another film based on the work of Patrick O’Brian: “Avast and furious: will it be a triumphant return for Master and Commander?” Not sff, but didn’t you want to know?

If the 2003 naval epic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World teaches us anything about life on a 19th-century British frigate, it is that even the most prolonged period of deck-scrubbing doldrums can suddenly erupt into thrilling action. Long-standing admirers of Peter Weir’s film experienced a similar adrenaline jolt this past weekend when news broke that the long-becalmed franchise based on Patrick O’Brian’s swashbuckling novel series was preparing to sail on to the big screen again. Ship just got real.

Patrick Ness, the author and screenwriter tasked with creating this new adaptation, confirmed his involvement by posting a bookshelf on Instagram of cherished O’Brian volumes. “This is a cache of riches,” he wrote, “with so much left to be explored.”… 

(13) SHUTE IN COMICS. Clark J. Holloway has posted some installments of the On The Beach graphic adaptation on his website.

I first read Nevil Shute’s best-selling 1957 cautionary novel of nuclear holocaust when I was in my early teens. It scared the bejabbers out of me. Sometime later I saw the 1959 movie with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire on late-night TV, and whatever bejabbers that may have been left in me fled to join their departed comrades. The story had a powerful impact on my young mind. However, as the years rolled by and the Cold War wound down the fear of imminent nuclear destruction faded from my mind and On the Beach became little more than a distant memory.

…In searching the Internet for reviews of Shute’s 1957 novel and the 1959 film I found that a closed-end comic strip adaptation of the novel had run in a number of the nation’s newspapers beginning on November 4, 1957. The story has been condensed down so that it could be told in five weeks worth of daily installments, excluding Sundays, and was drawn by cartoonist Ralph Lane. Since reprints of the comic are apparently rather rare, I’ve posted copies of them found on newspapers.com. Following the story are some examples of beautifully drawn original art from the strip that I’ve been able to acquire for my collection….

 (14) WOULD YOU LIKE SOME SF IN YOUR POLITICS? [Item by Daniel Dern.] Daily Kos told how “Rep. Dan Crenshaw asks soldiers to report ‘wokeness’ in military ranks, is trolled into oblivion”.

…Continuing the Republican tradition of pretending at maximum manly toughness while thumping through life with shows of oddly weaponized gutlessness, it’s Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Arkansaw’s Sen. Tom Cotton leading a new charge against Rampant Theoretical Wokeness in our nation’s tough manly military. Crenshaw announced it on Twitter with suitable turgidity: “We won’t let our military fall to woke ideology,” he puffed. The Crenshaw-Cotton response is a new “whistleblower webpage” where you can “submit your story” of being, um, exposed to Wokeness…. 

Twitter was flooded with reports. (You’ll probably have to click on the tweet to see the full text,)

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/21 The Dinosaurs That Fall On You From Nowhere

(1) DESIGNS FOR THE TIMES. Jane Frank reviewed a portfolio project by famed sff artist Richard Powers as a vehicle for studying his career and influence: “Richard Powers: The World of fFlar” at NeoText.

…Powers happily obliged, by portraying the Portfolio as a single story told in 16 (17, if you include the cover) illustrations even though the very first painting reproduced in the portfolio, The Ur-City of fFlar, cropped on the right, began life in 1958 as the cover to the fourth in a popular digest anthology series Star Science Fiction, edited by Frederik Pohl. And the same image served further duty, cropped on the left side this time, as the cover for The Deep by John Crowley, published by Berkley, 1976.

This use, and re-use of imagery, I should add, was common for Powers’ – who excelled in “re-purposing” his art, both to gain monetarily from additional usages, but also to save time. He had no qualms about cutting up and pasting portions of existing artworks in order to fashion “new” illustrations, and publishers either didn’t realize it, or didn’t care. Not only the images themselves, but also certain compositional elements, can be spotted on other covers, as if both publishers and Powers himself enjoyed creating variations on a favored theme . . . and there are fans of Powers’ art who make a sport out of discovering such connections. The humorous caption for The Ur City of fFlar indeed suggests that Powers was well aware of several uses to which one painting could be put:

Jane Frank also did an analysis of the paperback covers and other works of an iconic sff artist in “Paul Lehr: Unexpected Rhythms” at NeoText.

binary comment

…Freed from the need to produce garish imagery designed to lure adolescent readers to buy magazines, Lehr soon developed his own unique voice and palette.

One of Lehr’s studio experiments ended up being his first published cover.

“I constructed spaceships out of wire, cardboard toilet paper tubes, ping pong balls and the like, making strange looking ships. I painted them silver and white, and hung them up as still lifes against dark backgrounds, shining a strong light upon them, embellishing them with stars, bursts of fire, and other bits of painterly cosmic excitement. I also bought model kits and assembled them in crazy ways. A B-17 would become a moonlander or shuttleboat.” (Visions of Never” 2009)…

(2) INCREDIBLE BABEL. Cora Buhlert’s latest contribution to Galactic Journey is a review about the brand-new-in-1966 novel Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany: “[MAY 16, 1966] SPIES, POETS AND LINGUISTS: BABEL-17 BY SAMUEL R. DELANY”

With so much grim news in the real world, you just want to escape into a book. So I was happy to find Babel-17, the latest science fiction novel by Samuel R. Delany, in the spinner rack at my local import bookstore. The blurb promised a mix of space opera and James Bond style spy adventure, which sounded right up my alley….

(3) JOHNNY B BAD. “The Ballad of Russell & Julie”, performed a decade ago, is a hysterical “Musical Tribute to the Creators of the Rebooted ‘Doctor Who’ Series” as Laughing Squid explains. It’s newsworthy for a line that alludes to the kind of behavior which saw John Barrowman back in the headlines this week. (Around the 2:02 mark.)

During a Doctor Who wrap party in 2011, actors David TennantCatherine Tate, and John Barrowman performed “The Ballad of Russell and Julie,” a musical tribute to Russell T. Davies (RTD) and Julie Gardner, the creators of the new version of Doctor Who, which was first broadcast ten years ago today. The tribute pokes gentle fun at RTD’s smoking uncertainty and Gardner’s incredible confidence.

(4) PREDICTING STAR TREK. And there’s still time for you to add your guess to Galactic Journey’s poll about what that soon-to-premiere TV show Star Trek will be like. (Is the second choice below really a title? It looks like a code off my phone bill.)

(5) WELL-MET IN LAKE GENEVA. James Maliszewski, who runs the RPG blog Grognardia, has dug up a 1976 report about GenCon IX by none other than Fritz Leiber:  “Fritz Leiber at GenCon”.

Earlier this month, I posted an image of an article penned by author Fritz Leiber that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on September 5, 1976. Leiber recounts his experiences as guest of honor at GenCon IX and, as one might expect, what he writes is of great interest. He begins by briefly recounting the recent history of wargaming, starting with the publication of Gettysburg by Avalon Hill in 1958. (Why he starts there rather than with Tactics in 1954, I am not sure) 

Moving on from that, he speaks of GenCon, the “oldest gathering of tabletop generals in America,” which is “held at the pleasant Wisconsin resort-town near Chicago.

(6) ESFS AWARDS OPEN. The European Science Fiction Society is gathering nominations for the Next ESFS Awards.

Nominations are now open for the ESFS Awards that will be held at the 2021 Eurocon in Fiuggi, 15th to 18th July. The last day nominations will be accepted is Tuesday 15th June 2021. This is also the last day that bids for future Eurocons will be accepted for discussion in the Business Meeting, and the last day that topics to be raised in the Business Meeting will be accepted.

There should only be a single nomination from each country, as selected by their own rules. In the event of multiple nominations from one country, only matching nominations or nominations without a competing name will be accepted. In the event that all ballots from one country contain different names, there will be no nominees accepted for that country.

Nominations are made for a country by representatives of that country. If you are not familiar with how your country chooses its nominations, the EuroSMOF Facebook group is a good place to connect with other Eurocon attendees from your country.

Before nominating, read the list of current awards and their requirements, and the Awards FAQ.

(7) MONSTROUS FUN FOR TOURISTS. Travel Awaits encourages you to come and look for yourself: “Unicorns, Kelpies, And Wulvers: 7 Of Scotland’s Most Captivating Mythical Creatures”.

You probably know about the Loch Ness Monster, but have you ever heard of kelpies or wulvers?

Scots are legendary storytellers (they even host an International Storytelling Festival), and their culture is rich with imaginary creatures — or, perhaps, creatures not so imaginary… Here are some of my favorites. 

1. Unicorns 

No list of Scottish mythical creatures would be complete without mentioning Scotland’s national animal — the infamous unicorn, which adorns the country’s royal coat of arms. In Celtic mythology, the unicorn represents both purity and power, innocence and dominance. The creature has been part of Scotland’s ethos for centuries….

Pro Tip: Unicorns are ubiquitous in Scotland! The Palace of HolyroodhouseEdinburgh CastleCraigmillar Castle, and St Giles’ Cathedral — all in Edinburgh — sport unicorns. But, really, anywhere you go in Scotland, you can find a unicorn. Consider visiting on National Unicorn Day (celebrated on April 9) to get your unicorn fix. 

(8) FOLLOW THE BOUNCERS. On “The Muppet Show” on Saturday Night Live: “Security! Security!  Statler and Waldorf are causing trouble again!”

(9) RITTENHOUSE OBIT. Juris doctor, conrunner and Sidewise Award judge Jim Rittenhouse (1957-2021)  died May 16.

Steven H Silver paid tribute on Facebook.

I woke up to the news that my longtime friend and fellow Sidewise Award judge Jim Rittenhouse has lost his final battle. Jim welcomed me into fandom early and we discovered our shared love for alternate history. While working on my first Windycon under the auspices of the late Ross Pavlac, Ross was listening to Jim and me discuss alternate history and at the next meeting he presented each of us with Captain Midnight decoders, so he would be able to understand what we were talking about in the future.

Eventually Jim founded the Apazine Point of Divergence, which I was a founding member of and stayed with for a while. I later invited Jim to become a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, for which he was one of the longest serving judges.

Jim had a deep and personal interest in Chinese history and last year when I was working on my story “The Prediscovered Country,” we discussed the history of the Ming Dynasty to figure out what a Chinese colony in Australia would look like. In return, I modeled the Dutch character De Bruijn after Jim.

There will probably be a memorial service for Jim at either Windycon or Capricon.

May his memory be for a blessing.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago, Alfred Bester’s Demolished Man wins a Hugo for Best Novel. It was first serialized in three parts, beginning with the January 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. The novel is dedicated to Galaxy’s editor, H. L. Gold, who made writing ideas to Bester. Bester’s suggested title was Demolition!, but Gold talked him out of it. It would be his only Hugo Award. 

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

National Mimosa Day – They’re celebrating the six-time Hugo-winning fanzine at Fanac.org.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning.  Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter.  A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to Magic Realism blurring the real and imaginary.  Here is Union Mixer.  Here is Mindscape.  Here is The Dream.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott.  Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken; a score of covers, as many interiors.  Here is Black Hearts in Battersea.  Here is A Small Pinch of Weather.  (Died 2002) [JH] 
  • Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet.  Author and (under another name) pharmacist.  Towards a Lost FutureBabel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history. In The Empire of Baphomet an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; six dozen novels, plus shorter stories, essays.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1937 —  Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy” on the original Trek. She also one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestVoyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1942 – Judith Clute, age 79.  Two dozen covers, thirty interiors.  Here is the Dec 90 Interzone.  Here is Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol.  Here is Pardon This Intrusion.  Here is Stay.  [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1944 — Danny Trejo, 77. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelgangerThe Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood MoneyMuppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously he’s really done a lot of really low-budget horror films. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1953 — Pierce Brosnan, 68. James Bond in a remarkably undistinguished series of such films. Dr. Lawrence Angelo in The Lawnmower Man,and he was lunch, errr, Professor Donald Kessler in Mars Attacks! and Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod, age 68.  Four dozen covers, plus interiors, for us.  Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards.  BatmanHoward the DuckPocahontas (i.e. Disney’s).  Air Force Art Program.  Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000.  For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here.  [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1962 — Ulrika O’Brien, 59. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of zines in Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing —  Fringe, Widening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APA memberships include APA-L, LASFAPAMyriad and Turbo-APA. U. O’Brien won Best Fanartist in the 2021 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1968 — Stephen Mangan, 53, Voiced Bigwig, Silverweed and Shale in the 1999 Watership Down series, Green Javelins in the Hyperdrive SF comedy series, and Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1969 — David Boreanaz, 52. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line including of course an Angel puppet. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1978 – Marion Poinsot, age 43.  Illustrator of comics, role-playing games.  In the audio series The Keep [«le donjon»of Naheulbeuk by John Lang, here is MP’s Quilt of Oblivionhere is Chaos Under the Mountain.  Here is a poster for her Nina Tonnerre.  Here is Perle the black dragon.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) AUDIO FICTION. The latest episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast from Space Cowboy Books includes Jean-Paul Garnier reading Cora Buhlert’s short story “Little Monsters” and “Hidden Underneath” by Toshiya Kamei.

(15) WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. In the Washington Post, Stuart Miller interviews five actors on The Underground Railroad about their work on the Amazon Prime show. “Filming ‘The Underground Railroad’ was grueling. But the cast grasped ‘the weight of what we were doing.’”

…So while Mbedu always felt well cared for during filming — there was a guidance counselor on set “to bring me back to myself,” she says, and Jenkins himself “was always checking up on me” — the supportive cast and crew understood that putting on the chains and the burdens of being Black in antebellum America naturally took a toll.

“I had to have tricks, like moving through the set with my eyes downcast, so that when I opened my eyes I’d be experiencing everything only as Cora, because otherwise it would be too much for Thuso to take in,” Mbedu says.

The South African actress grew up in the immediate aftermath of apartheid and, like Cora, lost her parents at a young age. But she drew a sharp border between her life and Cora’s, relying on “a whole lot of research” to bring the character’s vocal, physical and psychological journey to life.

“The one time in the past where I made the mistake of trying to draw from my own experience, my brain went, ‘That was too traumatizing, we’re shutting down now.’ I can empathize, but I cannot personalize because it’s too traumatic to relive.”…

(16) IRREPLACEABLE. The Guardian gets Patrick Ness’ reaction to various books he’s read. One genre author stands out: “Patrick Ness: ‘Terry Pratchett makes you feel seen and forgiven’”.

My comfort read
Discworld by Terry Pratchett. I am always at some point through the cycle (I’m currently on The Thief of Time). They’re not only gloriously funny, they’re humane in a way that makes you actually feel seen and forgiven, with all your faults. He was a one-off, Sir Terry. When I finish reading them through, I simply put the last book down and pick the first one up again.

(17) GREATEST OF ALL TIME TRAVEL. Ryan Britt makes a daring claim at Inverse: “The best time-travel show of all time is streaming for free right now”. And that show is? Quantum Leap!

…Trying to figure out the actual sci-fi rules of Quantum Leap is a bad idea. As stated in the voice-over, Sam Beckett “stepped into the quantum leap accelerator and vanished.” The premise of the series is that his consciousness is transferred into various people’s bodies — regardless of gender — throughout time. Once Sam shows up in one of these bodies, a holographic projection from his associate Al (Dean Stockwell) advises him on what he’s supposed to accomplish in whatever historical period he’s found himself in.

Basically, Quantum Leap is a paint-by-numbers science fiction drama. Every episode begins with Sam trying to acclimate to his new body, while Al tells him the stakes. Despite the fact that Al is assisted by a super-computer named “Ziggy,” there’s never a clear path for what Sam is supposed to do. His essential mission — which is ill-defined — is to “set right what once went wrong” — but what that means exactly is relatively opaque until the end of each episode. This makes zero sense. It’s also brilliant.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Andrew (not Werdna), Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 5/14/21 I Plan To Read All The Hugo Nominees Tonight, Said Tom Swiftly.

(1) AN ALIEN STUDY. Charlie Jane Anders tells what problems are caused when TV aliens are just minority groups given forehead bumps: “Star Trek, Star Wars reveal the cultural minefield of inventing aliens” at Polygon.

… Alien characters don’t just entertain us with their strange and unfamiliar ways — they also reflect our humanity back to us. Science fiction is all about exploring what it means to be human, and we can do that more easily by comparing ourselves against the alien characters we love or hate. This works a couple of different ways for writers:

  1. You can create alien characters who act human in many ways, except for a few major differences — and those differences can provide a contrast that reveals something about that human-seeming behavior.
  2. You can take one aspect of human behavior and exaggerate it until it becomes a defining characteristic, which lets viewers see its importance and its drawbacks more clearly.

Human-with-a-difference aliens can be an awesome thing — as anyone who’s ever been at a convention with a hundred people dressed as Klingons and Vulcans can attest. But there’s a drawback: the same thing that lets these alien characters reveal essential truths about human beings also risks turning them into reflections of our worst ideas about our fellow humans. Sometimes that almost-but-not-quite-human thing can reflect noxious stereotypes, or present one-dimensional images that we can then turn around and project onto real people….

(2) UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. In the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday interviews Barry Jenkins about directing The Underground Railroad which just dropped on Amazon Prime. “With ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Barry Jenkins looks squarely at Black trauma”.

…For the most part, he didn’t. If anything, Jenkins’s version of “The Underground Railroad” is most startling for its implacable realism.

“Colson and I actually talked about this right at the beginning,” Jenkins explains. “He said, ‘You know, there’s a version of this where it’s all leather and steampunk and I don’t think we want to do that.’ And I was like, ‘No. We don’t want to do that.’?”

Invoking the corroded, retro-futuristic design of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s steampunk classic “The City of Lost Children,” he expands on the point. “I said to my production designer, ‘I don’t want CGI trains, I don’t want CGI tunnels. The trains have to be real, the tunnels have to be real.’?”

Indeed, Jenkins was so committed to photorealistic style in “The Underground Railroad” that he wrote an entire new chapter for the series, which turned out to be too expensive to film. He and co-writer Nathan Parker came up with “Genesis,” the story of Black miners who are buried after a methane explosion; when the mine’s owner decides against rescuing them to recoup their life insurance policies, “the men start digging. .?.?. And when they come aboveground, they’re on the other side of the Mason-Dixon [line]. And rather than stay aboveground, they go back down. And that’s how the underground railroad begins. .?.?. It’s not about steampunk. People aren’t going to levitate. We’re going to build myth out of rock and bone.”…

(3) NEW EDEN. Netflix dropped a trailer for Eden, a new anime series.

(4) THE PEDESTRIAN. Urban Archive traces the route of “A Night with the Missus: H.P. Lovecraft in Greenwich Village” with historic photos.

Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft lived in New York City between 1924 and 1926. One of his favorite pastimes was searching neighborhoods for buildings or structures dating from the eighteenth-century or embracing its styles. Lovecraft’s literary friends often served as his trusted companions in urban exploration. He also enjoying experiencing New York with his wife, Sonia H. Greene. In August 1924, Greene and Lovecraft shared an evening stroll through Greenwich Village. This excursion introduced Lovecraft to “more of the ancient New-York” than any of his other “numerous pilgrimages.”

…Greene and Lovecraft next ventured to Patchin Place. Gazing down this cul-de-sac, Lovecraft imagined that he had stepped into his beloved colonial American past. He was transfixed by an antique streetlamp in the pocket neighborhood. The lamp’s “pale beams cast alluring shadows of archaic things half of the imagination.” Poet e.e. cummings lived at Patchin Place at this time. Coincidentally, cummings and Lovecraft’s literary circles soon would intersect.

Incidentally, sff writer Charles Platt once lived in the Patchin neighborhood and gave its name to his short-lived magazine The Patchin Review, now collected in an ebook available as a free download from Dave Langford’s unofficial TAFF site (donation appreciated).

(5) BARROWMAN APOLOGY. CinemaBlend quotes John Barrowman’s apology: “Doctor Who’s John Barrowman Issues Apology After Flashing Allegations Resurface”

Public interest in the claims of John Barrowman exposing his genitals on the sets of Doctor Who and Torchwood was reignited by the recent allegations of misconduct against actor Noel Clarke, who was also on the series around the same time. Allegations made years prior by various cast members (including Clarke) claimed that Barrowman would randomly expose himself on set and even hit cast members with his penis at random.

The Guardian then spoke to several sources who then confirmed John Barrowman repeatedly exposed himself on set, though not in a manner that one would perceive as sexual. One woman, who had her name changed for the article, stated that while Barrowman exposing himself to her and others on set made her uncomfortable, there was never a time in which it happened that she felt unsafe. While Barrowman’s lawyers said he “could not recall” specific instances mentioned in the article, the actor did give a statement apologizing for any resurfaced claims and new ones from his early years on the show:

With the benefit of hindsight, I understand that upset may have been caused by my exuberant behaviour and I have apologised for this previously. Since my apology in November 2008, my understanding and behaviour have also changed.

… Earlier this week ITV declined to confirm if Mr Barrowman would continue as a judge on Dancing On Ice, saying decisions about the next series’ line-up had yet to be made.

(6) TORCHWOOD IS LIGHTS OUT. Big Finish won’t release a story Barrowman voiced: “John Barrowman: Release of new Torchwood audio story scrapped” reports BBC.

An audio story featuring John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness, his character from Doctor Who and spin-off Torchwood, has been pulled from release.

It follows allegations that in the past the actor repeatedly exposed himself while filming the TV shows.

Mr Barrowman has previously apologised for his behaviour.

Torchwood: Absent Friends was made by Big Finish, the company licensed by the BBC to produce official Doctor Who and Torchwood audio plays.

It was due to be released this month. In it, Captain Jack was due to be reunited with the Doctor, voiced by David Tennant, who played the character on TV between 2005-2010.

A Big Finish spokesperson said: “We have no plans to publish this title at this time.”…

(7) R.H.I.P. Emily Temple Google-searched 275 famous books that came to mind and turned it into an imprecise ranking for Literary Hub: “What Are the Most Discussed Books on the Internet?” Not ‘til you get to #31 do her sff picks rise above the event horizon.

…This number, by the way, is an estimate—a Google Webmaster described it as “a ballpark figure,” but it may be even less accurate than that. Even the estimate can vary a lot, based on a whole host of different factors, like where you are and what else you’ve searched for (in your whole entire life). But even if the numbers themselves are approximate, they may still have relative meaning, especially when accessed from the same computer, using the same browser, on the same day: at the very least, they should be able to tell us, in a general way, which books have been referenced more or less than others online.

It’s important to remember that this is not exactly the same as true popularity—plenty of bestsellers, especially older bestsellers, published when the internet was less of a driving force in book marketing, were relatively low-ranked here….

Here’s an excerpt — #31-37 on the list:

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games – 2,080,000
James Joyce, Ulysses – 1,850,000
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale – 1,800,000
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield – 1,780,000
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 1,630,000
Barack Obama, A Promised Land – 1,610,000
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 – 1,600,000

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 14, 1996 Doctor Who aired on the Fox Television Network in the United States. Starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, Sylvester McCoy briefly as the Seventh Doctor, Daphne Ashbrook as Grace Holloway and Eric Roberts as The Master. It was directed by Geoffrey Sax off a script by Matthew Jacobs. It was intended as a pilot to an American-produced and -based Who series but internal politics at BBC killed it off. Some critics loved, some hated it; and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes gave it a decent forty eight percent rating.  He has since reprised the role, briefly in video form in the BBC series and quite extensively in audio form for Big Finish. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 14, 1848 – Albert Robida.  French illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, novelist.  Edited and published Caricature magazine; 520 illustrations for Pierre Giffard’s weekly serial The Infernal War; 60,000 during AR’s life.  In The Twentieth Century (1882; set in 1952), War in the Twentieth Century (1887), Electric Life (1890), five more, imagined technological developments e.g. the telephonoscope whose flat-screen display shows news, plays, conferences, 24 hours a day; here’s an aerial rotating house.  Illustrated Cyrano de Bergerac, Rabelais, Swift.  Clock of the CenturiesThe End of Books (with Octave Uzanne); The Long-Ago Is With Us TodayIn 1965.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1853 – Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine (known as “Hall Caine”).  Novelist, dramatist, short-story writer, poet, critic.  Secretary to Dante Gabriel RossettiRecollections of Rossetti (rev. 1928).  Son of a Manxman, moved there, elected to its legislature; Bram Stoker dedicated Dracula to him in Manx.  The Christian, first novel in Britain to sell a million copies; a score more novels, as many plays, four films (plus more made from his books); The Supernatural in Shakespere (HC’s spelling), The Supernatural Element in Poetry, a score more books of non-fiction; ten million books sold.  Went to Russia, Morocco, Iceland, Egypt.  Sixty thousand people at his funeral.  (Died 1931) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1929 – George Scithers.  Two Hugos for his fanzine Amra.  Chaired three Disclaves and the 21st Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at the 2nd NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) and the 59th Worldcon; frequent chair of the annual WSFS (World SF Soc.) Business Meeting.  Served as President of WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) and Official Arbiter of The Cult (an apa famous in song and story).  First editor of Asimov’s, two Hugos as Best Pro Editor.  Perpetrated the Scithers SFL (Science Fiction League) Hoax.  Revived Weird Tales (with John Betancourt), World Fantasy special award for it (with Darrell Schweitzer).  World Fantasy lifetime-achievement award.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1933 – Ron Bennett.  British fanwriter, collector, publisher, used-book dealer, even while living in Singapore. TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate; trip report Colonial Excursion.  Chaired Eastercon 13, ran the Dealers’ Room at the 45th Worldcon.  Member variously of OMPA (Off-trails Magazine Publishers Ass’n, serving awhile as its Official Editor), FAPA (Fantasy Am. Press Ass’n), The Cult; best-known fanzines, Skyrack (rhyming with “beer hack” because, as RB well knew, it meant shire oak, but what a name), Ploy.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 77. For better and worse I suppose, he created  the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are fine. I adore the original Trilogy.) And let’s not forget THX 1138. My fav works that he was involved in? LabyrinthRaiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Willow. Oh, and and The Young Indiana Jones series. (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1945 Rob Tapert, 76. I’d say he’s best known for co-creating Xena: Warrior Princess. He also produced and/or wrote several other television series including Hercules: The Legendary JourneysM.A.N.T.I.S. and American Gothic. Tapert also co-created the prequel series Young Hercules which I loved. He’s married to actress Lucy Lawless. (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1952 Kathleen Ann Goonan. Her Nanotech Quartet is most excellent, particularly the first novel, Queen City Jazz. Her only Award was given for In War Times which garnered a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. She’s wrote an interesting essay on the relationship between sf and music, “Science Fiction and All That Jazz”. (Died 2021.) (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1952 Robert Zemeckis, 69. He’s responsible for some of my favorite films including the Back to the Future trilogy, The Muppet Christmas CarolThe WitchesWho Framed Roger Rabbit and the savagely funny Death Becomes Her. What’s your favorite films that’s he had a hand in? (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1953 – Kerryn Goldsworthy, Ph.D., age 68.  Taught at Univ. Melbourne.  Free lance since 1997.  Pascall Prize, Horne Prize.  She edited Australian Book Review, “learning more about human nature in those two years than in either the preceding thirty-three or the following nineteen.”  Anthologies outside our field e.g. Coast to CoastAustralian Women’s Stories. [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1956 – Gillian Bradshaw, age 65.  A score of novels for us; outside our field, historical fiction set in ancient Egypt, Rome, the Byzantine Empire (she won the Phillips Prize for Classical Greek while at Univ. Michigan).  Married a British mathematical-physics professor (and Ig Nobel Prize winner), has judged the Inst. Physics’ Paperclip Physics competition.  [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1965 — Eoin Colfer, 56. He is best known for being the author of the Artemis Fowl series. (OGH)

(10) CATCH ‘EM AND BRAWL. “Target pulls Pokemon cards from stores, citing threat to workers and customers”CBS News has details.

Target is pulling in-store sales of popular trading cards, citing employee safety, after a parking lot brawl in one of its stores last week. The retailer told CBS MoneyWatch it would no longer sell Pokemon and sports trading cars in its physical locations starting Friday.

“The safety of our guests and our team is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to temporarily suspend the sale of MLB, NFL, NBA and Pokemon trading cards within our stores, effective May 14. Guests can continue to shop these cards online at Target.com,” a Target spokesperson said in a statement.

… Target last month limited card sales to three packs per person per day, then to one pack per day. But the policy led to even more frenzied speculation with some shoppers camping out outside the stores before they opened.

Last week, a shopper leaving a Target store in Wisconsin was attacked by three men in the parking lot, leading the victim to pull out his gun and neighboring stores to impose momentary lockdowns. No shots were fired, and the victim suffered only minor injuries, according to reports. It’s unclear which type of trading card was the cause of the scuffle.

(11) KEEPING TABS. The Otherwise Award put together a post about what its past winners had published in 2020: “Eligible for nomination: 2020 books & stories by past Otherwise winners”. The first two entries on the lengthy list are –

Eleanor Arnason, 1991 winner for A Woman of the Iron People, published the short story “Tunnels” in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine on May 1, 2020. You can buy that issue on Magzter.

Maureen McHugh, 1992 winner for China Mountain Zhang, published the short story Yellow and the Perception of Reality in July 2020. You can read it for free on Tor.com.

(12) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 31 of the Octothorpe podcast, “If I Set Fire to Alison”, “John [Coxon] has bad Internet, Alison [Scott] is monologuing, and Liz [Batty] is the long-suffering one.” Make of that what you will. The episode outline says there’s a discussion of Worldcon bids and the business meeting in the middle.

(13) STASIS. Kate Washington tells about “Rereading The Phantom Tollbooth in This Year of Our Pandemic Doldrums” at Literary Hub.

In The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo—the child-hero driving through a world of word and number play—accidentally enters a low, dull place. The world loses all its color, everything becoming “grayer and monotonous.” He feels drowsy, his car won’t move, and finally he comes to a dead stop. He has strayed into this land of stasis by failing to pay attention to where he’s going, and, an inhabitant tells him slowly, it’s called The Doldrums: “‘The Doldrums, my young friend, are where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes.’”

Its inhabitants, the Lethargarians, are firmly wedded to their torpor, sticking to a strict schedule of doing nothing at all and telling Milo that thinking is against the law (“Ordinance 175389-J: It shall be unlawful, illegal, and unethical to think, think of thinking, surmise, presume, reason, meditate, or speculate while in the Doldrums”). When Milo objects that everyone thinks, they shoot back that most of the time, in fact, people don’t, and in fact that’s why Milo is in the Doldrums….

(14) HE’S GOT A TICKET TO RIDE. “Japanese Tycoon Planning Space Station Visit, Then Moon Trip”US News has the story.

“Going to the ISS before the Moon,” Yusaku Maezawa announced Thursday via Twitter.

Maezawa has bought two seats on a Russian Soyuz capsule. He’ll blast off in December on the 12-day mission with his production assistant and a professional cosmonaut.

“I’m so curious, ‘What’s life like in space?’ So, I am planning to find out on my own and share with the world,” Maezawa said in a statement.

He’ll be the first person to pay his own way to the space station in more than a decade, according to Virginia-based Space Adventures, which brokered the deal. A Space Adventures spokeswoman declined to divulge the cost. The company has sent seven other tourists to the space station, from 2001 to 2009.

Maezawa’s trip to the moon aboard Elon Musk’s Starship is tentatively scheduled for 2023. He’ll fly around the moon — not land — with eight contest winners.

(15) A FIVE-YEAR MISSION. And this one’s going to be completed. “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Heads for Earth with Asteroid Sample” reports the space agency.

After nearly five years in space, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with an abundance of rocks and dust from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

On Monday, May 10, at 4:23 p.m. EDT the spacecraft fired its main engines full throttle for seven minutes – its most significant maneuver since it arrived at Bennu in 2018. This burn thrust the spacecraft away from the asteroid at 600 miles per hour (nearly 1,000 kilometers per hour), setting it on a 2.5-year cruise towards Earth.

After releasing the sample capsule, OSIRIS-REx will have completed its primary mission. It will fire its engines to fly by Earth safely, putting it on a trajectory to circle the sun inside of Venus’ orbit.

After orbiting the Sun twice, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is due to reach Earth Sept. 24, 2023. Upon return, the capsule containing pieces of Bennu will separate from the rest of the spacecraft and enter Earth’s atmosphere. The capsule will parachute to the Utah Test and Training Range in Utah’s West Desert, where scientists will be waiting to retrieve it.

(16) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Popular Mechanics gets the internet clicking with its post “Russia Is Going to Try to Clone an Army of 3,000-Year-Old Scythian Warriors”.

When you hold a job like Defense Minister of Russia, you presumably have to be bold and think outside the box to protect your country from enemy advances. And with his latest strategic idea—cloning an entire army of ancient warriors—Sergei Shoigu is certainly taking a big swing.

In an online session of the Russian Geographical Society last month, Shoigu, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggested using the DNA of 3,000-year-old Scythian warriors to potentially bring them back to life. Yes, really.

First, some background: The Scythian people, who originally came from modern-day Iran, were nomads who traveled around Eurasia between the 9th and 2nd centuries B.C., building a powerful empire that endured for several centuries before finally being phased out by competitors. Two decades ago, archaeologists uncovered the well-preserved remains of the soldiers in a kurgan, or burial mound, in the Tuva region of Siberia….

Shoigu subtly suggested going through some kind of human cloning process. But is that even possible?

To date, no one has cloned a human being. But scientists have successfully executed the therapeutic cloning of individual kinds of cells and other specific gene-editing work, and of course, there are high-profile examples of cloning pretty complex animals. Earlier this year, for example, scientists cloned an endangered U.S. species for the first time: a black-footed ferret whose donor has been dead for more than 30 years.

…But let’s say Russia ignores all legality in favor of Shoigu’s big plans. In that case, scientists would have to develop a way to lift out the human nucleus without damaging the cell beyond repair.

Scientists have cloned certain monkeys, so primates are at least hypothetically still in the mix, despite the spindle proteins. But the success rate even for non-primate clones is already very low—it took Dolly the sheep’s research team 277 attempts to get a viable embryo.

And what if all of that went perfectly? Well, the Scythians were powerful warriors and gifted horsemen, but scientists—or the Kremlin—must carefully monitor a cloned baby version of a deceased adult warrior for illnesses and other prosaic childhood problems. Who will raise these children? Who will be legally responsible for their wellbeing?

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mandalorian Theme U.S. Army Band” on YouTube shows that the U.S. Army Band (Pershing’s Own) celebrated Star Wars Day with their version of the theme from The Mandalorian.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/12/21 Yeah, I Got It Wrong. But I Get Silverlock Into The Apology!

(1) WISHING STEVE DAVIDSON WELL. This Thursday, Amazing Stories’ “Steve Davidson Undergoes His Own Fantastic Voyage” – open heart surgery. As he told Facebook readers earlier in the week:

scheduled for open heart surgery this coming thursday.

i will be happy to autograph selfies of my zipper scar when i have one.

everyone is telling me recovery can be a bitch, but I can expect to be feeling a LOT better once i recover.

My general feeling of malaise over the past few months may have been due more to the growing arterial blockages than anything else going on.

nor am I entirely surprised that this happened during such a time of numerous stressors happening all at once.

now I just want to get this over with.

One very interesting note: I have NO damage to my heart. “very strong” says the doc. good shape.

so, clear the pipes and I should be good to go for another 62 years, right?

Today Steve shared a diagram of his arterial blockages.

So be afraid you all, I’ve only been operating at between 10 and 30 percent capacity this past 18 months and will soon be restored to at least 100 percent functionality.

Ruh ro!

(2) BARROWMAN DROPPED. BBC News reports “John Barrowman video removed from Doctor Who theatre show”.

A video featuring John Barrowman is to be removed from an immersive Doctor Who theatre show following allegations about the actor’s past conduct.

He is accused of repeatedly exposing himself while filming the BBC show.

Mr Barrowman was to have been seen as his Captain Jack Harkness character in a pre-recorded video to be shown during the Doctor Who: Time Fracture show.

Mr Barrowman has previously apologised for his behaviour but has not responded to the show’s decision to drop him.

In a message on its website, the show’s producers said it had “taken the decision to remove this pre-record”.

(3) REPLACEMENT PLAYER. Yahoo! Entertainment finds out “How Tig Notaro Digitally Replaced Chris D’Elia in Zack Snyder’s ‘Army of the Dead’”.

“I really thought there was going to be a backlash from me replacing Chris. I didn’t think I was going to be trending for being a badass,” comedian says

After comedian Chris D’Elia was accused of sexual misconduct, Zack Snyder made the decision to digitally replace his role in “Army of the Dead” with an unusual choice: Tig Notaro.

Notaro had never done major stunt work before (she’s done some light action scenes on “Star Trek: Discovery”). But she found herself pretending she was piloting a helicopter while evading a zombie as well as learning how to handle a prop machine gun in Snyder’s film. And because she was digitally replacing another actor who shot his footage months earlier, she had to act largely on her own in front of green screens and without any other actors.

Both Notaro and Snyder in an interview with Vulture detailed the elaborate work it took to sub Notaro into “Army of the Dead.” And it was a choice that paid off, because Tig found herself trending on Twitter after images of her chomping on a cigarillo and decked out in military garb went viral.

(4) KONG IN THE BEGINNING. Here’s the first trailer for a brand new, feature length documentary film concerning the life, death, and Legend of King Kong. Premieres in November. Our own Steve Vertlieb is one of the interviewees!

(5) OMEGA SCI-FI AWARDS. The Roswell Award & Women Hold Up Half the Sky Virtual Celebrity Readings & Awards on May 22 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific will feature sci-fi and fantasy actors David Blue, Ruth Connell, LaMonica Garrett, Phil Lamarr, Tiffany Lonsdale-Hands, Nana Visitor, and Kari Wahlgren.

Pre-registration is required! Event registration and replay access is FREE. Register for the Zoom webinar here.

(6) THE BIRDS. In “Building Beyond: A Birds-Eye View”, Sarah Gailey presents a writing prompt to Mar Stratford and J.M. Coster, and also takes up the challenge.

At 12:00pm Central European Time on Wednesday, May 12th, 2021, the Global Raptor Alliance (formerly the Hawk And Falcon Cooperative) will announce the opening of the Avian Museum of Human History. This museum will feature a bird’s-eye view (literally) of human civilization.

Mar Stratford is a writer from the Mid-Atlantic and friend to all animals. Find zir online at mar-stratford.com or on Twitter.

Gailey: What are a couple of highlights of the avian narrative of human civilization? What kind of artifacts will be featured in the museum?…

(7) MAKE A WISH. Netflix dropped a trailer for Wish Dragon, an animated comedy coming on June 11.

Determined teen Din is longing to reconnect with his childhood best friend when he meets a wish-granting dragon that leads him on an adventure a thousand years in the making.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

May 12, 1989 — On this day in 1989, The Return Of Swamp Thing premiered.  The follow-up to Swamp Thing, it was directed by Jim Wynorski,  with production by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. The story was written by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris.  It starred Dick Durock and Heather Locklear who replaced Adrienne Barbeau as the female lead who was in Swamp Thing.  Louis Jourdan also returns as a spot-on Anton Arcane. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a middling fifty five percent rating thought the  original Swamp Thing series which also stars Durock in contrast has an eighty three percent rating among audience reviewers there! 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear.  Famous in his day as a painter and illustrator.  First major bird artist to draw from live birds; look at this parrot.  Here are some Albanians.  Here’s Masada.  His musical settings for Tennyson’s poems were the only ones Tennyson approved of.  Known today as a writer of nonsense.  We may never see an owl dancing with a pussycat, but they do in his creation – in a hundred languages.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  He was Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, but put his third name first in honor of The Divine Comedy.  Founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of art because he thought Raphael (1483-1520) had ruined things; see how this led DGR to imagine Proserpine.  His poetry too was fantastic.  He is credited with the word yesteryear.  He loved wombats.  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1902 – Philip Wylie.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories for us; hundreds of works all told.  Gladiator was an inspiration for Superman.  When Worlds Collide (with Edwin Balmer) inspired Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.  Columnist, editor, screenwriter, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy, vice-president of the Int’l Game Fish Ass’n. Wrote “Anyone Can Raise Orchids” for The Saturday Evening Post.  In The Disappearance a cosmic blink forces all men to get along without women, all women without men.  (Died 1971) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1907 Leslie Charteris. I really hadn’t thought of the Simon Templar aka The Saint series as being genre but both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1928 Robert “Buck” Coulson. Writer, well-known fan, filk songwriter and fanzine editor. He and his wife, writer and fellow filker Juanita Coulson, edited the fanzine Yandro which they produced on a mimeograph machine, and which was nominated for the Hugo Award ten years running right through 1968, and won in 1965. Yandro was particularly strong on reviewing other fanzines. Characters modeled on and named after him appear in two novels by Wilson Tucker, Resurrection Days and To the Tombaugh Station. (Died 1999.) (CE) 
  • Born May 12, 1937 – Betsy Lewin, age 84.  Illustrated twoscore books, some ours.  Here is Click, Clack, Moo (Caldecott Honor).  Here is Penny.  Here is No Such Thing.  Here is a note on BL and her husband Ted.  [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1938 David Pelham, 83. Artist and Art Director at Penguin Books from 1968 to 1979 who was responsible for some of the most recognizable cover art in genre books to date. He did the cog-eyed droog for Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange in 1972. There’s a great interview with him here. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 79. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. Gerrold would later novelize it. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1950 Bruce Boxleitner, 71. His greatest genre role was obviously Captain John Sheridan on Babylon 5. (Yes, I loved the show.) Other genre appearances being Alan T. Bradley in Tron, Tron: Legacy, and voicing that character in the Tron: Uprising series. He has a recurring role on Supergirl as President Baker. (CE) 
  • Born May 12, 1958 – Patricia Finney, age 63.  Five novels for us, of which three are told by a dog in Doglish; her first was published before she was 18.  A dozen others (some under different names); a radio play.  Higham Award.  “When I was seven I had to write a story about anything for school.  Naturally I wrote about spacemen exploring other galaxies and outwitting jelly aliens….  I got A minus for it (untidy writing, I’m afraid).”  Avocations karate, embroidery, folk music.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1966 – Gilles Francescano, age 55.  A hundred twenty covers, some for work available in English.  Here is L’ère du spathiopithèque.  Here is Roll Over, Amundsen!  Here is Galaxies 3.  Here is The Night Orchid.  Here is The Master of Light.  [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1968 Catherine Tate, 53. Donna Noble, Companion to the Eleventh Doctor. She has extended the role by doing the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish. She also played Inquisitor Greyfax in Our Martyred Lady, a Warhammer 40,000 audio drama, something I did not know existed until now. (CE) 

(10) AND THE TAXI YOU RODE IN ON. “Tintin heirs lose legal battle over artist’s Edward Hopper mashups”The Guardian has the final score.

The French artist who was sued by the Tintin creator Hergé’s heirs over his paintings that place the boy adventurer in romantic encounters has won his case after a court deemed them parodies.

Xavier Marabout’s dreamy artworks imagine Tintin into the landscapes of Edward Hopper, including a take on Queensborough Bridge, 1913, or talking with a less-clothed version of Hopper’s Chop Suey.

Earlier this year, the Breton artist was sued for infringement by Moulinsart, which manages the Tintin business. Moulinsart’s lawyer argued that “taking advantage of the reputation of a character to immerse him in an erotic universe has nothing to do with humour”. Marabout’s lawyer argued that the paintings were parody.

On Monday, Moulinsart’s complaint was rejected by the court in Rennes. “The court recognised the parody exception and the humorous intention expressed by my client,” Marabout’s lawyer, Bertrand Ermeneux, said.

The Rennes court also said that Moulinsart had “denigrated” Marabout by contacting galleries showing his work to say that it was infringing, Huffington Post France reported, adding €10,000 (£8,500) in damages for Marabout and €20,000 in legal fees to its ruling.

Taxi pour noctambules (2014)

(11) IN JOY STILL FELT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov, in his autobiography In Joy Still Felt, discusses the 1971 Hugo Awards at Noreascon I.

The Hugo awards banquet on September 5 (my mother’s seventy-sixth birthday) was the high point of the convention.   I sat on the dais, for I was going to hand out the Hugos, and Bob Silverberg was the toastmaster (and an excellent one–no one is better than he at sardonic humor).

Robyn (Asimov’s daughter), radiantly beautiful, was at my side, knitting calmly.  Good old Cliff Simak, now sixty-seven, was guest of honor and, in the course of his talk, he introduced his children, who were in the audience, Robyn whispered to me, ‘You’re not going to introduce me, are you, Dad?’

I whispered back, ‘Not if you don’t want me to, Robyn.’

‘I don’t.’  She knitted a while, then said, ‘Of course, if you want to refer casually to your beautiful, blue-eyed, blond-haired daughter, you may do that.‘  So I did.

Bob Silverberg made frequent reference to the argument that had been made at St. Louis in 1968 [sic; actually 1969], when Harlan Ellison had taken up a collection to pay for some damage inadvertently done to hotel property, and, on collecting more than the required sum, had calmly assigned the excess to his own pet project, a science-fiction class at Clarion College.

Bob therefore made frequent mock announcements of various objects that would be ‘donated to Clarion’ and got a laugh each time.

When it came time to stand up and give out the awards, I couldn’t resist invading Bob’s turf by singing a limerick I had hastily constructed while listening to the toastmastering.  It read:

There was a young woman named Marion
Who did hump and did grind and carry on
The result of her joy
Was a fine bastard boy
Which she promptly donated to Clarion.

The audience saw where it was going halfway through the last line and the roar of laughter drowned out the final three words.

In the course of the banquet Lester (del Rey) presented a moving encomium on John Campbell. He is excellent at that sort of thing and constantly threatens to deliver one on me if it becomes necessary; and that does give me a marvelous incentive to outlive him if I can.”

(12) PHONE HOME? “Voyager spacecraft detects ‘persistent hum’ beyond our solar system” reports CNN. I don’t suppose it’s a dial tone.

…”It’s very faint and monotone, because it is in a narrow frequency bandwidth,” Stella Koch Ocker, a Cornell University doctoral student in astronomy, said in a statement. “We’re detecting the faint, persistent hum of interstellar gas.”

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft flew by Jupiter in 1979, and by Saturn in 1980, before crossing the heliopause in August 2012.

(13) STILL GETTING THERE. Jeff Foust reviews Test Gods for The Space Review.

When Virgin Galactic first announced its suborbital spaceflight plans in 2004, working in cooperation with Scaled Composites just as that company’s SpaceShipOne was on the cusp of winning the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE, it said it would begin commercial service as soon as late 2007. It’s 2021, and the company has yet to take a paying customer to the edge of space. SpaceShipTwo hasn’t made a trip to suborbital space since February 2019, and a flight in December 2020 was aborted just as its hybrid engine ignited because of a computer malfunction that’s taken months to correct.

Virgin Galactic’s delays and setbacks have been well-chronicled here and elsewhere, but not to the same level of detail as in Nicholas Schmidle’s new book, Test Gods. Schmidle was embedded for several years in Virgin Galactic, starting not long after the October 2014 accident that destroyed the first SpaceShipTwo and killed its co-pilot, Mike Alsbury. He was such a frequent visitor to the company’s Mojave facilities, sitting in on meetings and interviewing people, that one new hire thought he was a fellow employee.

Schmidle tells the story of Virgin Galactic largely through one of its pilots, Mark Stucky, with whom he spent much of his time while at the company…. 

(14) VERSUS LONELINESS. SOLOS premieres May 21 in the US and select territories and June 25 worldwide on Amazon Prime Video. Io9 warms up the audience in “Amazon Sci-Fi Anthology Solos”

“We all feel alone in different ways,” says Morgan Freeman in this new trailer for Solos. “In feeling alone, we are somehow all together.” That seems as perfect a thesis statement for Amazon Prime’s upcoming TV series as possible.

The show, from Hunters creator David Well, is not the stealth sequel to Solo, but it does give us two Anthony Mackies having a heart to heart, as well as Dame Helen Mirren on a lonely space voyage, Legion’s Dan Stevens hugging Freeman, and a lot more. See for yourself:

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Nier Replicant” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this Americanized version is :a master class in feeling sadness and is a game for people who “love to cry about robots” and give up fighting for long sessions of video garning and “searching for household fruits.”

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Steve Vertlieb, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day James Reynolds with an assist from Anna Nimmahus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/21 Scrolled In The Pixel Was – Oh! Oh! Oh!

(1) DELANY’S CARTE BLANCHE. The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan will present movies curated by Samuel R. Delany as part of its Carte Blanche series, in which cinema and art-world luminaries present a selection of films that are of personal or professional significance to them: Carte Blanche: Samuel R. Delany from May 20-June 6.

On the occasion of his 79th year, Samuel R. Delany, multi-time Nebula and Hugo award-winning author and lauded literary critic, taps into a lifetime of cinematic obsessions for MoMA’s Carte Blanche series. Delany’s colorful picks—encompassing the classical avant-garde of Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a PoetMaya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, and Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante; masterworks by Michael Powell and Luis Buñuel; and newer treasures like Peter Jackson’s King Kong and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo—honor the expressive power of the fantastic on film. Accompanying his selections are a rare screening of his own experimental science-fiction featurette The Orchid and Fred Barney Taylor’s effervescent portrait of the author, The Polymath, or The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman.

Of his choices Delany writes, “Sometimes I feel like the character in Myra/Myron Breckenridge who announces something to the effect: Between 1938 and 1950, there were no bad films made in the United States of America. That’s kind of how I feel about all films. It’s like Andrew Saris said, ‘There are no amateur films. They’re too expensive to make. If you can afford to make a film, you’re making a film.’”

If you’d like to explore more Delany cinema favorites, he’s recommended some additional films to seek out: Abel Gance’s Napoléon (1927), Jean Delannoy’s The Eternal Return (1943), Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948), Ernest B. Schoedsack’s Mighty Joe Young (1949), Jacques Tourner’s The Flame and the Arrow (1950), Jean Cocteau’s Orphée (Orpheus) (1950), Stanley Donen’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Mervyn LeRoy’s Rose Marie (1954), Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander (1982), and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002).

(2) CONVENTION COMEBACK. The Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention announced on Facebook they’re planning an in-person event for September 9-12, 2021 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, Lombard, Illinois.  

…In IL, the State will be moving to a reopening Bridge Phase on May 14, with Phase 5 to occur on June 11.  Both of these phases would permit conventions like ours to take place, so while we can’t predict what will happen over the summer, at this point it looks very likely that the show will go on!  

It will be a requirement that masks covering the nose and mouth be worn during the convention.  We don’t know yet whether vaccinations will be required by the State, but we encourage all attendees to have been vaccinated and bring proof of vaccination in case that is required.  Obviously, if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, you should not attend the convention and should contact your doctor.  

To help with social distancing, for this year’s show we will not have a con suite.  Attendees arriving on Thursday will be able to pick up their materials outside the dealer room on Thursday evening.  At the moment, this is the only change we anticipate to our programming; we hope to have the con suite back for the 2022 show, which will be held May 5-8, 2022.  

…Our Friday evening auction will feature more rare material from the Estate of Robert Weinberg.   Our Saturday evening auction will contain material from several consignors, including many rare items from the Estate of Glenn Lord as well as few scarce items from the Estate of August Derleth (including perhaps his scarcest book, “Love Letters to Caitlin”).  Other great material includes a copy of the Herbert Jenkins edition of Robert E. Howard’s “A Gent From Bear Creek!”  

Keep checking their website www.windycitypulpandpaper.com and Facebook page for further updates.  

(3) BEST RELATED. James Davis Nicoll got everyone to play along – one way or another – when he tweeted this question:

The thread starts here and continues….

(4) DOCTOR WHO HARASSMENT ISSUES. The Guardian updates an earlier story: “Noel Clarke accused of sexual harassment on Doctor Who set”.

The Noel Clarke sexual harassment controversy threatens to embroil the BBC after several sources came forward to allege they were sexually harassed or inappropriately touched by the actor on a flagship show, Doctor Who.

Another Doctor Who actor, John Barrowman, has also been accused of repeatedly exposing himself to co-workers on two BBC productions, prompting questions about whether the corporation allowed a lax culture on its sets during the mid-2000s.

The developments come a week after ITV, Sky and the BBC announced that they had cut ties with Clarke after the Guardian published testimony from 20 women who variously accused him of groping, sexual harassment and bullying.

… Barrowman, who played the character of Capt Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and its spin-off show Torchwood, is accused of exposing himself repeatedly on both sets, although numerous witnesses described the incidents as inappropriate pranks rather than anything amounting to sexually predatory behaviour….

(5) HISTORY FROM ANOTHER PLANET. The Smithsonian will display a Star Wars X-Wing fighter reports the New York Times: “Coming Soon to a Hallowed Hall of Spaceflight: An X-Wing Fighter”.

The National Air and Space Museum holds some of the most hallowed objects of the aerial age.

Visitors can marvel at the 1903 Wright Flyer that skimmed over Kitty Hawk, N.C., the bright red Lockheed 5B Vega that Amelia Earhart piloted alone across the Atlantic Ocean and the bell-shaped Friendship 7 capsule that made John H. Glenn Jr. the first American to orbit the Earth.

Now, the museum said, it will display a spacecraft that has flown only onscreen, in an entirely fictional galaxy where good and evil seem locked in eternal battle.

That’s right: An X-wing Starfighter will grace the museum’s newly renovated building on the National Mall sometime late next year, the museum said on Tuesday, which was celebrated by “Star Wars” fans as a holiday because it was May 4 (May the 4th be with you).

The Hollywood prop, with a wingspan of 37 feet, appeared in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in 2019 and is on long-term loan from Lucasfilm, the movie’s production company.

While air and space purists may grumble about precious exhibition space being turned over to a pretend craft that played no role in advancing actual space travel, the exhibition is not the first time the museum has allied itself with the franchise’s crowd-pleasing power. In the late 1990s, it presented “Star Wars: The Magic of Myth,” a show based on the original “Star Wars” trilogy; that show went on tour across the country.

(6) SELF-SURVEILLANCE. “Aiming for lateral accountability: Cameras will either help… or thwart… Big Brother” says David Brin.

…“Massive camera hack exposes the growing reach and intimacy of American surveillance.” A breach of the camera start-up Verkada ‘should be a wake-up call to the dangers of self-surveillance,’ one expert said: ‘Our desire for some fake sense of security is its own security threat’, reports The Washington Post.

I remain appalled that so many very smart people actually seem to think that each year’s new tech levels – and menaces – will now freeze and stand still long enough for us to ban them. Cameras get smaller, faster, cheaper, better, more mobile and vastly more numerous far faster than Moore’s Law (Brin’s Corollary!

Consider the recent case of San Francisco’s City Council banning facial recognition systems, when keeping them open to public criticism is exactly how we discovered and then corrected many problems like racial and gender bias in the programs.

Anyway Facial Recognition programs won’t be resident in police departments for long, where some city council can ban them, but will be cheap apps in phones and AR glasses, available from a thousand directions. Result? Cops who are banned from using versions that are open to supervision will instead surreptitiously use dark web versions, because it might save their own lives.

We need to focus not on uselessly trying to ban tech that might be abused, but on eliminating the abuses. And that can only happen with more light, aimed at those with power.

Oh, the dangers are very real! These techs will certainly empower agents and masters of despotism, if you already have a despotism. And hence the lesson and priority is to prevent despotism altogether! Because these same techs could instead empower vibrant citizenship, if we see to it they are well-shared and that no elite gets to monopolize them.

Which they will, if we try simplistically and reflexively to ban them.

It’s not that the ACLU and EFF and EU are wrong to fret! They are absolutely correct to point at problems and to worry that surveillance techs could empower Big Brothers and render citizen privacy extinct. It is their prescriptions that almost always are short-sighted and foolish.

Making a tech illegal will not stop elites form having and using it. 

Let me repeat that.

Making a tech illegal will not stop elites form having and using it. 

What it will do is make them arrange to do it secretly, where the methods won’t be appraised and criticized publicly.

(7) MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER KICKSTARTER HITS GOAL. “Joel and the Bots have successfully funded a full new season of MST3K” — 36,581 backers pledged $6,519,019 to bring back the show.

We’ve got movie sign once again, amazingly, as Mystery Science Theater 3000, the TV show that taught us all the true meaning of a Patrick Swayze Christmas, has once again brought home a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a full new season of the beloved movie-riffing show. The “Let’s Make More MST3K & Build The Gizmoplex!” campaign—the latter referring to a new web portal that series creator Joel Hodgson intends to build as the permanent online home for the show—wrapped up yesterday, hitting all of its funding goals, including milestones for a full 12 episodes, as well as Halloween and Christmas specials….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 9, 1997 — On this day in 1997, Fifth Element premiered in the United States. It was directed by Luc Besson and produced by Patrice Ledoux from the screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen Whitchurch was based off the story by Luc Besson. It starred Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker and Milla Jovovich. It did exceedingly well at the box office, far beyond returning the investment that the company put into it. It was both praised and damned in equal amounts by critics who either loved it passionately or despised it with all their heart. It finished fourth in the voting for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at BucConeer the next year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather excellent eighty-six percent rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 9, 1867 J.M. Barrie. Scottish novelist and playwright, best remembered as the creator of Peter Pan. Scots by birth and education, he moved to London, where he wrote a number of successful novels and plays. There he met the Llewelyn Davies boys, who inspired him to write about a young boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (first included in Barrie’s 1902 adult novel The Little White Bird), then to write Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. (Died 1937.) (CE) 
  • Born May 9, 1906 – Eleanor Estes.  Three novels for us, a score of others.  Librarian and teacher.  Newbery Medal, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.  Eleanor Cameron said EE’s stories of fictional Moffats were classic.  As it happens I have known two Moffatts and one Moffat in SF.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1913 – Richard McKenna.  Half a dozen stories for us published while he was alive, a dozen more afterward.  One Nebula, posthumously.  The first and last stories to appear in his lifetime, “Casey Agonistes” and “Hunter, Come Home”, are masterworks and unforgettable.  One novel, The Sand Pebbles, outside our field; made a successful film.  Served a score of years in the Navy.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago so will not read it again that the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Are any of the various Watership animated affairs worth seeing? Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the other.  I heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn. Clute says in ESF that “From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.” That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born May 9, 1925 – Kris Neville.  Four novels (a fifth still unpublished – in English; a Japanese translation by Yano Tetsu has appeared), six dozen shorter stories.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XVI.  Impassioned remarks by Barry Malzberg here; he edited The SF of KN; recent coll’n Earth Alert!  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1926 – Richard Cowper.  A dozen novels, a score of shorter stories.  Essays, letters in FocusFoundationVector.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 30, Unicon 3, BECCON ’85.  Outside our field, four novels, memoirs, under another name.  More here and here.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh, and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born May 9, 1938 – George Schelling, age 83.  A score of covers, two hundred forty interiors.  Here is the May 62 Amazing.  Here is the Oct 64 Galaxy.  Here is the May 65 Worlds of Tomorrow.  Here is an interior, also from Amazing (Jun 64).  Outside our field, animals, aquatics, e.g. for Field and StreamAudubon. [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1951 – Joy Harjo, age 70.  Poet Laureate of the United States (the 23rd; the second to be given a third term; the first Amerind, I believe – she is Creek).  Nine books of poetry; plays; seven albums of music.  Lily Prize, Wallace Stevens Award.  Two short stories for us, one anthology (with Gloria Bird).  Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1979 Rosario Dawson, 42. First shows as Laura Vasquez in MiB II. Appearances thereafter are myriad with my favs including being the voice of Wonder Women in the DC animated films, Persephone in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and her take as Claire Temple across the entire Netflix Marvel universe. No, I don’t consider her or anyone else’s acting on the two Sin City films to a highlight of their acting careers.  (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Rhymes with Orange is what might be called a different take on a T. Kingfisher story.

(11) A GEORGIA READER RECOMMENDS. The New York Times Book Review knows “The One Book Stacey Abrams Would Require the President to Read”. That book isn’t genre, but a lot of others mentioned in the intereview are.

What books are on your night stand?

I read several genres at once, rotating through as the mood strikes me. My long read right now is “The Coldest Winter,” by David Halberstam. My sibling book club picked “Ring Shout,” by P. Djeli Clark, which is paced wonderfully so it will not be over too soon (but luckily before our call). A recent discussion with my niece reminded me how much I love fairy tales of all kinds, so I decided to dive into “Tales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and Magic.”

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

I had it a few weeks ago. Georgia’s mercurial weather shifted from an unreasonable 48 degrees to a balmy 75 degrees over the weekend. Knowing how soon it could be 25 degrees or 89 degrees, I filled my water bottle, poured myself a glass of Martinelli’s apple juice, and picked up “Black Sun,” by Rebecca Roanhorse. Soon, I was outside on the patio in the springtime, midafternoon, with my feet up on the ottoman and my reading glasses perched on my nose….

(12) TRANSPARENT FANTASY. In the Washington Post, Molly Born profiles West Virginia’s Blenko Glass, which nearly folded because of the pandemic but was saved because they started producing figurines based on “the mythical Flatwoods Monster,” which allegedly terrorizes the residents of Flatwoods, West Virginia.  Liz Pavolvic, who designed the figurine, plans to develop “other sc-fi ideas” for Blenko, beginning with the Mothman, a legend made into the film The Mothman Prophecies. “How a mythical backwoods monster saved a struggling West Virginia glass company”.

… The first alleged sighting of the “green monster” occurred in the town of Flatwoods in 1952, when a group of locals reported seeing a giant floating creature with a spade-shaped head, claw-like hands and a metal “dress,” emitting a toxic mist or odor. In recent years the legend has inspired a museum, festival and tchotchkes sold at the local gas station.

Designer and illustrator Liz Pavlovic visited Blenko’s factory and flipped through old catalogues, looking for inspiration to pair with Pavlovic’s own playful renderings of this and other popular cryptids they sell on prints, stickers and magnets. Pavlovic submitted a sketch that captured the creature’s spooky aesthetic, right down to its beady eyes and the fabric-like swirls of its outfit….

(13) DON’T STAND UNDERNEATH WHEN THEY FLY BY. Space.com reports: “Huge Chinese rocket booster falls to Earth over Arabian Peninsula”.

The Chinese rocket has come down.

The 23-ton core stage of a Long March 5B booster crashed back to Earth Saturday night (May 8), ending 10 controversial days aloft that captured the attention of the world and started a wider conversation about orbital debris and responsible spacefaring….

Also issued today — “NASA Administrator Statement on Chinese Rocket Debris”.

NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson released the following statement Saturday regarding debris from the Chinese Long March 5B rocket:

“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations.

“It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.

“It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities.”

(14) CORPORATE TRICKERY. “Opposition to Net Neutrality Was Faked, New York Says” – the New York Times has the story.

Internet service providers funded an effort that yielded millions of fake comments supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of so-called net neutrality rules in 2017, the New York attorney general said on Thursday.

Internet providers, working through a group called Broadband for America, spent $4.2 million on the project, Attorney General Letitia James said. The effort generated roughly nine million comments to the agency and letters to Congress backing the rollback, almost all signed by people who had never agreed to the use of their names on such comments, according to the investigation. Some of the names had been obtained earlier, in other marketing efforts, officials said. The agency approved the repeal in late 2017.

Broadband for America’s members include some of America’s most prominent internet providers, like AT&T, Comcast and Charter, as well as several trade groups.

Supporters of the repeal regularly cited the number of comments opposing the rules. Investigators said Broadband for America had “commissioned and publicized a third-party study” of how many comments were being submitted, and then briefed F.C.C. officials on their findings as part of their push.

“Instead of actually looking for real responses from the American people, marketing companies are luring vulnerable individuals to their websites with freebies, co-opting their identities and fabricating responses that giant corporations are then using to influence the policies and laws that govern our lives,” Ms. James said in a statement.

(15) MORE THAN SHELVES. Architectural Digest takes you “Inside the World’s Most Beloved Independent Bookstores”.

Pro qm (Berlin)

In 1999, Katja Reichard, Jesko Fezer, and Axel J. Wieder launched Pro qm, a bookshop and laboratory for ideas on everything from urbanism to climate change. The white space is punctuated by shocking pink ladders and colorful tomes on design, architecture, and pop culture.

(16) LAST NIGHT ON SNL.

  • “Wario” introduces us to the evil brother of Super Mario Bros.’s Mario.
  • “Chad on Mars” has an unlikely hero out to save Elon Musk’s Mars mission.
  • “Weekend Update:  Baby Yoda On Star Wars Day Celebrations” had an interview with Baby Yoda, who said he “smoked weed and took pills” on Star Wars Day, “because I’m not like a nerd, you know.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/28/21 SecUnit Said “Stop It. Don’t Tempt Fate So Soon. We Have Five More Segments Of Sanctu’ry Moon.”

(1) CONVINCING DISNEY TO PAY. In“DisneyMustPay: authors form task force to fight for missing payments”, The Guardian’s Alison Flood tells how pressure is being applied to Disney.

A task force made up of science fiction and fantasy, romance, crime and horror authors has been formed in an attempt to persuade Disney into paying authors outstanding royalties for novelisations and comics relating to their properties, including Star Wars, Alien and Indiana Jones.

The so-called DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force includes major writers Neil Gaiman, Tess Gerritsen, Mary Robinette Kowal and Chuck Wendig among its members. It has been formed by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in partnership with the Author’s Guild, Horror Writers Association, National Writers Union, Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.

The author organisations came together after the SFWA became involved in the author Alan Dean Foster’s battle to get Disney to pay him royalties for his bestselling novelisations of Star Wars and Alien. Foster was asked to write his novelisation of Star Wars: A New Hope by George Lucas himself, which was published in 1976. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, it bought the rights to the Star Wars novel, while Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019 meant it also bought rights to Foster’s novelisations of Alien, Aliens and Alien 3….

But despite the books still being in print, Foster claimed that Disney was not paying him royalties for them and that he’d had to go public after the company ignored multiple queries from his agents, legal representatives and the SFWA. The latter claimed that Disney had argued that it had purchased the rights, but not the obligations of the contract.

(2) SLF OLDER WRITERS GRANT. The Speculative Literature Foundation will be taking applications for the SLF $1000 Older Writers Grant from May 1-31. Complete guidelines here.

The SLF $1000 Older Writers Grant is awarded annually, since 2004, to a writer who is fifty years of age or older at the time of grant application, and is intended to assist such writers who are just starting to work at a professional level. We are currently offering a $1000 grant annually, to be used as each writer determines will best assist his or her work.

This grant will be awarded by a committee of SLF staff members on the basis of merit. If awarded the grant, the recipient agrees to provide a brief excerpt from their work, and an autobiographical statement describing themselves and their writing (500-1000 words) for our files, and for possible public dissemination on our website.

This grant, as with all SLF grants, is intended to help writers working with speculative literature. Speculative literature is a catch-all term meant to inclusively span the breadth of fantastic literature, encompassing literature ranging from hard science fiction to epic fantasy to ghost stories to horror to folk and fairy tales to slipstream to magical realism to modern myth-making — and more. Any piece of literature containing a fabulist or speculative element would fall under our aegis, and would potentially be work that we would be interested in supporting.

(3) IT’S ABOUT TO HATCH. Melinda Snodgrass invites readers to look over her shoulder as she explains “How I Plot”.

I mentioned on Twitter that I was getting ready to outline or break two new novels, and a follower asked if I could describe my process. It ended up being a really looong Tweet thread so I thought I would pull it all together here for folks who might not be on Twitter. I always outlined from the time I first started writing, I think it was a function of having been a lawyer and knowing that a brief has to take a judge or a jury to a certain conclusion so structure is important. I’m also the type of person who likes to have an itinerary when I travel and hotels booked in advance. But it wasn’t until I got my first job in Hollywood that I truly learned how to “break a story”. Ira Behr, Rick Manning and Hans Beimler were my teachers and they were very good ones. So without further ado….

First, I never start anything unless I know the ending. I don’t mean the wrap up, falling action, but the actual exciting climax. The next thing I ask myself is “What is the theme of this book?” What is it I want to impart about the human condition? The human heart in conflict with itself as William Faulkner wrote.

My short hand for this is “Plot is the shit that happens. Theme is why it matters.”…

(4) CHRIS GARCIA’S SFF FILM PODCASTS. Chris Garcia says he’s rediscovered a ton of episodes of his old podcasts and has started posting them on a new series of feeds.

  • Fantasy Film 101 is available from Pinecast or Apple. Its 16 episodes cover fantasy film history, emphasizing short films, foreign works, and the super-artsy.

(5) JOHN HODGMAN WEIGHS IN ON TIME TRAVEL CONTROVERSY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is John Hodgman’s column from the April 18 New York Times Magazine.

Tony; “My son read that the director James Gunn’s favorite time-travel movie is A Christmas Carol.  That isn’t time travel!  Please find against Scrooge, my son, and James Gunn, just to be sure.  (P.S.  I was mistaken.  Apparently, it was Robert Zemeckis who said this.”

Hodgman:  “I had never thought of Scrooge’s big night as time travel!  And for that reason I find against you.  Back To The Future is wonderful but only one template for time travel in movies.  There’s the multiple timelines concept, as in Avengers:  Endgame, which would account, say, for an alternate universe in which Robert Zemeckis, director of Back To The Future, could be wrong about time travel.  But as with all these stories, they are designed to inspire imagination, not stamp it out as you seek to do with your own Tiny Tim.  G Buy your son the biggest goose in town as damages.”

(6) AND THAT’S NOT ALL! [Item by Daniel Dern.] The new season (starts May 2) of DC Legends Of Tomorrow looks like a wild whacky ride! Watch the trailer even if you currently don’t plan to watch the show! And io9’s post “Legends of Tomorrow Season 6 Trailer: Aliens, Disney, Reality TV” says that beyond what the trailer shows, the season will include other references —

… And that’s not all! Entertainment Weekly confirms there will also be a Clue episode, an ALF episode (because of course there is), and, according to showrunner Phil Klemmer, “another episode that’s virtually all Constantine (Matt Ryan) in the Spanish Civil War, and that could just as well be from the Constantine TV show,” which sounds completely awesome….

(7) FIRM GRASP ON THE CATNIP. In“Timothy Reviews The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin” at Camestros Felapton, Timothy the Talking Cat propounds literary truths about a great classic that were previously unsuspected by any human being. But fairly obvious to a cat, evidently.

Greetings, salutations and the assorted lyrics of Hello, Goodbye by the mop-headed foursome from Liverpool to you all. I am, once again, your inimitable host and master of ceremonies, Timothy the Talking Cat esquire, who shall be taking you on a journey into the foundational texts of modern scientifiction….

(8) IMMERSIVE WHO. From a Digital Spy report: “Doctor Who – John Barrowman and David Bradley for Time Fracture”.

Doctor Who‘s John Barrowman and David Bradley are set to reprise their roles for the theatrical event Time Fracture.

The pair, who play Captain Jack Harkness and the First Doctor on the BBC sci-fi series respectively, have recorded cameo appearances for the Immersive Everywhere event.

Time Fracture is set to take place at Immersive | LDN in London and will put fans in the middle of a new Doctor Who story set at the time of the Blitz.

(9) COLLINS OBIT. Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins died April 28. Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk had this to say:

“Today the nation lost a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration in astronaut Michael Collins. As pilot of the Apollo 11 command module – some called him ‘the loneliest man in history’ – while his colleagues walked on the Moon for the first time, he helped our nation achieve a defining milestone. He also distinguished himself in the Gemini Program and as an Air Force pilot.

“Michael remained a tireless promoter of space. ‘Exploration is not a choice, really, it’s an imperative,’ he said. Intensely thoughtful about his experience in orbit, he added, ‘What would be worth recording is what kind of civilization we Earthlings created and whether or not we ventured out into other parts of the galaxy.’…”

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

  • April 28 National Superhero Day. Marvel, naturally, celebrated by advertising a forthcoming production.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 28, 1946 — On this night in 1946, The Shadow’s “Dreams of Death” episode first aired. It starred Lloyd Lamble (of Quatermass fame) as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow with Lyndall Barbour as Margot Lane and Lloyd Berrill as The Announcer. The Shadow in the radio series was quite different from the printed version as he was given the power to “cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him”. This was at odds with the pulp novel character who relied solely on stealth and his guns to get the job done. Likewise Margo Lane was a radio creation that would later be added to the pulps. You can hear the episode here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 28, 1840 Palmer Cox. He was known for The Brownies, his series of humorous books and comic strips about the troublesome but generally well meaning sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book for some forty years starting in the 1870s. Due to the immense popularity of his Brownies, one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. (Died 1924.) (CE) 
  • Born April 28, 1910 – Sam Merwin.  Edited FantasticStartlingThrillingWonder, later Fantastic Universe; for a while editor of Satellite, associate editor of Galaxy; his letter columns were lively; he generally improved our field.  Six novels, six dozen shorter stories for us; also romance and detective fiction, under various names.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1914 – Phil High.  Working thirty years as a bus driver did not prevent,  may have helped, his writing a dozen novels, fourscore shorter stories.  See here.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1917 Robert Cornthwaite. Actor in such Fifties films as The Thing From Another WorldThe War of the WorldsMen Into Space and Destination Space. He would be active well in the Twentieth Century in such productions as The Twilight ZoneVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaColossus: The Forbin Project The Six Million Dollar ManBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and White Dwarf. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born April 28, 1926 – Jim Bama, age 95.  Fourscore covers, a few interiors for us; interviewed by Vincent Di Fate in SF Chronicle.  Outside our field, Westerns, sports, commercial art.  Here is The 480.  Here is V.  Here is He Could Stop the World.  Illustrators Hall of Fame.  Artbooks The Art of JBThe Western Art of JBJB, American Realist with introduction by Harlan Ellison.  [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1926 – Bill Blackbeard.  One short story that I know of; correspondent of AmazingFantasy TimesRiverside QuarterlyWeird Tales; fanziner, in various apas including The Cult.  Extraordinary collector of comics in newspapers and otherwise, eventually 75 tons; he produced 200 books, and that ain’t the half of it.  See here (note by Our Gracious Host), here (Fancyclopedia 3), here (The Comics Journal).  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She began played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. Though she had an uncredited role in the original The War of the Worlds which was her first genre role as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here as reviewed by Kage’s sister Kathleen. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for a night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born April 28, 1959 – Fran Dowd, age 62.  Chaired Eastercon 49; with husband John Dowd active in Eastercons and Novacons; F & J both Fan Guests of Honour at Eastercon 61.  Sofa, i.e. chair when we need one, of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy Society.  Posted her Books Read in 2020 here.  [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1970 – Danielle Ackley-McPhail, age 51.  Nine novels, five dozen shorter stories, a dozen poems; a score of anthologies with various co-editors. Member and supporter of Broad Universe.  Was at the last known Lunacon in 2017, then in 2019 HELIOsphere.  She and husband Mike McPhail publish ESpec Books.  [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1971 Chris Young, 50. Bryce Lynch in the Max Headroom series which I still hold is of the best SF series ever done. The only other genre I think he’s are two horror films, The Runestone and Warlock: The Armageddon. Unless you call voice roles in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue genre… (CE) 
  • Born April 28, 1982 Samantha Lockwood, 39. Daughter of Gary Lockwood of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame. And she apparently was in yet another video Trek fanfic though this may not have ever gotten done before Paramount squashed them, Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time. There’s a trailer but no actual episode that I can find, so her role in Sci-Fighters which as Girlfriend is her only genre role. (CE)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side involves what happens when aliens are the ones posing a familiar nature question.
  • Dracula said, “I never drink…wine.” The zombies in Bliss say something else.

(14) SUPER PRESSURE. “’What if Superman was your dad?’ Comics legend Mark Millar on Jupiter’s Legacy” – a profile in The Guardian.

… Jupiter’s Legacy is based on Millar and artist Frank Quitely’s 2013 cross-generational saga about rifts in a super-powered family, whose conflicting politics and ideologies manifest themselves as a global power struggle, causing significant collateral damage. “People expected it to be like Kick-Ass or Kingsman,” he says, “which are quite nihilistic, really violent and ironic, whereas this show is very sincere. Kick-Ass is a pastiche of superheroes, but Jupiter’s Legacy is a love letter. The big question is: is it ethically correct, if you have the power to save the world, to stand back and do nothing?”

… The series contains what Millar calls a “boomer versus millennial argument”. This is reflected mostly through the Sampson family: Sheldon (AKA The Utopian) and Grace (AKA Lady Liberty) are the elder, age-defying leaders of The Union, a paramilitary team that has symbolised the American ideal ever since they gained their superpowers during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Cut to the present day and we find their children, Chloe and Brandon, are increasingly disillusioned by their parents’ code and expectations. “Superman is the best guy you could possibly have,” says Millar, “but imagine if he was your dad? That’s the idea with The Utopian, who the whole world loves. But what does that mean for your children? Because the pressures are incredible.”

Daniel P. Dern adds:

Like many-to-most supercapes these days, the issues of power/authority along with “hard to have a life when you’re a cape” fuel this. It’s not as extreme as The Boys.

Mark Millar has written bunches of superhero comics (including an entire publishing brand of his own creations).

Frank Quitely is one of my favorite comic artists. For example, All-Star Superman (1-12), Flex Mentallo (1-4), a great run on New X-Men.

Jupiter’s Legacy is based on a manageable-to-read # of comics — 24 issues across 5 books/volumes, plus 10 issues of JUPITER’S CIRCLE, a prequel series.

Wanna read before, after or during watching:

  • Library-e-borrow LEGACY books 1-4 via HooplaDigital
  • Buy the individual comic issues or the collected-into-books
  • Borrow the books from your library
  • Buy & e-read via Kindle, ComiXology.

I enjoyed the comics; I’m ready to watch the show and see how it goes.

(15) STRETCH RUN. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] After achieving all the basic goals on flights 1–3, Ingenuity is now ready for a little stretch. Stretch goal, that is. Flight 4 will go further, faster, and take more photos than ever before. As for what might happen on flight 5, project Chief Engineer Bob Balaram said, “We have been kicking around several options regarding what a flight five could look like. But ask me about what they entail after a successful flight four.” “With Goals Met, NASA to Push Envelope with Ingenuity Mars Helicopter”.

… The fourth Ingenuity flight from Wright Brothers Field, the name for the Martian airfield on which the flight took place, is scheduled to take off Thursday, April 29, at 10:12 a.m. EDT (7:12 a.m. PDT, 12:30 p.m. local Mars time), with the first data expected back at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at 1:21 p.m. EDT (10:21 a.m. PDT).

“From millions of miles away, Ingenuity checked all the technical boxes we had at NASA about the possibility of powered, controlled flight at the Red Planet,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Future Mars exploration missions can now confidently consider the added capability an aerial exploration may bring to a science mission.”

The Ingenuity team had three objectives to accomplish to declare the technology demo a complete success: They completed the first objective about six years ago when the team demonstrated in the 25-foot-diameter space simulator chamber of JPL that powered, controlled flight in the thin atmosphere of Mars was more than a theoretical exercise. The second objective – to fly on Mars – was met when Ingenuity flew for the first time on April 19. The team surpassed the last major objective with the third flight, when Ingenuity rose 16 feet (5 meters), flying downrange 164 feet (50 meters) and back at a top speed of 6.6 feet per second (2 meters per second), augmenting the rich collection of knowledge the team has gained during its test flight campaign.

“When Ingenuity’s landing legs touched down after that third flight, we knew we had accumulated more than enough data to help engineers design future generations of Mars helicopters,” said J. “Bob” Balaram, Ingenuity chief engineer at JPL. “Now we plan to extend our range, speed, and duration to gain further performance insight.”…

(16) THE HOLE MOON CATALOG. The New York Times echoes an artist’s question: “Why Aren’t More Moon Craters Named for Women?” Illustrations at the link.

The moon’s surface is pockmarked with craters, the relics of violent impacts over cosmic time. A few of the largest are visible to the naked eye, and a backyard telescope reveals hundreds more. But turn astronomical observatories or even a space probe on our nearest celestial neighbor, and suddenly millions appear.

Bettina Forget, an artist and researcher at Concordia University in Montreal, has been drawing lunar craters for years. Ms. Forget is an amateur astronomer, and the practice combines her interests in art and science. “I come from a family of artists,” she said. “I had to fight for a chemistry set.”

Moon craters are named, according to convention, for scientists, engineers and explorers. Some that Ms. Forget draws have familiar names: Newton, Copernicus, Einstein. But many do not. Drawing craters with unfamiliar names prompted Ms. Forget to wonder: Who were these people? And how many were women?

“Once this question embeds itself in your mind, then you’ve got to know,” she said.

Ms. Forget pored over records of the International Astronomical Union, the organization charged with awarding official names to moon craters and other features on worlds around the solar system. She started underlining craters named for women.

“There was not much to underline,” Ms. Forget said.

Of the 1,578 moon craters that had been named at that time, only 32 honored women (a 33rd was named in February)….

(17) EIGHTIES FLICKS. “80s Sci-Fi Films Explored in Trailer For The Nostalgic Documentary In Search Of Tomorrow”GeekTyrant tells why it’s worth watching.

A new trailer has been released for the upcoming documentary In Search of Tomorrow, which taps into the nostalgia of the sci-fi films of the 80s. For any of you who grew up in the 80s and enjoyed these films, this is the kind of doc that you can truly appreciate.

The film comes from journalist and filmmaker David A. Weiner and it’s a “four-hour-plus retrospective of ’80s sci-fi movies featuring interviews with actors, directors, writers, SFX experts, and composers.” They have over 75+ interviews and there are a lot of stories and revelations that come to light….

(18) SPOILERS MAYBE? Anthony Mackie was on Colbert last night to discuss being the new Captain America and to marvel at a piece of The Falcon swag Colbert acquired. “’Humbling And Exciting’ – Anthony Mackie On Becoming Captain America”.

(19) COLBERT (ON FRESH AIR) TALKS ABOUT HIS INTRO TO SF & F. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Among other things. The SF stuff starts around minute 30, where he names a handful of authors that many Filers will know, including a few that you rarely hear in mainstream conversations, like A.E. Van Vogt  Also, how Joe Biden is arguably (my word not his or Terri’s) part of his “origin” story going from playing a character to being a (night show) host as himself. “Stephen Colbert On Missing His Live Audience And Making Comedy A Family Business” on NPR.

On why he turned to sci-fi and fantasy in his grief when his brothers and father were killed in a plane crash when he was a kid

Anything is possible [in fantasy stories]. Often it’s a young man who finds himself with extraordinary powers that he didn’t have at the beginning of the story. There’s a “chosen one” in fantasy stories. Often there’s a missing father figure — if they’re not just orphans outright. … I think being able to make  an alternate world where there are new rules, or the character who you identify with can make his own rules, maybe even bring back the dead or make things impossible possible … I think that’s related to being in a constant state of grief and anxiety and needing a place to be able to escape to.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/21 He Was A File, She Was A Scroll, Can I Make It Any More Obvious?

(1) NICHOLAS WHYTE TAKES ON 2021 HUGO & SITE SELECTION DUTIES. DisCon III’s new WSFS Division Head is Nicholas Whyte, who announced on Facebook he is taking the place of Jared Dashoff, who resigned in response to the committee’s internal handling of some new Hugo policies that have since been revoked.

I have been appointed the new Division Head of the WSFS Division, which is the part of the Worldcon that admininsters the Hugo Awards, the Business Meeting which reviews the rules, and the Site Selection process for the 2023 Worldcon (currently contested between Chengdu, China and Memphis, Tennessee) – the three obligatory things that every Worldcon must do.

I was previously the Administrator of the Hugo Awards in 2017 and 2019, and one of the deputy administrators last year; and also Division Head for Promotions at the London Worldcon in 2014. I had not anticipated having any executive role this year, but life does not always work out as we expect.

The Hugos have had some reputational issues to deal with. Having fought off direct assault by ill-wishers in 2015 and 2016, some pretty significant mistakes were made more recently. Many of those were outside the immediate responsibility of the Hugo Administrators, including most notably the awful botching of last year’s Hugo ceremony and the Hugo Losers Party in 2019, and the hostile response from some in the community to the winners of the award for Best Related Work in both of those years (cases where I very much stand by the eligibility decisions that were made by teams that I was a part of).

I have made mistakes as well, and I hope that I have learned from them. In particular, it’s clear, not least from the problems that arose in the last few days, that the Hugos as a whole need to be less siloed and need to improve communication in both directions with the rest of the Worldcon and with the wider stakeholder community (as my work colleagues would put it). DisCon III had already started putting structures in place that would improve this side of things, and I look forward to working with those and building on them.

(2) OLDEST SFF BOOKSTORE. “At Bakka-Phoenix, the beloved sci-fi and fantasy bookstore, you can let your geek flag fly” in the Toronto Star.

In the summer of 1982, Margaret Atwood walked into Bakka Books looking for a copy of “The Hobbit.” Robert J. Sawyer, the celebrated Canadian science-fiction writer who was then working behind the counter, couldn’t believe his luck.

“It was pretty amazing — she knew all about the store and how we specialized in fantasy and science fiction,” Sawyer recalls of his encounter at the bookstore when it was in its first home on Queen Street near John Street.

Atwood’s visit to pick up some Tolkien was a testament to the role the bookstore (now named Bakka-Phoenix Science Fiction and Fantasy Bookstore) plays in the literary community — not just in Toronto but beyond city borders too. On the cusp of celebrating its 50th anniversary, Bakka-Phoenix is the oldest sci-fi and fantasy specialty bookstore in the world. It’s long been a hub for aficionados of a genre that is rarely awarded more than a couple of shelves at most big-box bookstores. It’s the kind of bookstore that’s for fans of space operas and dystopian fiction, for readers hungry for the latest William Gibson saga and for those on the prowl for a rare Harlan Ellison story collection. “Bakka has always been a mecca to me,” says Sawyer.

(3) CAPTAIN JACK. Deadline reports “’Torchwood’ Star John Barrowman Touches Fans With Ianto Shrine Visit”

Actor John Barrowman, who portrayed Captain Jack Harkness on Torchwood, has set off a Twitter frenzy with a post depicting a visit to a show landmark in Cardiff, Wales.

Barrowman posted a selfie in front of a shrine to the show’s Ianto Jones, who was Capt. Jack’s lover on the show and tragically died in his arms in a mini-series episode, Children of Earth.

On Friday, Barrowman paid an incognito visit to the impromptu shrine set up to honor the Ianto character in Cardiff, a site near where the series was filmed. The shrine is still very popular with fans 11 years after the television series death….

(4) EVERMORE PARK ALSO A COVID CASUALTY. [Item by David Doering.] As of yesterday, Evermore Park has cancelled any future performances at the park and has let the creative team go. Basically, the park will only be open for event rentals and strolling through. A sad loss due to Covid. Had it opened one year before or one year later, it might well have made it. “Evermore Park cancels winter production, dozens of employees laid off” at Yahoo!

Dozens of employees at Evermore Park in Pleasant Grove were laid off this week after it was decided there would be no winter-themed production, as well as other financial issues largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(5) A REAL FANNISH TED TALK.FANAC.org will host a fannish TED talk on Saturday, January 23 when author, editor, and past Worldcon chair Ted White will be interviewed by John D. Berry via Zoom. Time: 4 pm EST. Participants are limited. To get the Zoom log-in, please RSVP to fanac@fanac.org .

Ted White will be talking about his long history in fandom and some of the interesting people he has encountered along the way. Ted is considered by many to be the current patriarch of fannish fandom. He has been active since the very early 1950s, both publishing fanzines and in clubs from Virginia to New York. We have more different fanzine titles of Ted’s on FANAC.org than any other faned. In addition to the many titles he edited on his own, he has published many collaborative fanzines going back to the 1950s.  

Ted has also chaired several conventions, including the 1967 Worldcon – the last Worldcon in New York. As a professional in the science fiction field, he has written stories, articles, and novels. He was the editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic magazines, and has written extensively about the music industry.

John D. Berry has known and worked with Ted for over 50 years so he knows the questions to ask. And Ted has said that no topic is off the table.

(6) HORROR CELEBRITY. “’Glamour Ghoul’ reveals Vampira, Hollywood’s ‘original Goth’” – Scott Bradfield reviews her biography in the Los Angeles Times.

You didn’t need to be a pubescent boy (or his father) to fully appreciate the charms of Maila Nurmi — a.k.a. Vampira — when she first appeared on late-night KABC-TV in the spring of 1954. But it didn’t hurt. She was tall, beautiful and frightening and she screamed like a banshee, climaxing each howl with a lewd lick of her full lips, which even in black-and-white glistened bloodily. Her pale body was almost a caricature of an hourglass figure, like one of those inexplicably bountiful women featured in the pinups of Joaquin Alberto Vargas, for whom Nurmi had modeled only a few years earlier. But what made Vampira most memorable was the jokes she slyly delivered at machine-gun speed: pop, pop, pop. She came heavily armed with oodles of sexy, macabre puns and she wasn’t afraid to use them.

In the early days, Vampira was asked by a Los Angeles Tribune columnist to tell a little bit about herself.

“There isn’t much to tell,” she said. “I was born in Lapland. … I have an owl for a house pet. I have a 19-inch waist, 38-inch bust and 36-inch hips. My earliest recollection as a child is that I always wanted to play with mice. I’m very anti-social. I simply detest people. I don’t like snakes; they eat spiders, and I’m very fond of spiders.” Asked how she felt about children, she didn’t miss a beat: “Oh yes … delicious.”…

(7) BATWOMAN SPEAKS OUT. “New Batwoman Javicia Leslie always wanted to be a superhero” she tells the Washington Post.

Last year, Javicia Leslie was asked on a podcast what she wanted her next acting role to be.

“I said I wanted to be a superhero,” Leslie recalled recently toThe Washington Post.

In July, just two months after stating her desire, the star of “God Friended Me” and “The Family Business”answered the call to a bat-signal put up in the sky just for her — finding out she was the new star of the CW’s “Batwoman.” The announcement instantly made her the new face of the network’s successful tradition of televised superheroes….

One norm going away is the trademark black eye makeup that every on-screen bat-hero since Keaton has worn under the mask — Rose eventually parted with itand Leslie will also decline.

“Being a woman of color, it was important that we didn’t black out my eyes,” Leslie said. “We wanted to play with light instead of playing with darkness to help accentuate me being a black woman in playing this role.”

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Rod Serling wore Botany 500 brand suits.

— Source: Wikipedia

(9) BOB SURYAN OBIT. Bob Suryan died January 17. The Norwescon group made the announcement.

Bob Suryan has passed away today. He was very active in the Seattle Astronomical Society, and Norwescon (including chairing a couple of the conventions). He loved history and folks enjoyed chatting with him about all sorts of things. He had his ups and downs with health over the years and about a week and half ago was admitted to the hospital due to lots of pain. Sadly this turned out to be stage four lung cancer.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 17, 1992 Freejack premiered. It starred Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. The screenplay was written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett (who was also the producer) and Dan Gilroy. We consider it to be very loosely adapted from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc. (Great work. The serialised version as “Time Killer” in Galaxy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.) It was not at the time well-liked by either critics or reviewers, not is it currently liked among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes  as it is carrying a 25% rating and there’s a lot who have expressed an opinion — over fourteen thousand so far. (CE) 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.) (CE)
  • Born January 17, 1923 – Alva Rogers.  Changing the name of the prozine Astounding to Analog has been applauded by some; AR wrote a Requiem.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XV.  Co-chaired Baycon, the combined Westercon XXI and 26th Worldcon, famous in song and story.  Co-edited Rhodomagnetic Digest 62, its last issue; AR’s wife Sidonie wrote a profile of Al haLevy and AR drew one.  After SR died, AR married Andi Shechter, famous in song and story.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • January 17, 1927 —  Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born January 17, 1930 – Dean Dickensheet.  Active in LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) during Shangri L’Affaires days, was the Bartender in The Musquite Kid Rides Again.  Next door, edited Men and MaliceGreat Crimes of San Francisco.  His part in Coventry was a reminder of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 90. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include  Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well. (CE)
  • January 17, 1935 Paul O. Williams. A poet who won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer for The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of  his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born January 17, 1952 – Tom Deitz.  A score of novels.  Guest of Honor at Phoenixcon 8.  Gainesville State College faculty member of the year, 2008.  Phoenix Award.  Co-founded local SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) barony.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 59. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name and which get a mere thirty-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I rather liked, then there’s the The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled last year that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think that I’ll stop there this time. (CE)
  • Born January 17, 1967 – Wendy Mass, Litt.D., age 54.  Ray Bradbury volume for Authors Teens Love.  Of course I put that first, what Website do you think this is?  A score of novels for us, half as many others; nonfiction e.g. StonehengeJohn Cabot.  Schneider Award for A Mango-Shaped Space.  Has read The Phantom Tollbooth and The Secret Garden.  [JH]
  • January 17, 1970 —  Genndy Tartakovsky, 50. Like Romulan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated  Hotel Transylvania franchise. (CE) 
  • Born January 17, 1971 – Nomi Burstein, age 50.  Technical writer, freelance editor.  Collects neologisms, e.g. jan howard finder’s “bytelock”.  Fanzine, Burstzine (with husband Michael Burstein).  Years of patiently fielding questions about Jewish observance.  Co-founder (with MB) of the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet.  [JH]
  • Born January 17, 1981 – Rachelle Rosenberg, age 40.  Color artist for Marvel, e.g. this and this and this.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) YOU SAY YOU WANT AN EVOLUTION. “How ‘WandaVision’ Star Elizabeth Olsen Transformed Her Performance For Every Genre-Bending Episode”, a Q&A at Yahoo! Entertainment.

What was the difference between what you did the ’50s, versus when you were in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s?

The ’70s women were allowed — it was almost like there is was a relaxation of women and social behavior, and so that would affect their voices and the tone that they can take. Instead of it being kind of a higher and level [like in the ’50s]. The ’70s, even though it’s this really strange “Brady Bunch” aspirational time in sitcom land, women were able to have a bit more control, something that grounded them a bit more in their voice. Then as we got into the ’80s, there were the teachable moments, and how sincere everything was, that was really funny. And then as we move into the arts and into the ’00s and the 2010s, the sitcom becomes really cynical. The humor, like “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Modern Family” becomes incredibly cynical. And that’s what we found comforting for whatever reason as a society.

It was fun when we were in this boot camp to not only chart the physical changes, as tools, but to also [discover] what comedy was for that time. “Rosemary’s Baby” is a film and “Brady Bunch” is on television, it doesn’t make any sense to me. But for whatever reason, that’s what that’s what the consumer was watching at home.

(14) UNDER THE LIGHTS. Cheryl  Morgan fills in Cora Buhlert’s readers about her online zine – “Fanzine Spotlight: Salon Futura”.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

When I set up Wizard’s Tower Press, one of the things I wanted to do was create a semiprozine for non-fiction. It turned out that there wasn’t a market for such a thing at the time, and it closed after 9 issues. Then last year I saw Nicholas Whyte bemoaning the lack of interest in the Fanzine category of the Hugos. I’d already come to the conclusion that I needed some form of discipline to ensure I made time to read and review books, so I decided to relaunch Salon Futura as a fanzine. Thus far it has worked in that I have read a lot more books. I figure that if I ever get on the Hugo ballot again there will be a flood of new people voting in that category to stop me winning, and that will be the other objective achieved.

(15) VINTAGE OPINIONS. Gilbert Seldes lectures on science fiction in this 1953 recording of a WNYC broadcast “Science fiction writing” from The NYPR Archive Collections.

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Seldes discusses the science fiction genre. He opens with a story about a science fiction story about the atomic bomb preceding the actual bomb, and the government’s response.

He speaks of the symbolism of the extraterrestrial as a symbol for invaders from behind the Iron Curtain.

Seldes notes that there is a lot of science fiction that he does not deem to be of good quality, but does speak very highly of Ray Bradbury and H. G. Wells

(16) CHINESE SFF MOVIE. The Shimmer Program announced “Another Chinese science fiction film, ‘The Soul’ has been released on big screen! The thriller is adapted from Jiang Bo’s story ‘The Soul Transplanting Skill’ and directed by Cheng Wei-hao.” (The Soul is not to be confused with Pixar’s Soul).

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, JJ, David Doering, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Joe Siclari, Olav Rokne, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/26/20 The Scroll Went Over The Pixel, To See What It Could See

(1) YOU DO KNOW JACK. “John Barrowman on his shock Doctor Who TV return – ‘It’s about time’”RadioTimes interviews the actor about his surprise appearance.

In an appropriately shocking character resurrection, fan-favourite Doctor Who character Captain Jack Harkness has made a surprise return to the BBC sci-fi series, with John Barrowman’s immortal Time Agent popping up in the latest episode to deliver a message to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.

…Kept secret through a mass of codenames, disguises and carefully-planted lies, Jack’s return is sure to make a splash with fans – just last year, RadioTimes.com readers voted him the character they’d most like to see return to the series – and ahead of the episode’s airing, Barrowman said he was prepared for a big reaction.

(2) VIEW FROM THE BOTTOM RUNG. Saturday Night Live suited up guest host Adam Driver to parody his Star Wars character.

Undercover Boss checks in with one of its more notorious bosses, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), to see if he kept his promise to change his company.

(3) IMAGINARY PAPERS LAUNCHES. Imaginary Papers is a new quarterly (free) newsletter from the Center for Science and the Imagination. Edited by Joey Eschrich, it features analysis and commentary on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and the imagination. The first issue is available here.

…Each issue will feature brief, incisive pieces of writing from a diverse array of contributors, from scholars and journalists to cultural critics, designers, technologists, poets, and more. 

We hope you’ll join us in thinking carefully and whimsically about the tangled relationships between how we envision the future and how we see ourselves and our world today. 

(4) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL EXHIBIT AT BOOK FAIR. The 53rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair, which takes place in Pasadena from February 7-9, will include two special exhibits —

Votes for Women. The Book Fair celebrates the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage with a special exhibit documenting women’s effort to secure political equality. Materials will be on display from the special collection libraries of The Claremont Colleges, University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles, California State University, Dominguez Hills and the Los Angeles Public Library.

Something Wonderful This Way Came: 100 Years of Ray Bradbury. The Book Fair marks the centennial of the beloved science fiction and fantasy writer. This special exhibit features Bradbury works and related cultural treasures from the Polk Library at California State University including the manuscripts for Fahrenheit 451 and the short story “The Fireman,” from which the classic novel originated. 

The Book Fair takes place at the Pasadena Convention Center at 300 East Green Street, Pasadena, CA.  Tickets on Friday, February 7 are $25 for three-day admission.

(5) FIFTIES PAPERBACK COVERS APPRAISED. Last night on PBS’ Antique Roadshow: “Appraisal: Ric Binkley Science Fiction Illustrations”.

Watch Kathleen Guzman’s appraisal of Ric Binkley science fiction illustrations ca. 1950, in Winterthur Museum, Hour 3.

(6) THE COLORS OUT OF SPACE. “NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Revealed Colors Unseeable By The Human Eye. It Retires Next Week”LAist assembled a retirement party photo gallery.

Next week, the last of four NASA space-based observatories will retire. The Spitzer Space Telescope brought the universe into a new light (literally), revealing images of planets, solar systems, stars and more in infrared — renderings that human eyes aren’t able to see otherwise

(7) GEEZERBUSTERS. Yahoo! Entertainment reveals “It’s Official! Bill Murray Returns to His Ghostbusters Role in Upcoming Sequel”.

30 years after last appearing as squad leader Peter Venkman in 1989’s Ghostbusters 2, Bill Murray is set to reprise his beloved role in the upcoming sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The new movie stars Paul Rudd as a science teacher whose students find themselves in the middle of a ghostbusting mystery.

Though Murray, 69, made a cameo in the 2016 all-women Ghostbusters, he will be back as his parapsychologist character in the new movie directed by Jason Reitman, the son of original director Ivan Reitman.

Vanity Fair visited the set — “Exclusive: Hanging With Bill Murray on the Set of Ghostbusters: Afterlife”.

… The production uses lightweight, less detailed packs for stunts and distant shots, but I was saddled with the 30-pound heavy-duty version used for close-ups, which is loaded with batteries and rumble motors to make the blasters shudder and jolt in the hands of the user.

…Later, [Ivan] Reitman said he hopes the film will help fans feel the excitement of suiting up themselves: “I wanted to make a movie about finding a proton pack in an old barn and the thrill of actually putting it on for the first time. I’ve had friends come to the set and hoist on the packs, and it always turns grown-ups into children.”

Murray just stood by nodding and smiling. “You’ll see what it feels like,” he said.

“The first 30 seconds are okay,” I told him.

The actor snorted. “It’s that last 30,” he said, shaking his head. “And the dismount.”

(8) SLURP THE FANTASTIC. BBC Sounds finds the connections between “Fantasy, fiction and food”. Mary Robinette Kowal and others are interviewed.

What do Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Lady and the Tramp have in common? Both use food in subtle ways to immerse us in their stories and help us make sense of fictitious worlds – from jumping chocolate frogs to kissing over spaghetti. The same is true for many novels, where food can be an integral part of building characters, plots, even entire worlds. Graihagh Jackson speaks to three world-acclaimed writers – two authors and one Nollywood script writer and film director – to find out how and why they employ food in their work. How do you create make-believe foods for a science fiction world, yet still imbue them with meanings that real world listeners will understand? When you’re trying to appeal to multiple audiences and cultures, how do you stop your food references getting lost in translation? And can food be used to highlight or send subtle messages about subjects that are traditionally seen as taboo?

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 26, 1995 Screamers premiered. This Canadian horror starred  Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis and Jennifer Rubi. It was  directed by Christian Duguay. The screenplay was written by Dan O’Bannon, with an extensive rewrite by Miguel Tejada-Flores, is based on Philip K. Dick’s “Second Variety” novelette first published in Space Science Fiction magazine, in May 1953. It earned almost unanimously negative reviews from critics and has a 45% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It has since developed a cult following. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1915 William Hopper. I’m reasonably sure his first genre first was the Thirties The Return of Doctor X. Twenty years later, he’s Dr. George Fenton in Conquest of Space, and just a few years later he’ll be Col. Bob Calder in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Unless we count Myra Breckinridge as genre or genre adjacent, he was Judge Frederic D. Cannon on it, that’s it for him as none as his series acting was genre related. (Died 1970.)
  • Born January 26, 1923 Anne Jeffreys. Her first role in our end of things was as a young woman in the early Forties film Tarzan’s New York Adventure. She’s Jean Le Danse (note the name) around the same time in the comedy Zombies on Broadway (film geeks here — is this the earliest zombie film?). And no, I’ve not forgotten she had the lead role as Marion Kerby in the Topper series. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Fantasy Island and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 26, 1927 William Redfield. He was in two SF films of note. He was Ray Cooper in Conquest of Space, a Fifties film, and later on he was Captain Owens in Fantastic Voyage. In addition, Wiki lists him in the cast of the Fifties X Minus One radio anthology series, and Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs site confirms he was in nine of the plays. His series one-offs included Great Ghost Tales (a new one for me), Bewitched, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Tales of Tomorrow. (Died 1976.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director, Barbarbella. That alone gets a Birthday Honor. But he was one of three directors of Spirits of the Dead, a horror anthology film. (Louis Malle and Federico Fellini were the others.) And not to stop there, he directed another horror film, Blood and Roses (Et mourir de plaisir) and even was involved in The Hitchhiker horror anthology series. And Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman is at least genre adjacent… (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1918 Philip José Farmer. I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those first three are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. I’m sure someone here read here them.  I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1929 Jules Feiffer, 91. On the Birthday list as he’s the illustrator of The Phantom Tollbooth. Well, and that he’s also illustrated Eisner’s Spirit which helped get him into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. Let’s not overlook that he wrote The Great Comic Book Heroes in the Sixties which made it the first history of the superheroes of the late Thirties and Forties and their creators. 
  • Born January 26, 1957 Mal Young, 63. Executive Producer of Doctor Who for the Ninth Doctor. A great season and Doctor indeed. As all have been in the New Who. He was the Assistant Producer thirty years ago of a series called Science Fiction hosted by none other than the Fourth Doctor Himself. Anyone watch this? 
  • Born January 26, 1960 Stephen Cox, 60. Pop culture writer who has written a number of books on genre subjects including The Munchkins Remember: The Wizard of Oz and BeyondThe Addams Chronicles: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Addams FamilyDreaming of Jeannie: TV’s Primetime in a Bottle and The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane. I’ll admit to being puzzled by his Cooking in Oz that he did with Elaine Willingham as I don’t remember that much for food in the Oz books…

(11) NANO NANO. The Harvard Gazette interviews a scientist about “Disinfecting your hands with ‘magic’”.

DEMOKRITOU: We have the tools to make these engineered nanomaterials and, in this particular case, we can take water and turn it into an engineered water nanoparticle, which carries its deadly payload, primarily nontoxic, nature-inspired antimicrobials, and kills microorganisms on surfaces and in the air.

It is fairly simple, you need 12 volts DC, and we combine that with electrospray and ionization to turn water into a nanoaerosol, in which these engineered nanostructures are suspended in the air. These water nanoparticles have unique properties because of their small size and also contain reactive oxygen species. These are hydroxyl radicals, peroxides, and are similar to what nature uses in cells to kill pathogens. These nanoparticles, by design, also carry an electric charge, which increases surface energy and reduces evaporation. That means these engineered nanostructures can remain suspended in air for hours. When the charge dissipates, they become water vapor and disappear.

Very recently, we started using these structures as a carrier, and we can now incorporate nature-inspired antimicrobials into their chemical structure. These are not super toxic to humans. For instance, my grandmother in Greece used to disinfect her surfaces with lemon juice — citric acid. Or, in milk — and also found in tears — is another highly potent antimicrobial called lysozyme. Nisin is another nature-inspired antimicrobial that bacteria release when they’re competing with other bacteria. Nature provides us with a ton of nontoxic antimicrobials that, if we can find a way to deliver them in a targeted, precise manner, can do the job. No need to invent new and potentially toxic chemicals. Let’s go to nature’s pharmacy and shop.

(12) BIGFOOTIN’. Forbes’ Ollie Barder reports “A Walking Life-Size Gundam Will Be Unveiled In Japan This October”.

While we knew that this was a project that had been underway for a while, it’s now actually going to be a real thing. In that, this October a walking Gundam will be unveiled in Yokohama, Japan.

The plans to make a Gundam walk were announced back in 2015 and at the time the idea was to have it finished by 2019.

So while this has been delayed a bit, it does look like we will have a Gundam that can walk later this year.

Well, when I say “walk” it looks like this is not some free-roaming Gundam but will be attached to a support mechanism at the waist, to avoid it from falling over.

It doesn’t look like you will be able to pilot it either, as this walking Gundam will be remote controlled.

To be honest, I was expecting limitations like this. Simply because the engineering requirements to make an 18-meter-tall mecha walk are not exactly trivial.

(13) AT WORK. “Astronauts Finish Spacewalk For Final Fix Of International Space Station Device”NPR has details on what real construction work in space is like.

Two astronauts aboard the International Space Station conducted their fourth and final spacewalk Saturday to finish a series of repairs aimed at extending the functioning of a cosmic ray detector attached to the spacecraft.

The six-hour, 16-minute foray outside the space capsule began shortly after 7:00 a.m. ET and ended at 1:20 p.m.

NASA flight engineer Andrew Morgan and the commander of the space station’s Expedition 61, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, completed leak checks on their installation of a new cooling system meant to extend the lifespan of the externally attached Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer dark matter and antimatter detector.

They were assisted by two other Expedition 61 crew members, NASA flight engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, who operated a Canadarm2 robotic arm capable of fine-tuned maneuvers.

The AMS, as the cosmic ray detector is known, was installed about nine years ago on the spacecraft and was designed to function for only three years. It was not meant to be serviced in flight.

But the scientific data collected by the AMS — to date, it has recorded more than 140 billion particles passing through its detectors, 9 million of which have been identified as the electrons or positrons that compose antimatter — have proven so valuable that NASA scientists now aim to keep it operating for the full 11 years of a complete solar cycle in order to better understand the possible impact of solar radiation variation on astronauts traveling to Mars.

(14) CAT SUITS. The Guardian shows how cats can be more divisive than Brexit: “Claws out! Why cats are causing chaos and controversy across Britain”. Tagline: “Whether it is local ‘cat-seducers’, out-and-out thievery or marauding toms, our feline friends are prompting furious rows and rivalries between neighbours.”

…It’s a sad case,” says the Halls’ barrister, Tom Weisselberg QC. “If she’d seen sense, everyone’s time and money would have been saved.” He worked pro bono on the case, because the Halls are friends. There are few legal options for someone wanting to stop their neighbour stealing their cat. Technically, it’s theft, but generally the police won’t get involved. “You have to show that they intend to deprive you permanently of possession,” Weisselberg says. “That’s a high threshold to satisfy.”

When he was a junior barrister, Weisselberg worked on a legal dispute between Kuwait Airways and Iraqi Airways. The Kuwaitis argued, successfully, that the Iraqis had in effect stolen some Kuwaiti planes, because they had painted their own colours on them, thereby converting them. “I said: ‘Look, if the Kuwaitis can say the Iraqis converted their aircraft by putting different colours on the planes, why can’t you say the defendant has converted your cat by changing its collar?’” Weisselberg planned to use this precedent in court but, at the courthouse door, Lesbirel agreed to a number of restrictions on contact with Ozzy.

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