Pixel Scroll 9/16/21 50 Shades Of Scrollcraftian Slashfic

(1) A HEART, HAS CHAMBERS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In their latest edition, WIRED magazine profiles Becky Chambers and talks about both the philosophical underpinning of her writing, and the context in which she’s publishing. The article may be too much of a hagiography for some, but it does provide some insights into what makes her work appealing. “Is Becky Chambers the Ultimate Hope for Science Fiction?”

In a world numbed by cynicisms and divisions, Chambers’ stories are intended to repair—to warm up our insides and restore feeling. So you might say that Chambers is, herself, the tea of our times, a soothing soothsayer whose well-meaning characters act out a fragrant, curative optimism.

(2) THAT’S SHAT. In “William Shatner Reviews Impressions of WIlliam Shatner” on YouTube, Shat reviews impressions of him for Vanity Fair, including a teenager, Jim Carrey, and Bill Nye before he became The Science Guy.

(3) LATINX. Horror Writers Association Blog kicks off its “Latinx Horror” theme in an “Interview with E. Reyes”.

How do you feel the Latinx community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?

I feel like the Latinx community has finally knocked down that door and we are now being seen. I see more Latinx voices in horror emerging and I will be right there with them.

Who are some of our favorite Latinx characters in horror?

I need to expand more on my Latinx horror reading and viewing, but I’ll say that Robert Rodriguez directed one of my favorite horror movies ever: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), and it has very awesome Latinx characters in it.

(4) RETURNING TO A FAVORITE. At The Endless Bookshelf, Henry Wessells rereads “Little, Big by John Crowley”.

John Crowley’s Little, Big is a book which I have read more times than I can count. It is also in that rare category of books which I give away (sometimes even the copy in my hand). Readers of the Endless Bookshelf will have seen allusions to my readings over the years (Appraisal at Edgewood, the summer of 2007, or Chapter XIV in A Conversation larger than the Universe or  “Strange Enough to Be Remembered Forever”). Everything which Hazlitt enumerates applies to re-readings of Little, Big. This year, when I picked up the novel, I paid attention to recurrences of words and parallels. I don’t say repetitions or doublings because the words often function — that is to say, carry meaning — in a new way when they return to the surface later in the book….

(5) JEOPARDY! Variety says that with Mike Richards out, the Jeopardy! hosting gig will be divided between Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings.

…Bialik will take over hosting duties for the first couple weeks, starting Sept. 20 and running through Nov. 5. She and Jennings will then trade off as their schedules allow. The two of them will tape enough episodes to get “Jeopardy!” through the end of the year….

(6) QED. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com hors d’ouerve is “I Sing the Body Electric: 5 SF Works About Sex and Technology”.

Unsurprisingly for a species that once dispatched to the stars at great expense a nude selfie with directions to its home, addressed “To Whom It May Concern”, a large fraction of humans (although not all) has an intense, abiding interest in sex. Consequently, any technology that can assist in the quest for or enhancement of sex enjoys a tremendous advantage over technologies lacking such applications.…

Five books later, Nicoll points out –

(It may seem like there’s a pattern here and there is. Anyone who wants to deny conscious partners autonomy provides a demonstration of why autonomy is needed.)

(7) CLASSIC FRANK HERBERT INTERVIEW. [Item by Soon Lee.] I know all the current interest is in the Denis Villeneuve version of Dune, but as I was noodling around, I stumbled across this 1969 Frank Herbert interview where he talks to Willis E. McNelly about the origins of Dune.  Interviewer Willis E. McNelly later wrote the Dune Encyclopedia. It’s a whopping 80 minutes long but fascinating for anyone who is a fan as it is a wide-ranging conversation exploring ecology, sustainability, religion, politics and powers among others. I haven’t finished listening to me but Beverly Herbert also appears in the recording.

(8) BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE, TWO OF MY BEST FRIENDS. Joe Lansdale talks about his Hap and Leonard series and pays tribute to Michael K. Williams who played Leonard Pine in the television adaptation of the series.  A new collection of Hap and Leonard stories is coming from Tachyon in 2022. “Joe R. Lansdale Remembers The Genesis of Hap and Leonard and Pays Tribute to Michael K. Williams” at CrimeReads.

… My subconscious may have created them, but I felt as if Hap and Leonard were friends of mine. I was more like Hap than Leonard, but my inner voice, Leonard, was willing to contest my common viewpoints, and from time to time, teach me something.

When I first wrote about Hap and Leonard, black and white friends existed in fiction and film, but their friendship, I truly believe, was unique for the times. The racism Leonard met head on was real. Folks I knew said, oh, it’s not like that anymore.

That wasn’t what I was seeing….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1963 – Fifty eight years ago this evening on ABC, The Outer Limits series premiered. Created and executive produced by Leslie Stevens, who had done nothing of a genre nature before, and directed by far too many to note here. Two episodes, “Demon with a Glass Hand” and “Soldier”, were written by Harlan Ellison, Clifford Simak wrote “The Duplicate Man” episode, and David Duncan penned “The Human Factor”. Eando Binder gets credit for the “I, Robot” episode. Though The Outer Limits achieved cult status it was not long lived, lasting but two seasons and forty-nine episodes. It had a loyal audience but it was programmed against the far more popular Jackie Gleason program and it was cancelled part way through its second season. Thirty-three years later, the rebooted series would run for one hundred and fifty-two episodes. There is rumor of yet another rebooted series in development now. 

There is nothing wrong with your DVD player. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling your DVD player. We already control the horizontal and the vertical. We now control the digital. We can change the focus from a soft blur to crystal clarity. Sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits. — opening narration which was by Vic Perrin

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 16, 1898 — Hans Augusto Rey. German-born American illustrator and author best remembered for the beloved Curious George children’s book series that he and his wife Margret Rey created from 1939 to 1966. An Eighties series of five-minute short cartoons starring him was produced by Alan Shalleck, along with Rey — Ken Sobol, scriptwriter of Fantastic Voyage, was the scriptwriter here. A later TV series (2006-2009) had many writers, including Craig Miller. Rey’s interest in astronomy led to him drawing star maps which are still use in such publications as Donald H. Menzel’s A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. A simpler version for children called Find the Constellations, is still in print as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born September 16, 1930 — Anne Francis. You’ll remember her best as Altaira “Alta” Morbius on Forbidden Planet. She also appeared twice in The Twilight Zone (“The After Hours” and “Jess-Belle”). She also appeared in multiple episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. She’d even appear twice in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and played several roles on Fantasy Island as well. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 16, 1932 — Karen Anderson. She co-wrote two series with her husband, Poul Anderson, King of Ys and The Last Viking, and created the delightful The Unicorn Trade collection with him. Fancyclopedia has her extensive fannish history thisaway, and Mike has her obituary here. (Died 2018.)
  • Born September 16, 1927 — Peter Falk. His best remembered genre role is in The Princess Bride as the Grandfather who narrates the story. (The person who replaced the late Falk in the full cast reading of The Princess Bride for the Wisconsin Democratic fundraiser, Director Rob Reiner, wasn’t nearly as good as he was in that role.) He also plays Ramos Clemente in “The Mirror,” an episode of The Twilight Zone. And he’s Reverend Theo Kerr in the 2001 version of The Lost World. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 16, 1952 — Lisa Tuttle, 69. Tuttle won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, received a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute,” which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”. My favorite works by her include CatwitchThe Silver Bough and her Ghosts and Other Lovers collection. Her latest novel is The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross.
  • Born September 16, 1960 — Mike Mignola, 61. The Hellboy stories, of course, are definitely worth reading, particularly the early on ones. His Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an amazing What If story which isn’t at all the same as the animated film of that name which is superb on its own footing, and the B.P.R.D. stories  are quite excellent too.  I’m very fond of the first Hellboy film, not so much of the second, and detest the reboot now that I’ve seen it, while the animated films are excellent.
  • Born September 16, 1960 — Kurt Busiek, 61. Writer whose work includes The Marvels limited series, his own outstanding Astro City series, and a very long run on The Avengers. He also worked at Dark Horse where he did Conan #1–28 and Young Indiana Jones Chronicles #1–8. 
  • Born September 16, 1970 — Nick Sagan, 51. Son of Carl Sagan. He’s written scripts for Next Generation and Voyager. Not to mention Space Precinct. He is the author of the three novels, Edenborn, Everfree and Idlewild. 

(11) OCTOTHORPE. Octothorpe episode 40 is “Very Exuberant and Very Dangerous”. John Coxon is listening to podcasts, Alison Scott is reading stories, and Liz Batty is watching TV.

We are pleased to see that Corflu now has something about COVID on their webpage and we discuss the NHS COVID Pass. We also do Picks, in which we (wait for it) talk about science fiction we quite like for a bit.

Also, Octothorpe sent along this nifty art of Woomera by Alison Scott.

(12) WIDESPREAD HARASSMENT OF VIDEO GAME PLAYERS. Deseret News covers the statistics of a new report: “Gamers face online harassment when playing video games, ADL says”.

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League has found that most U.S. teens experience harassment when playing video games online.

The study said 60% of children 13 to 17 years old experience harassment when playing games online.

  • And it doesn’t seem to be catching on with parents. Less than 40% of parents or guardians said they implemented safety controls for online games.
  • And less than 50% of teen gamers said they talk to their parents about their online games.

Overall, gamers experience massive harassment online. The survey found 71% of adults from 18 to 45 years old “experienced severe abuse, including physical threats, stalking and sustained harassment within the first six months of 2021.”…

(13) HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT. At CrimeReads, Olivia Rutligliano pays tribute to Pushing Daisies and why it was such a memorable, if weird, show. “Looking Back on the Magical Mystery Series Pushing Daisies”.

Pushing Daisies might be most memorable for its bright, uncanny visuals—a merry, surreal palette of greens, reds, and yellows that don’t veritably exist in nature. The candy-colors of Pushing Daisies reflect its deep thematic investment in artificiality—on a tonal level, the show concerns simulacra of life, rather than life itself. Its characters cannot truly live the lives they want, and this is rather literal. Ned (Lee Pace) is a gentle, bashful entrepreneur (the proprietor and chef of a pie bakery called “The Pie Hole”) guarding a disquieting secret—he has the ability to bring dead things back to life with only a touch. But if he lets these newly animated entities live for longer than a minute or so, another entity of equal mass must die in its place, to restore the balance of the universe. Touching them a second time will return them to death, permanently—which means that if he wants to reconnect with anyone after they have passed, he only has a solitary minute to do so….

(14) BE SEATED. In episode 61 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, “The joining of three tides”,  David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss discuss their fannish projects outside the podcast: in Perry’s case his sercon genzine The Alien Review; and in David’s case his new fortnightly email newsletter Through the Biblioscope.

They also discuss two of the nominees for Best Novel in this year’s Hugo Awards: The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal, and Network Effect by Martha Wells. 

(15) NOW AWAITING COLLECTION. In the latest Nature, “Success! Mars Rover Finally Collects Its First Rock Core”.

…When the rover first attempted the manoeuvre, on 6 August, the rock it was trying to sample crumbled into powder before making it into a sample tube. The second attempt, on 1 September at a different location several hundred metres away, went smoothly: the drill bit pulled a slim cylinder out of a 70-centimetre long rock named Rochette. Engineers then paused the process so that they could photograph the core in its sample tube, to ensure it was intact, before sealing the specimen inside days later….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Snake Eyes–G.I. Joe–Origins” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say, “Don’t care about the G.I. Joe movies?” No one else does,” and adds that the film comes from Paramount, “the studio who came in last at the box office for seven years straight.”  The film features some great martial artists, but is under the direction of R.I.P.D. director Robert Schwentke, who loves his shaky cam, even though shaking a camera to make a film exciting “is like shaking a book to make it exciting.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, James Davis Nicoll, Soon Lee, David K.M. Klaus, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/19/21 A Scroll Dinner In Pixelson

(1) OUT OF KABUL. Allyson Reneau, who first met the girls through her work on the board of directors for Explore Mars, helped extract the “Afghan Girls Robotic Team, a group of girls ages 16-18 who have overcome hardship in order to pursue their love of engineering and robotics in Afghanistan.” “Oklahoma mom helps rescue 10 girls on Afghanistan’s robotics team” at Today.

…But it wasn’t as simple as organizing documents and the girls getting on the plane.

“They were in a sea of chaos with eight million people and a city halfway around the world,” Reneau told TODAY, adding that unrest in Kabul worked against the effort. “A lot of the work I’ve done with the embassy has been all night, and I have to work all day. It’s been exhausting.”

“It’s very narrow window of opportunity,” she said of the effort. “I knew that if I didn’t run through that door now — it’s now or never. Sometimes you only get one chance.”

After a cancelled flight, ten girls from the team were successfully evacuated.

“We were able to get them on the U.S. military side (of the airport), so they were protected over there waiting (and) the next text I got was that they were airborne,” Reneau said….

(2) MUCH IS NOT KNOWN. Historian Adrian Goldsworthy also writes books set in the Roman empire. “The Big Idea: Adrian Goldsworthy” at Whatever talks about the challenges.

The Big Idea behind The Fort is trying to understand what the world was like at the beginning of the second century. In my day job I write non fiction history books, and have been studying the Roman empire and the Roman army for all my adult life. So writing a novel in that setting gives me a chance to work out what I have learned from all this about life at the time and then push the evidence as far as it will go. There is so much that we do not know about the ancient world, which means that in a novel you have to imagine and invent to make the world of the story complete and convincing.  

(3) FOUNDATION. Apple TV+ will stream Foundation beginning September 24. Here’s the new trailer.

The fate of an entire galaxy rests on the beliefs of Dr. Hari Seldon (Jared Harris). Will his conviction save humanity or doom it? Based on the award-winning novels by Isaac Asimov, Foundation chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire.

(4) BEGINNINGS. Lightspeed Magazine’s Author Spotlight shines on Tobi Ogundiran, whose story “The Tale of Jaja and Canti” is in the new issue.

How did you get into writing genre fiction?

Growing up in Nigeria, I constantly heard tales which would ordinarily seem too far-fetched to be true. But they were true. And this helped shape my understanding of the world, in that the lens through which you view life affects how you experience it. This, coupled with the fact that as a teen I read so much Stephen King and Harry Potter, I guess it was inevitable that when I finally decided to put pen to paper, to craft my own stories, the stories that came were fantastic in nature. The realization that what I wrote was genre only came later.

(5) BRADBURY 100 LIVE THIS WEEKEND. Phil Nichols invites Bradbury fans to view Bradbury 100 LIVE on Saturday, August 21:

On the eve of the 101st anniversary of the birth of Ray Bradbury, Phil Nichols invites you to a livestream of Bradbury 100.

WATCH the livestream, in the Ray Bradbury Fan Club Facebook group, or on the Bradbury 100 Facebook page.

OR:

JOIN IN the discussion, by joining the Zoom meeting (scroll down for Zoom link).

Phil will be joined by writer Steven Paul Leiva, who was the guest on the very first episode of the Bradbury 100 podcast. Steven, you may recall, was the driving force behind “Ray Bradbury Week” in Los Angeles in 2010, when Ray was 90 years old.

The livestream will include some never-before-seen footage from Ray’s 90th birthday party.

Here is the Zoom link.

(6) MS. A year from today the “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript” exhibit opens at the Raynor Memorial Libraries at Marquette University. It will run from August 19-December 12, 2022.

Marquette University’s Raynor Memorial Libraries and the Haggerty Museum of Art are pleased to announce an upcoming exhibition of manuscripts from the celebrated author and artist J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973), best known for his literary classics The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The exhibition considers Tolkien’s work through the lens of manuscripts, both in terms of the materials he studied as a medieval philologist and the manuscripts he created while developing his legendarium. Professor Tolkien was deeply immersed in the complexities of manuscripts, and this exhibition will illustrate how different aspects of the manuscript tradition found expression within Tolkien’s scholarly life and in his creative writing.

The foundation for this exhibition is Marquette University’s extensive collection of Tolkien manuscripts housed within the library’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives; but it will also include items borrowed from other repositories, including a significant number of Tolkien manuscripts and artwork from the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford.

The exhibition will include over 100 items, many of which have not been exhibited or published.

Additional details are available in a brief FAQ. More information will be made available as the exhibition’s opening approaches!

(7) CHARACTERS IN PAIN. Sarah Chorn draws on personal experience to offer “Ten tips for writing believable pain” at Bookworm Blues.

2. Pain will change your mood. 

When I’m hurting really bad, my entire neighborhood probably knows to stay away from me. Pain tends to change moods, and everyone is different. Some people get really quiet and withdrawn. Some people get angry. I seem to become an absolutely intoxicating blend of both of those. Some people try to power through it by being overly happy. Some get depressed. Regardless, if your character hurts, they will have an altered mood, at least during the most intense part of their pain. Depending on who you are writing, they’ll react differently. I don’t know many people who get hurt, and then keep on going with their mood completely unaffected. Even if they act unaffected, inside, they’re probably screaming, and think of the energy it takes to hide that scream.

The thing to remember is, pain is going to take up part of your headspace. If you had your whole mind focused on defeating the emperor, and then you take an arrow to the shoulder, now 40% of your thoughts are going to be on defeating the emperor, and 60% are going to be focused on the pain you are feeling (Or something. You get the point.). Pain takes up space. It just does. Don’t think of it as something you feel. Think of pain as an uninvited guest, and now you have to make room for it because, depending on the injury and the timeline to healing (if there is a “healing”), that guest isn’t going anywhere. You have to feed your guest. Pain feeds on energy, and energy impacts mood. So keep that in mind when you write your injured character.

(8) MAKE ROOM! In the latest Rite Gud podcast, Raquel S. Benedict is joined by MK Anderson to discuss “This Is My Hole: On Negative Space and Leaving Room for the Reader”.

A story is a type of conversation with the reader. If you don’t leave room for the reader to speak, you’re a terrible conversationalist. This room, this essential emptiness, is called negative space. In this episode of Rite Gud, we discuss why the words you don’t write are just as important as the words you do. 

(9) BANKS ROBBERY. Matt Bell lists his favorite sf and fantasy novels where characters steal things in “Eight Science Fiction and Fantasy Heist Novels” at CrimeReads. One of them is —

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

In one of the early set pieces of Consider Phlebas, Horza is rescued/captured by the pirate crew of the Clear Air Turbulence (one of Banks’ fantastically named Culture ships), who are on their way to the planet Marjoin to rob the Temple of Light, a target described by the ship’s captain as easy in, easy out: “According to him,” one pirate says, “it’s full of priests and treasure; we shoot the former and grab the latter.” It’s a simple plan, but even the best-laid plans usually go sideways in heist narratives, and this one is no different: the Marjoin monks turn out to be heavily armed, and their temple is a trap made entirely of reflective surfaces that bounce the pirates’ lasers back at them—which means the pirates get to do very little pillaging and a lot of running for their lives.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1958 – Sixty-three years ago in the August issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Robert Heinlein’s  Have Spacesuit – Will Travel was first published. (Anthony Boucher will announce his departure as editor in this issue.) The cover illustration is for this novel. Charles Scribner’s Sons will publish it in hardcover the next month. It was nominated at Detention for a Hugo, the year Blish’s A Case of Conscience won. It would be nominated for BSFA’s Fiftieth Anniversary Award: Best Novel of 1958 but that Award instead would go to Brian Aldiss’ Non-Stop.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 19, 1893 Hans Waldemar Wessolowski. An artist best remembered for his cover art for pulp magazines like Amazing StoriesAstounding StoriesClues and Strange Tales.  Wesso was the name most commonly cited wherever his art is given credit. Wesso painted all 34 covers of the Clayton Magazines Astounding Stories from January 1930 to March 1933. He was nominated for a Retro Hugo for Best Professional Artist at Loncon 3. (Died 1947.)
  • Born August 19, 1921 Gene Roddenberry. Oh, you know who he is. But did you know he wrote a lot of scripts for Have Gun – Will Travel? Indeed his script for the show, “Helen of Abajinian” would win the Writer’s Guild of America award for Best Teleplay in 1958. And yes, he would share a Hugo for Star Trek’s  “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode which was awarded at Baycon. (Died 1991.)
  • Born August 19, 1928 Richard N. Farmer. Author of Islandia Revisited, a sequel to Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia. No idea it was if authorized. It’s not in print in either print or digital editions currently. Anyone here read it? (Died 1987.)
  • Born August 19, 1930 D.G. Compton, 91. SWFA Author Emeritus whose The Steel Crocodile was nominated for the Nebula Award. The Unsleeping EyeThe Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe in the U.K., was filmed as Death Watch which the Audience Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes actually like giving it a 60% rating. His two Alec Jordan near future police stories are superb. He recently was selected for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.
  • Born August 19, 1938 Diana Muldaur, 83. She appeared in the original series in two episodes, first in “Return to Tomorrow” as Dr. Ann Mulhall / Thalassa and then in then in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”  as Dr. Miranda Jones. She, of course, is up again in Next Gen as Dr. Katherine Pulaski.  She voiced  Dr. Leslie Thompkins in that animated Batman series as well. 
  • Born August 19, 1950 Jill St. John, 71. She’s best remembered as Tiffany Case, the Bond girl in  Diamonds Are Forever. She was the first American to play a Bond girl. She shows in The Batman in “Smack in the Middle” and “Hi Diddle Riddle” as Molly. And she played Jennifer Holmes in the 1960 film version of The Lost World. Even more fascinatingly she’s one of the uncredited dancers on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
  • Born August 19, 1950 Mary Doria Russell, 71. The Sparrow series, The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God, are awesome. The Sparrow won the Clarke, BSFA, and Tiptree Awards, and it was the reason she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Though not genre, Doc and its sequel Epitaph are mysteries using the historic character of Doc Holliday. 
  • Born August 19, 1952 Jonathan Frakes, 69. Best known for his portrayal of Commander William T. Riker in Next Gen and I’m fond of his voicing David Xanatos on the Gargoyles series which had at least five Trek actors doing voice work. Interesting bit of trivia: For a time in the Seventies, he worked for Marvel Comics at Cons as Captain America. He has directed more than seventy television episodes, including episodes of myriad Trek series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.LeverageThe Librarians and The Orville. 

(12) MOSLEY’S THING. Renowned storyteller Walter Mosley, known for his definitive and bestselling international work in mystery and crime fiction, will be writing a six-issue series of The Thing for Marvel in November 2021.

Written by Mosley and with art by Tom Reilly (X-Men: Marvels Snapshots), the story will range from the urban sprawl of the alleys of Manhattan to the furthest reaches of the cosmos itself. In THE THING, a lonely evening and a chance encounter (or is it?) sends Ben Grimm embarking on a sojourn that will have him confronting—and battling—figures both old and new.

 (13) A COMIC BOOK LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN. Atlas Obscura shows off “The 36-Pound Comic Scrapbook That Chronicles the Great Depression”. This unusual artifact—now housed at the Columbia University Libraries—is part comic collection, part journal of life in the 1930s. 

DEAR FRIENDS OF MINE, Please write a line / In this little Wash Tubbs book of mine. / Help me Keep you in my Mind”

So begins the inscription on the spine of a hulking tome that was once a source of idle amusement for clients at the Bungalow, a barbershop in Fredonia, Kansas. In 1928, the barber, I.A. Persinger, began compiling this collection of “Wash Tubbs” comics, a well-loved daily newspaper strip by artist Roy Crane, whose adventure graphics popularized the visual sound effects—Bam! Pow!—we know so well today. Soon, though, the scrapbook expanded with handwritten insights from Persinger and his customers on life during the Great Depression….

(14) ONLINE PUPPETRY EVENT. There’s a charge to participate in the 2nd Virtual National Capital Puppetry Festival happening from August 19-22, but the trailer is free and fun.

(15) PIECES OF EIGHT. Octothorpe episode 38 is “How the Sausage is Made”, which in lesser hands might be a great argument for dietary restrictions. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty say —

We record around a dining room table using a single mic while our partners and friends were in a brewery without us. As a consequence, it’s a snappy episode this week…

(16) HE-MAN. Netflix dropped a trailer for the new series of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”.

He-Man and his powerful friends learn what it means to be a hero while battling the evil forces of Skeletor and his minions.

(17) ETERNALS VIGILANCE. Marvel Studios promises this is the Eternals Final Trailer. I’m going to hold them to it.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The King of Random explains why it’s really hard to create a Rube Goldberg machine!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Paul Weimer, R.S. Benedict, John Coxon, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 6/24/21 This Scroll Is Infested With Killer Pixels

(1) CHANGE TO AURORA AWARDS BALLOT. Aurora Awards administrator Clifford Samuels has removed short story nominee “So You Want to be a Honeypot“ by Kelly Robson from the 2021 Aurora Award Ballot.

Samuels’ explanation is quoted with his permission:

The story was removed about a week ago, June 14th.  I got feedback that it was felt it was not genre.  I had a number of the board members read it and we agreed it was a spy thriller story but had no SF, Fantasy or Horror elements.  I read other reviews of it online and a number of people were confused that Uncanny Magazine had published it.  I suspect it was a story by a respected genre author.

I contacted Kelly and she said it was very loosely fantasy and she had no hard feeling if we removed it from the ballot.  I could not see any fantasy elements.  There were no hints that it was in an alternate world.  As I read it I kept hoping it would have some “Black Widow” type elements but I could not see anything like that.

This is the first time we’ve ever had to do this but it is important that only genre works are on the ballot.  With Kelly’s background in genre stories and with the story being published in a genre magazine we had no expectation it would not qualify.  It would have been a problem if a non-genre work won an Aurora Award.

The administrator emphasizes that the story was only removed because it was non-genre — ” it was a good story but was not something that should be on an Aurora ballot” — and that they contacted Robson and got her okay before doing this. Normally there’s only 5 items on the Aurora Award ballot; there were 6 short story finalists this year because of a tie, so the Robson entry will not be replaced by another story.

(2) CHENGDU WORLDCON BID COVERAGE. China.org.cn published an English-language article about the Chengdu in 2023 Worldcon bid on June 23: “Chengdu gears up to bid for 2023 Worldcon”.

A brief explanation of the Worldcon is followed by the introduction of the bid’s co-chairs, and a quote from the bid filing documents:

With the support of the Chinese sci-fi industry and sci-fi fans, Chengdu, capital of China’s Sichuan province, has put in a formal bid to host the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in 2023.

Worldcon is the annual convention of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) and was founded in 1939. Its Hugo Awards are one of the world’s most prestigious sci-fi award. China’s Liu Cixin won the 2015 Hugo Award for best science-fiction novel for “The Three-Body Problem.”

Wang Yating, co-chair of the bidding committee and deputy secretary-general of the Chengdu Science Fiction Society, told China.org.cn that now they were working hard to prepare for organizing and presenting 2023 Worldcon as best as they can. Chengdu is aiming to become the first Chinese city to host the high-profile sci-fi convention.

“Chengdu is the science fiction capital of China, and a mecca for Chinese sci-fi fans. The science fiction periodical – Science Fiction World – is headquartered in the city,” wrote Wang and Xia Tong, another co-chair of the bidding committee and the film development director of Chinese sci-fi brand Eight Light Minutes, in a letter to William Lawhorn, co-chair of the 2021 Worldcon in Washington, D.C. in February of this year. “Over the past four decades, Chengdu has nurtured generations of science fiction writers and fans. Now, Chengdu is looking forward to a chance to welcome sci-fi fans from all over the world.”

Wang Yating, deputy secretary-general of the Chengdu Science Fiction Society, joins a panel at a sci-fi film industry forum held during the 24th Shanghai International Film Festival to introduce Chengdu’s bid for the 2023 Worldcon, June 19, 2021. [Photo courtesy of Shanghai Pudong Science Fiction Association]

(3) RULES FOR A BETTER STORY ABOUT AN AWFUL WORLD. Science fiction author Marissa Levien shares her “3 Rules for Writing a Better Dystopian Novel” at Writer’s Digest.

1. Prioritize Story, Not Concept

Confession: In my dystopian novel, I didn’t start out writing a dystopia at all. I was fascinated by a character learning, ahead of the rest of the world, about an oncoming catastrophe. That lead me to ask: Who is first to know that a major catastrophe is coming? Answer: those at the very top and very bottom of the societal chain. So, I decided to write a character who was a servant. From there, I concentrated more on what my character was after, and as I did, the world grew on its own. The nature of the catastrophe demanded a certain kind of setting. The character and story demanded a flawed class system. I didn’t start the writing process thinking, “I want to tell a story about the evils of class systems.” I thought, “I want to tell a story about this character and how she fights to get what she wants.”…

(4) THE HOPE OF HUMANITY. Netflix Anime dropped this trailer for “Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway” on June 10.

After Char’s rebellion, Hathaway Noa leads an insurgency against Earth Federation, but meeting an enemy officer and a mysterious woman alters his fate.

(5) ON THE FRITZ. Haven’t had enough fandom drama yet? Let’s borrow some from the history of ERBdom! “Nobody remembers this today,…” from Not Pulp Covers.

Nobody remembers this today, but there was immense fandom drama in the 1960s in the Edgar Rice Burroughs fanzines like ERBdom, the Oparian, and Burroughsania. 

Yes, this legendary fandom brawl was all because a bright eyed and bushy tailed young go-getter fanzine writer named Fritz Leiber wrote about how Burroughs was inspired by and used tons of visual imagery and concepts from Theosophy, a strange offshoot of the spiritualist movement popular in the 1890s to the 1950s. Tons of ERB imagery, Lieber argued, particularly the John Carter of Mars books and elements of the wilder Tarzan novels, came from Theosophy, like four armed men who hatch from eggs, universal planetary telepathy, mental astral projection to other planets, and Atlantean societies with both Neanderthal and evolved modern men…. 

(6) DREAM FOUNDRY CONTESTS. Dream Foundry is getting people ready for their Writing Contest and Art Contest. The judges of the Writing Contest will be Premee Mohamed and Vajra Chandrasekera. This year’s art contest judges will be Juliana Pinho and Charis Loke. Guidelines at the link.

Submissions for the Writing Contest open on 10 August 2021 and will close 11 October 2021, with the finalists announced mid-November. Then, our judges will announce winners in early December.

Submissions for the Art Contest open on 1 September 2021 and will close on 1 November 2021.

There are no submission fees and we are pleased to announce that the prizes for both the art and writing contests each include $1000 for first place, $500 for second place, and $200 for third place. The first place prize of the Art Contest is awarded as part of the Monu Bose Memorial Prize, established in fond memory of Monu Bose by her children, Rupa Bose and Gautam Bose. Monu Bose was a lover of art of all kinds, and a graduate of Lucknow University and the College of Arts and Crafts. This Prize is to honor the legacy she opened up for us.

(7) DREAM FOUNDRY VIDEOS. More videos from this year’s Flights of Foundry have been released on the Dream Foundry YouTube channel.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 24, 1987 — On this day in 1987, Spaceballs premiered. It was, as y’all know co-written, produced and directed by Mel Brooks. The film stars Bill Pullman, John Candy and Rick Moranis, with the supporting cast comprising Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Lorene Yarnell, and the voice of Joan Rivers. With production costs and marketing, it didn’t make a penny. Critics were decidedly mixed on it with the consensus on it that Brooks had done much better earlier on in his career. It has since become a cult film with audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently giving it an outstanding rating of eighty-three percent. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 24, 1925 — Fred Hoyle. Astronomer of course, but also author of a number of SF works including October the First Is Too Late which I think is among the best genre novels done. I’m also fond of Ossian’s Ride which keep its SF elements hidden until late in the story. (Died 2001.)
  • Born June 24, 1937 — Charles Brown. Editor of Locus from 1969 to 2009, a fanzine and a semiprozine at various times. Winner of many a Hugo, actually a record 29 Hugo Awards. Though he died before he could attend, he was still listed as one of the guests of honor at Renovation.  (Died 2009.)
  • Born June 24, 1947 — Peter Weller, 74. Robocop obviously with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which you I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Is it of the Naked Lunch genre? Well, Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety” certainly is. Even if the reviews sucked.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainlyqualifies. Hey he showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise
  • Born June 24, 1950 — Mercedes Lackey, 71. There’s a line on the Wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year.  Impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Guon and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edghill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is kinda fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. 
  • Born June 24, 1950 — Nancy Allen, 71. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films.) Her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as a unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise?). She’s in the direct to video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. 
  • Born June 24, 1961 — Iain Glen, 60. Scots actor who played as Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, he’s also  well known for his roles as Dr. Alexander Isaacs/Tyrant in the Resident Evil franchise; and he played the role of Father Octavian, leader of a sect of clerics who were on a mission against the Weeping Angels in “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”, both Eleventh Doctor stories.
  • Born June 24, 1982 — Lotte Verbeek, 39. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She got interesting genre history including Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the cross-world Counterpart series. 
  • Born June 24, 1994 — Nicole Muñoz, 27. You’ll perhaps best remember her for role as Christie Tarr (née McCawley) in the Defiance series. Her first role was playing a Little Girl in Fantastic Four. Likewise she was A Kid with Braces in The Last Mimzy, and yes, Another Girl, in Hardwired. The latter was written by Michael Hurst, and has apparently nothing to with the Walter Jon Williams novel of the same name.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SEE NEW SPIDER-MAN CYCLE ON FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. Yesterday’s Spider-Man teaser led up to this info in today’s follow-up press release:

Kelly Thompson, Saladin Ahmed, Cody Ziglar, Patrick Gleason, and Zeb Wells will team up on the thrice-monthly title to shake up the Spider-Man mythos in ways no one will see coming… The saga will kick off in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #75 where Ben Reilly will return to take back the mantle of Spider-Man. Backed by the Beyond Corporation, the captivating clone of Peter Parker is determined to be the best version of Spider-Man there ever was. And as yesterday’s teasers showed, this could have fatal consequences for Peter Parker…

 Fans will be able to get their first glimpse at what’s to come on August 14th in FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2021: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM. Check out artwork below and stay tuned for an upcoming announcement revealing which incredible artists will be joining this talented group of writers in what promises to be one of the most unpredictable runs in Spider-Man history…

(12) SOCK IT TO ME. Why is a 78-year-old guy filming a fight scene? Yahoo! Entertainment reports “Harrison Ford Injured While Filming ‘Indiana Jones 5’”.

…The extent of Ford’s injury is unknown, though it’s hardly the first time he’s hurt himself while making a movie. In the past, Ford suffered a serious back injury on “Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom” and endured leg trauma on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“Indiana Jones 5” began production earlier this month in the U.K. Plot details for the sequel haven’t been announced yet, though the 78-year-old Ford is reprising his iconic role as the fedora-wearing, swashbuckling archaeologist. 

(13) VAUGHN’S THEME PARK TURNED DEADLY. “The Battle of Four Armies: Carrie Vaughn’s Questland” – a Paul Weimer review at Tor.com.

…The writing style is exactly what fans of Vaughn’s writing have come to expect, on all levels. It’s been a number of years since I’ve read Vaughn’s Kitty Norville novels, but the familiarity with her easy and immersive style was quick and very welcome. Her previous novels may have had geeky references, and this novel doesn’t lean on those so much as making them a supporting pillar of the plot, characters, setting and writing. This is a novel that shows how a commercialized, mainstream ultra-immersive theme park experience can and would meet the beating heart of geekdom. How well, and how badly those forces would interact is a lot of how this novel runs, and Vaughn has clearly spent a lot of time on the idea….

(14) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants overwhelmed by an answer about a book I like to think of as science fiction anyway.

Category: American Authors

Answer: “Camelot”, “The Pilgrims”, and “A postscript by Clarence” are chapters in a classic novel by this author.

Wrong questions: “Who is Harriet Beecher Stowe?” and “Who is Nathaniel Hawthorne?”

Correct question: Who is Mark Twain (in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”)

(15) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty are live from Punctuation 2 in “We Are All Filing Cabinet”, episode 34 of the Octothorpe podcast.

Liz and Alison made John put a warning at the start of the episode. We discuss Winnipeg, ConSpire, and scavenger hunts! Listen here: 

(16) FAST AND THUNDEROUS. SYFY Wire sets up the clip: “Jurassic World: Dominion teases special IMAX teaser to play before F9”.

…Serving as a prologue to the main action of Colin Trevorrow‘s trilogy capper (out next summer), the extended look is set millions of years in the past when dinosaurs freely roamed the Earth without the presence of those pesky bipeds called humans. It also features music from Jurassic World composer Michael Giacchino, as well as seven new species of dinos never before seen in the prehistoric franchise (life finds a way, right?). Right off the bat, though, we recognize some of the usual suspects like Pterosaurs and Ankylosauruses….

 [Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, John Coxon, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 6/11/21 The Scrolled Grimoire, It Ain’t What It Used To Be

(1) YOUR VIRTUAL VACAY. Paul Weimer has transplanted the famous Mind Meld feature, a roundtable discussion of the tropes, themes, politics, and future of genre fiction that solicits answers from writers, editors, readers and fans, to its new home at Nerds of a Feather. The topic of“Mind Meld : One Spot Holodeck” is —

Congratulations. You have been given a Star Trek style holodeck, fully capable otherwise, you can bring in anyone you want, hold a roomful of people but not an entire Worldcon in it,  but you can only program it to be fixed to one time and place or the verse of one fictional work or series. 

Where/what do you program your holodeck for? (Star Wars and Star Trek are off the table!)

Playing in the virtual sandbox are Fonda Lee, Beverly Bambury, Cora Buhlert, Arturo Serrano, Mikaela Lind, Hannah (H. M.) Long, Claire O’Dell, Catherine Lundoff, Maurice Broaddus, K.B. Wagers, Elizabeth Bear, Camestros Felapton, Andrew Hiller, K. B. Spengler, Nancy Jane Moore, and Shelly Parker-Chan.

(2) THE OTHER SON. Melinda Snodgrass watched the first episode of the new Disney+ series and was inspired to discuss “Loki : Or What Makes A Fascinating Villain”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

… I love the Thor movie because it felt so magnificently Shakespearian in its feel and tone. I often use it when I teach to illustrate theme versus plot. Because really at its base the film Thor is about an abusive father, Odin, who destroys his children and ultimately his entire family by pitting his two sons against each other. Odin’s line in the opening scene to his two young sons sums it all up. “Only one of you can ascend to the throne. But both of you were born to be kings.”

(3) TUTTLE RECOMMENDS. [Item by Meredith.] The Guardian has an article today that people might enjoy agreeing/disagreeing with: Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup”.

Tuttle covers Widowland by CJ Carey; Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir; This Fragile Earth by Susannah Wise; Rabbits by Terry Miles; This Eden by Ed O’Loughlin; and The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques.

(4) OTTONE Q&A. In “A Point of Pride: Interview with Robert P. Ottone”, the Horror Writers Association blog continues its Pride Month series.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I feel that horror is such an expansive sandbox to play in. I like to say that reading a well-written family drama is fascinating and certainly draws you in, but imagine that same family drama, just with a haunted house thrown in. That’s even better. Horror allows the writer to indulge in the ugliness of the world while doing so in a therapeutic, relatively safe way.

(5) ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter and John King Tarpinian witnessed contestant stumble over these science fictional answers on last night’s Jeopardy! – both in the category of “Book-borne words & phrases.”

Answer: William Gibson coined this term that now refers to the internet in his short story “Burning Chrome.”

Wrong questions: “What is the information superhighway?”; “What is the world-wide web?”

Correct question: What is cyber-space?

Mayim Bialik is this week’s guest host. Her website is called Grok Nation. That wasn’t enough of a clue for last night’s contestants when they saw this answer.

Wrong question: “Who is Huxley?”

Right question: Who is Robert A. Heinlein?

And there was another gap in their knowledge tonight —

Category: 1930s Literature

Answer: After a plane crash in the Himalayas, 4 people end up in Shangri-La in this 1933 novel.

Wrong question: “What is Paradise Regained?”

Right question: What is “Lost Horizon?”

(6) BARRETT OBIT. Actress Claudia Barrett, remembered for her work in Fifties sci-fi movie Monster Robot, died April 30 at the age of 91.   

… In an image remembered on countless “Worst Movies” lists and in the minds of 1950s drive-in theatergoers, a screaming Barrett is carried off, Fay Wray-style, by the title creature of Robot Monster, a big, hairy alien that looks like a stuntman in a cheap gorilla suit with a diving helmet on its head. Which is, more or less, exactly what it was. As portrayed by stuntman George Barrows, the creature was named Ro-Man, and is generally regarded as the ultimate in 1950s low-budget monsterdom.

…Sci-fi immortality came in 1953, when she was cast as Alice, daughter in the last surviving family in 25-year-old producer-director Phil Tucker’s post-apocalyptic Robot Monster. Costarring George Nader and shot in black and white 3-D, Robot Monster was shot mostly in L.A.’s Bronson Canyon over four days with a reported budget of $16,000.

(7) RILEY OBIT. Not genre but still noteworthy: Irish women’s fiction author Lucinda Riley has died of cancer aged only 55. Her historical women’s fiction novels were hugely popular, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Scandinavia: “Lucinda Riley’s family announce that she has died after a four year battle with cancer” at Pan Macmillan.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 11, 1982 — On this day in 1982, E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial premiered. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. Production credits were shared by Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It was written by Melissa Mathison. It starred Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas. Special effects were by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren. Critics universally loved it, the box office was phenomenal and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-four percent rating. It would finish third to Blade Runner for Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at ConStellation. 
  • June 11, 1993 — In 1993, eleven years after E.T. came out, Jurassic Park premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. Its  based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It starred Samuel R. Jackson, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. Like E.T., It was an overwhelming hit with the critics and the box office was quite stellar. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a ninety-one percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 11, 1572 – Ben Jonson.  Among much else he and Inigo Jones (1573-1672) composed masques, a theatrical artform now long asleep through abandonment of its circumstances.  At the court of a monarch, or some lesser court, elaborate scenery was built, in and around which elaborately costumed actors played, sometimes in mime, with music and dance, sometimes including courtiers.  Jonson wrote and acted, Jones designed and built.  For us at least Oberon, the Faery PrinceThe Lady of the Lake with Merlin and Arthur, The Devil Is an Ass.  We can and should read and imagine them (you can look at this Website to see text); if they were filmed and you saw them it would not be the same as if twenty or thirty people performed for you and your friends at one of your palaces.  (Died 1637) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1815 – Julia Cameron.  Pioneer photographer, started at age 48, made portraits and allegories.  She said “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty.”  Do find her portraits; but this is an SF Weblog, so here are The South-West WindProspero (from Shakespeare’s Tempest), and The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere which Bloomsbury used for its 1999 printing of The Princess Bride.  (Died 1879) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1929 — Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”, “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films such as Burn, Witch, Burn which was nominated for a Hugo at Discon I (no award was given that year), 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available. Yes, I’m pleased to say, including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1933 — Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course he has more genre roles than that, starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by the already noted Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film whose cast also included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1934 – Jerry Uelsmann, age 87.  Used photomontage long before Adobe Photoshop.  Guggenheim and Nat’l Endowment for the Arts fellowships.  Lucie Award.  Here is a Boat and Moon.  Here is a Tree Goddess.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1945 — Adrienne Barbeau, 76. She’s in the Swamp Thing, also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair that never got wrapped up properly. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites. Anyone here read these? (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1946 – Barry Levin.  For thirty-five years his antiquarian bookshop in Santa Monica was a pearl beyond price.  Here is an interview with Scott Laming of AbeBooks.  Here is an appreciation by Scott Haffner of Haffner Press – scroll down; BL is third from top.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1959 – Galen Tripp, age 62.  Active fan in Los Angeles, organizing the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) 50th Anniversary banquet; given the Evans-Freehafer, LASFS’ service award; moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where he is BASFA (Bay Area Science Fiction Ass’n) sergeant-at-arms, a position BASFA takes about as seriously as LASFS.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1968 — Justina Robson, 53. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series which I loved. I’ve not started her Natural History series but have not added it to my digital To Be Read list, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. I was surprised that she hasn’t picked up any Hugo nominations so far. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1970 — Jane Goldman, 51. She’s a English screenwriter, author and producer who’s done a lot of work but I’m going to list but a few of her works including the screenplay for the Hugo winning Stardust, the same for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, based on the Ransom Riggs novel, The Limehouse Golem screenplay off Peter Ackroyd’s novel and a screenplay on spec off Bill Willingham’s Fables series that never got financed. She was also a fan of the X-Files as she wrote two volumes of The X-Files Book of the Unexplained. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1971 — P. Djèlí Clark, 50. I’m very much enjoying A Master of Djinn which will make my Hugo nominations list next year. It follows his “The Haunting of Tram Car 015” novella and “The Angel of Khan el-Khalili” and “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”, short stories, all set in his Dead Djinn universe. I’ve not read his “Black Drums” novella, nor the “Ring Shout” novella, so welcome opinions on them. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1993 – Anna Dittmann, age 28.  Digital illustrator, once in San Francisco, now in Scotland.  Here is her cover for Patricia Ward’s Skinner Luce.  Here is her cover for the May 2018 Apex.  This interview with Affinity Spotlight has images and comment.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full shows the moment Superman’s job interview went off the rails.

(11) FREE DOWNLOAD. Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword and Sorcery Issue dropped today on the 85th anniversary of the death of Robert E. Howard. Download the issue free at the link — 16 tales of modern sword and sorcery, including Cora Buhlert’s story “The Gate of Mist” (page 103). The intro reads –

Buhlert’s uplifting tale of an ancient order of warrior-monks fighting to keep a tenacious evil at bay deploys an uncommon element in sword and sorcery today: a budding romance between two men becoming warriors together. The contemplative mountain setting provides a unique and memorable foe: monstrous forms of living mist.

(12) BUSIEK FAN. Christos Gage, whose writing credits include Daredevil Season 1 and such comics as Buffy and Spider-Man, ranks a familiar name high on this list:

(13) THE CAT WHO CAME BACK FROM NOTHING AT ALL. Caldecott Medal winner Sophie Blackall makes Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s new book sound irresistible in a review for the New York Times: “The Cat Came Back — All the Way From 16th-Century Rome”.

On any normal pre-Covid summer day, as many as 30,000 visitors craned their necks to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, one of the greatest achievements of Western art. I was not among them when I visited Rome a few years ago with my parents, who had already seen the ceiling and were not enthusiastic about waiting hours in line. I wasn’t among them the time before, with my toddlers, who were even less enthusiastic about lines. Nor did I see it as a backpacker in the late 1980s, when restorers were injecting polyvinylacetate resin into its cracks. From 1710 to 1713 the frescoes were cleaned with sponges dipped in Greek wine. In 1625 a dark patina was removed with damp bread. In 1511 the plaster was still wet and Michelangelo was standing on his scaffolding, painting, which is when “Da Vinci’s Cat,” by the Newbery honoree Catherine Gilbert Murdock (“The Book of Boy”), begins….

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. In Octothorpe episode 33, “Jigsaw Psychoanalysis” “John Coxon can’t cope with any, Alison Scott can cope with one, and Liz Batty has excellent mental health. We have lots of lovely locs, before we discuss fanzines and various conventions’ latest news.”

(15) AVOIDING TOXICITY. Pokémon Detective Pikachu and Addams Family 2 screenwriter Dan Hernandez made an interesting social media decision. Thread starts here.

(16) WEAK SHOWING. The Washington Posts’s Alexandra Petri hosts an op-ed from one of the X-Men: “Magneto: These new ‘magnetic’ vaccine mutants are extremely disappointing”.

… I met the people who were saying that metal objects now stuck to them because of their vaccines and gave them a whole recruitment speech about how they were the next stage in evolution, but once I said the word “evolution,” they looked at me doubtfully. Then I asked them to show off their abilities, and — I hate to say this but, have you ever been at a friend’s amateur magic show, where the magic show is not going quite as was hoped, and there’s a lot of saying “hold on” and “wait, hang on” and “sorry” as they fail several times running to identify your card, and then a dead bird falls unprompted out of someone’s hat? Frankly, that would have been an improvement….

(17) ANCIENT POO REVEALS MODERN GUT BACTERIA CHANGE AND IS SUGGESTIVE OF HUMAN EVOLUTION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  We humans have changed over thousands of years, and our way of life has altered dramatically the past thousand years.  This is reflected in a number of ways, one of which is the type of bacteria we have in our intestine. 

It is known that the gut microbes in humans today living in industrial countries differs greatly to those living in non-industrial nations. For example, the guts of those living in industrial nations harbour microbes that tend to be more resistant to antibiotics.  The latest news is that a research collaboration has now compared the gut microbial community from modern humans with those that lived between a thousand and two thousand years ago. They managed to extract reasonable microbial genomes from 498 samples of ancient shite and poo found in the US and Mexico. 181 of these the researchers are confident of being of human gut origin. They then compared these with the genome of modern human gut microbial genomes. 

They found that all the ancient human gut microbes differed from those in modern humans living in industrialised countries. Instead, they were all similar to those in the present-day living in non-industrial nations. Further, in looking at the genetic variation in a specific bacterial species, Methanobrevibacter smithii, they were able to back-track and estimate its past evolution. Their limited analysis that it changed markedly between 75,000 years ago and 25,000 years ago. This was during the last glacial (the cold part of our current ice age) during which there was considerable diversity in small populations of our Homo species. This work lays open great potential in a new area of ancient poo science. This is not to be sniffed at.

(See Wibowo, M. C. et al (2021) Reconstruction of ancient microbial genomes from the human gut. Naturevol.594, p234-9 and a review paper Sonnenburg, J. L. & Olm, M. R. (2021) Ancient human faeces and gut microbes of the past. Naturevol.594, p182-3.)

Review article here. Primary research paper here.

(18) SOLAR FLYBY. From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive for June 11:

Image Credit & Copyright: Zev Hoover, Christian A. Lockwood, and Zoe Chakoian. Explanation: On June 10 a New Moon passed in front of the Sun. In silhouette only two days after reaching apogee, the most distant point in its elliptical orbit, the Moon’s small apparent size helped create an annular solar eclipse. The brief but spectacular annular phase of the eclipse shows a bright solar disk as a ring of fire when viewed along its narrow, northerly shadow track across planet Earth. Cloudy early morning skies along the US east coast held gorgeous views of a partially eclipsed Sun though. Rising together Moon and Sun are captured in a sequence of consecutive frames near maximum eclipse in this digital composite, seen from Quincy Beach south of Boston, Massachusetts. The serendipitous sequence follows the undulating path of a bird in flight joining the Moon in silhouette with the rising Sun.

(19) TWO TO BEAM UP. A Despicable Me cast member helps NBC Sports advertise the upcoming Olympics with its own work on the balance beam: “The Minions interrupt Simone Biles’ Olympic Training”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, John Coxon, Meredith, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day jayn.]

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 4/29/21 Who Am I To Scroll Against The Wind?

(1) ALT-FACTS. The Hugo Book Club Blog contends “Alternate facts make bad alternate history”.

… Even one of the better Alternate History works written by a very conservative author, Another Girl, Another Planet by Lou Antonelli, only really works when it avoids history altogether. When it is a big outer space adventure, it’s relatively engaging. But the version of history depicted in the novel involves weird depictions of Barack Obama as a feckless Marxist ideologue; not so much a counterfactual as a motivated smear job….

(2) NETFLIX TRAILER. Sweet Tooth is “a post-apocalyptic fairytale about a hybrid deer-boy and a wandering loner who embark on an extraordinary adventure.” All episodes of Sweet Tooth premiere on June 4, only on Netflix.

(3) #FINISHINFINITYTRAIN TRENDING WORLDWIDE. There’s an avalanche of tweets from people calling for a studio to finish the Infinity Train series.

Rose has an entire thread that starts here.

Fan art, too!

(4) THREE’S COMPANY. Kevin Standlee has some extended comments about the new Winnipeg bid and the rules governing whether it should appear on the published site selection ballot in “And Then There Were Three” on his Livejournal.

…Speaking theoretically, there are probably only about six cities in Canada that have the facilities to host a Worldcon. Two of them are in the east (Toronto and Montréal), and they’re both within 800 km of DC, which makes them ineligible to file (even as a write-in bid) under WSFS Constitution Section 4.7. (I’ve not looked at Ottawa or Quebec City’s facilities; if they have enough, then there might be eight potential sites rather than six. Also, any city I name includes anything in that city’s general area.) There’s little point in bidding for a site that’s ineligible in all but the most highly-unlikely scenarios — even more unlikely than the combination of circumstances that crashed the site selection at the 2011 Westercon, because Westercon’s rules are subtly different from Worldcon’s, and anyway, it seems unlikely to me that the existing bids would drive away so many supporters that None of the Above would win.

There are two plausible sites in western Canada (Vancouver and Calgary), but they have a somewhat less obvious political flaw, in that they’re less than 800 km from Seattle, which is bidding for 2025, The 2025 Worldcon will be selected at the 2023 Worldcon. A Worldcon selected for one of those cities would automatically disqualify Seattle’s bid. Bidding is hard enough without borrowing trouble by creating a group (Seattle’s supporters) that automatically would be biased against voting for you.

That leaves only two significant sites: Edmonton and Winnipeg. CanSMOF selected Winnipeg’s proposal, but I’m sure that Edmonton (and Calgary, and Vancouver) would make good places for a Worldcon someday….

(5) ELLISON WONDERLAND. Dread Central eavesdropped on Mick Garris’ podcast and learned “How Clive Barker Found Inspiration in Harlan Ellison’s House”.

…“[Harlan] had such an incredible collection of fantastic paintings,” Barker says on a new episode of Post Mortem with Mick Garris. “They were classics—covers of Weird Tales and all that wonderful ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s stuff.” 

Garris recalls his own visit to “Ellison Wonderland” just as fondly. He didn’t, however, get a look inside Ellison’s bomb shelter, as Barker did when he was there. (“I do know that you had to go through a hobbit door to get into it,” Garris says.)

“Behind [the door] was a locked room which he said would survive three atom bombs,” Barker says. “This is all very Harlan, right? Maybe if that’s true, then you’re just saying ‘Hello’ to the cockroaches when you get out! But it was an incredible room, because in there, he had the books that he’d collected over the years that he would want to survive the apocalypse. I don’t have a bomb-proof room, but I’ve got those books, too—the books that I feel bespeak our culture.”

(6) EASY MONTHLY PAYMENTS. Vox’s Terry Nguyen dissects the changing attitude in favor of multiple subscriptions to creators and entertainment streams: “Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+: Why we might never reach subscription fatigue”.

…A self-described avid budgeter, Mason currently spends about $120 per month on 11 subscriptions, from streaming services to Substacks and artist Patreon accounts — up from last year’s average of $94 per month.

Quarantine and the demise of digital media were driving factors in Mason’s decision to support more independent artists and writers. The pandemic is partly responsible for facilitating a subscription boom over the past year, but it’s also contributed to the growth of the creator economy, as more people make things from home. “I’m 32 with no kids, no student loans, and no plans to buy a house again,” Mason, the editorial director for the New York Times’s Games team, said. “I’m very much someone who will pay an artist for a thing that they’ve made.”

The monthly $5, $10, and $15 credit-line charges add up, though. When the subscription business model was pioneered by news publishers in the 17th century, there was little competition. Within the past two decades, all sorts of businesses have begun clamoring for a slice of the subscriber pie, from consumer product startups and retailers like Dollar Shave Club to media organizations and internet personalities.

A few major players have become so integral to people’s buying or streaming patterns, like Netflix or Amazon Prime, that consumers approach them almost as a sort of utility….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 29, 2005 –On this day in 2005, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film premiered in the USA after premiering a day earlier in the U.K. it was based loosely off the series by Douglas Adams, and it was directed by Garth Jennings with production by a not insignificant multitude of individuals. The screenplay was credited to Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick which is a neat trick indeed given that he’d died some years before. It had a rather stellar cast of Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman, Anna Chancellor and John Malkovich. Critics mostly liked it and it scores an excellent sixty five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It did not figure in the Hugo nominations the following year. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 29, 1880 – Lillian Jones.  Her one novel I know of is the first (1916) Utopia published in America by a black woman.  A century later came Karen Kossie-Chernyshev ed., Recovering “Five Generations Hence” (2013) with the text, annotations, and essays.  Here is a note from the Southwestern Historical Quarterly.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t really recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him either in hard copy or digitally. A quick bit of research suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best when I was reading him. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1919 – Elmer Perdue.  One story in Stirring.  Founding member of the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n).  Long before aluminum cans and even Country Club malt liquor – ahem – he could crush a tomato-juice can in one hand.  Active in FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n). Fan Guest of Honor at Quakecon.  More here.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born April 29, 1924 – Paul S. Newman.  A novel and a shorter story; beyond that, or besides, or something, Guinness World Record for most prolific comic-book writer: 4,100 stories, 36,000 pages.  Comic-book version of Yellow Submarine.  Tom Corbett, Space cadet.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born April 29, 1943 Russell M. Griffin. Author of but four novels as he died far too young of a heart attack. The Makeshift God, his first novel, I remember that novel as being a rather decent dystopian affair, and Century’s End was even bleaker. He wrote but nine stories. He alas has not made it into the digital realm yet. (Died 1986.) (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; he also did the editing of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, and is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. He also wrote the engaging Mr. Majeika children’s series which is most decidedly genre. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1955 Kate Mulgrew, 66. Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager and she’ll be voicing that role again on the animated Star Trek: Prodigy.  Other genre roles include voicing Red Claw on Batman: The Animated Series, the recurring role of Jane Lattimer on Warehouse 13 and Clytemnestra in Iphigenia 2.0 at the Signature Theatre Company. Finally she voiced Titania in a recurring role on Gargoyles. (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1956 – Alexander Jablokov, age 65.  Six novels, four dozen shorter stories.  Contributor to NY Review of SF.  John Clute says AJ’s first novel has darkly suave competence, the most recent is exuberantly gonzo.  AJ innocently says “In my work, I like good prose, interesting details, and as much humor as I can comfortably fit in.” [JH]
  • Born April 29, 1960 Robert J. Sawyer, 61. Hominids which is quite excellent won the Hugo for Best Novel at Torcon 3, and The Terminal Experiment won a Nebula as well. Completing a hat trick, he won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan too. Very impressive.  And then there’s the FlashForward series which lasted for thirteen episodes that was based on his novel of that name.  Interesting series that ended far too soon. (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1969 – Julia Knight, age 52.  Eight novels, a couple of shorter stories.  Has read The Great GatsbyGone with the WindTales of the Dying Earth. “When not writing [likes] motorbikes, watching wrestling or rugby….  incapable of being serious for more than five min –” oops.  [JH]
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 51. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film alongside Time Bandits), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood film that starred Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin. (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1976 – Micol Ostrow, age 45.  Five novels, one shorter story for us, also a book (with Steven Brezenoff) classified as nonfiction being The Quotable Slayer i.e. Buffy.  Fifty books all told.  Earlier, ten years a children’s-book editor.  “I live and work in Brooklyn, NY, alongside my Emmy Award – winning husband and our two daughters.  It’s pretty much the best.”  [JH]

(9) VISIT TO THE COMIC SHOP. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Marvel (and, I presume, DC) are seriously younger-izing some of their characters/stories… I took a pic of the back of the book, because IMHO it’s funnier in context of other titles.

(10) FANTASTIC COLORS. WIRED explains “How Pixar Uses Hyper-Colors to Hack Your Brain”: “But at Pixar the virtual cameras can see an infinitude of light and color.”

… In a way, every filmmaker is really just playing with moving light and color on surfaces. That’s the whole ball game, a filmic given. But Pixar takes it further, or perhaps just does it more self-consciously and systematically. Its emotionally weighty, computer-generated animated films deploy precisely calibrated color and light to convey narrative and emotion—from the near-total absence of green in WALL-E (until postapocalyptic robots find the last plant on Earth) to the luminous orange marigolds that symbolize Miguel’s trip to the magical Land of the Dead in Coco through the contrast between the cool blue luminosity of the afterlife with the warm, snuggly sepia of New York City in last year’s Soul.

In fact, almost every Pixar movie works within a specific color palette, a story-specific gamut that filmmakers like Feinberg pull from and use to plan the look of each scene, a road map known as the color script. But Coco complicated that process. When its story moves to the Land of the Dead, it cranks up all the dials, colorwise. Those scenes look made out of neon, like a bio-organic version of Tokyo’s Shinjuku District at night. “When it came time to do the color script, it was like, ‘The Land of the Dead has every color. All of it takes place at night, so we can’t use time of day to elicit emotion. There is no weather in the Land of the Dead, so we can’t use weather to elicit emotion.’ Those are three pretty typical things we use to support the story,” Feinberg says….

(11) OCTOTHORPE. In Episode 30 of the Octothorpe podcast “Try to Always Use Chaps in a Gender-Neutral Way”, “John Coxon can’t make a poll, Alison Scott knows the religious forms, and Liz Batty has one more games thing (sorry). We chat about Swancon, DisCon III, FIYAHCON and the Hugo Awards.”

(12) GOOD CAT. “Kid’s Science Fair Project Answers the Eternal Question: ‘Do Cat Butts Really Touch All the Surfaces in Your Home?’” at Popsugar. Highly scientific answer at the link.

…For his homeschool science fair project, Kaeden [Griffin] tackled one of the most perplexing questions stumping pet owners: “Does your cat’s butthole really touch all the surfaces in your home?”

Kaeden, like many others out there, assumed that if his cat sits on a surface, then their “butthole will also touch said surface,” and to test his hypothesis, he and his mom, Kerry, applied nontoxic lipstick (bright red lipstick, in fact!) to the buttholes of their two well-behaved cats. The cats were then given a series of commands — including sit, wait, lie down, and jump up — and were compensated with praise and treats. The lipstick was removed with a baby wipe once they collected the necessary data, which took place in less than 10 minutes….

(13) BAD DOG. Or so the narrative goes. “The NYPD is sending its controversial robot dog back to the pound”The Verge has the story.

The New York Police Department has canceled its trial of a robot dog made by US firm Boston Dynamics after receiving fierce criticism regarding the “dystopian” technology.

“The contract has been terminated and the dog will be returned,” a spokesperson for the NYPD told the New York PostJohn Miller, the department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, told The New York Times that the machine was “a casualty of politics, bad information and cheap sound bytes.” Said Miller: “People had figured out the catchphrases and the language to somehow make this evil.”

The NYPD began leasing the machine nicknamed Digidog last year. “This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal,” said the NYPD’s Frank Digiacomo in an interview with ABC7. The robot was deployed roughly half a dozen times during its tenure, mostly acting as a mobile camera in potentially hostile environments…

(14) SPACE AS SEEN FROM THE BOTTOM OF A LAKE. A high-tech project is“Hunting ghost particles beneath the world’s deepest lake” says DT Next.

A neutrino-spotting telescope beneath the frozen Lake Baikal in Russia is close to delivering scientific results after four decades of setbacks. A glass orb, the size of a beach ball, plops into a hole in the ice and descends on a metal cable toward the bottom of the world’s deepest lake.

Then another, and another. These light-detecting orbs come to rest suspended in the pitch-dark depths down as far as 4,000 feet below the surface. The cable carrying them holds 36 such orbs, spaced 50 feet apart. There are 64 such cables, held in place by anchors and buoys, two miles off the southern coast of this lake in Siberia with a bottom that is more than a mile down.

This is a telescope, the largest of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere, built to explore black holes, distant galaxies and the remnants of exploded stars. It does so by searching for neutrinos, cosmic particles so tiny that many trillions pass through each of us every second. If only we could learn to read the messages they bear, scientists believe, we could chart the universe, and its history, in ways we cannot yet fully fathom.

“You should never miss the chance to ask nature any question,” said Grigori V. Domogatski, 80, a Russian physicist who has led the quest to build this underwater telescope for 40 years. After a pause, he added: “You never know what answer you will get.” It is still under construction, but the telescope that Dr. Domogatski and other scientists have long dreamed of is closer than ever to delivering results. This hunt for neutrinos from the far reaches of the cosmos, spanning eras in geopolitics and in astrophysics, sheds light on how Russia has managed to preserve some of the scientific prowess that characterised the Soviet Union.

The Lake Baikal venture is not the only effort to hunt for neutrinos in the world’s most remote places. Dozens of instruments seek the particles in specialised laboratories all over the planet. But the new Russian project will be an important complement to the work of IceCube, the world’s largest neutrino telescope, an American-led, $279 million project that encompasses about a quarter of a cubic mile of ice in Antarctica….

(15) THE GOTHA OF DELIVERY DRONES. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown reports on a new drone by the German company Wingcopter that can deliver three packages on one flight whereas existing delivery drones can only deliver one package at a time. “Wingcopter is mass producing ‘triple-drop’ drones to deliver more packages, faster”.

… “Today, in order to deploy three packages at one time, companies would have to buy or lease three drones,” Plümmer said. “Price-wise, you’re not going to want to have three of them when you can have one. And no one wants thousands of drones flying above their heads.”

The start-up’s new device is central to its broader vision of providing drones to firms seeking ways to distribute hot meals, groceries, medical supplies or other lightweight goods. It was created to “power logistical highways in the sky,” Plümmer said.

The company says the eight-rotor air vehicle is capable of level-four autonomy, which means it is mostly autonomous but requires a human for some tasks.

It has a 5.8-foot wingspan and measures under 4.5 feet from nose to tail…. 

(16) AVOIDING THE END. The original attempt to stop global warming! “Did Vikings Host Ragnarök Rituals at Surtshellir?” in Smithsonian Magazine.

…The team’s findings, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, show that the eruption that formed the cave, known as Surtshellir, occurred in the late ninth century A.D., soon after the first Viking settlement of Iceland.

Per the paper, this incident was probably the first major volcanic eruption witnessed by people in northern Europe since the end of the last Ice Age more than 10,000 years prior. The explosion covered about 90 square miles of fertile land in volcanic rock.

“[T]he impacts of this eruption must have been unsettling, posing existential challenges for Iceland’s newly arrived settlers,” write the authors in the study.

According to Owen Jarus of Live Science, the Vikings entered the newly formed cave soon after the lava cooled. They constructed the boat structure, placing ritual offerings inside and burning the bones of animals, including sheep, goats, cattle, horses and pigs. Historical records show that the Vikings associated the cave with Surtr, a giant responsible for battling the gods during Ragnarök and bringing about the end of the world in Norse mythology….

(17) BOOK TRAILER. An appetizer to get you interested in Einstein – The Fantastic Journey of a Mouse Through Time and Space by Torben Kuhlmann. More about the book as well as a sneak peek here.  

Time is relative! Award-winning, illustrator Torben Kuhlmann’s brilliant new book bends time and imagination! When an inventive mouse misses the biggest cheese festival the world has ever seen, he’s determined to turn back the clock. But what is time, and can it be influenced? With the help of a mouse clockmaker, a lot of inventiveness, and the notes of a certain famous Swiss physicist he succeeds in traveling back in time. But when he misses his goal by eighty years, the only one who can help is an employee of the Swiss Patent Office, who turned our concept of space and time upside down….

Suppose Albert Einstein’s famous theories first came into being through an encounter with a little mouse.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Hampus Eckerman, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, James Davis Nicoll, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 4/15/21 Pixel Dawns On MarbleScroll

(1) PAY THE WRITER. Adam Whitehead in “Disney and Alan Dean Foster approaching settlement on royalties” at The Wertzone brings promising news:

Foster does not go into details, but notes on his webpage.

“The irritating imbroglio with Disney, which you may have read about, is moving towards a mutually agreeable conclusion. A formal statement will be forthcoming.”

Hopefully the matter will now be resolved and Disney will agree to uphold their contractual obligations moving forwards with both Foster and all other impacted authors.

For background, see Cora Buhlert’s post “The #DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster and SFWA Joint Press Conference”.

(2) NO, THE REAL WRITER. The Guardian says the proceeds of a literary prize were ripped off by scammers: “Rathbones Folio prize paid £30,000 to scammers posing as the winner”. (Incidentally, they did make it good to the genuine winner.)

… Publishing industry magazine the Bookseller revealed on Wednesday that the Folio, which is awarded to the year’s best work of literature regardless of form, was scammed by “sophisticated cyber-criminals”. The scammers posed as the Mexican author [Valeria] Luiselli, who had won with her novel Lost Children Archive, and requested that the £30,000 payment be made through PayPal.

Minna Fry, the prize’s executive director, confirmed that the funds were lost and that “the police were informed at the time, as were key industry colleagues”.

“Our winner Valeria Luiselli was awarded her prize money in full, and the lost funds were absorbed by cost savings elsewhere,” she added.

The prize is run by a charity and is independent from its sponsor, Rathbone Investment Management. Fry said the investment firm “have supported us through this incident and helped us to put in place additional safeguarding measures”.

This is not the first time a book prize has been targeted by fraudsters. A spokesperson for the Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction, worth £50,000, confirmed that it was also targeted in November, but no funds were paid.

“Someone emailed pretending to be the 2020 winner Craig Brown and asked us to pay the prize money via PayPal,” a spokesperson for the prize told the Bookseller…

(3) EXIT THE WAYFARER UNIVERSE. On the Imaginary Worlds podcast “Becky Chambers Goes Wayfaring”.

Becky Chambers’ latest novel, “The Galaxy and The Ground Within,” is the final book in her Wayfarer series, which is about aliens, humans and AI trying to make their way through the galaxy and find common ground. Some of the characters in her books may seem fantastical and strange, but the conversations between them often revolve around familiar issues like identity, gender, family structure, and politics. We talk about why she’s closing this chapter in her writing career, even though the Wayfarer series could’ve gone on indefinitely, and what she has planned next.

(4) WEB OF LIES. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee casts an oversized shadow across comic book fandom. But arguments abound about how much credit he deserves for the various works he is purportedly behind. In a new deeply-researched biography True Believer, journalist Abraham Riesman looks at this iconic figure. It’s a terrific book that perhaps people should be considering for Best Related Work on *next year’s* Hugo ballot, and that the Hugo Book Club Blog reviewed this week:  “The Lies That Bind”.

There is a long tradition of fandom idolizing a certain variety of PT Barnum-style self-promoter. This tradition has come under much-needed scrutiny in the past decade thanks to works such as Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farrah Mendelsohn. Abraham Riesman’s True Believer is a welcome addition to this critical reckoning.

(5) SPOTTED IN GOTHAM. Did you know François Truffaut took the robot dog out of his film of Fahrenheit 451 because there was no technology for the dog? Well, that future has just about arrived: “NYPD Deploys ‘Creepy’ New Robot Dog In Manhattan Public Housing Complex” in Gothamist.

… The remote-controlled bot was made by Boston Dynamics, a robotics company famous for its viral videos of machines dancing and running with human-like dexterity. (Versions of “Spot,” as the mechanical dog is known, can open doors, and are strong enough to help tow an 18-wheeler.)

Since October, the NYPD has dispatched the robot to a handful of crime scenes and hostage situations, raising fears of unwanted surveillance and questions about the department’s use of public dollars. The mobile dog, which comes equipped with automated sensors, lights, and cameras capable of collecting “limitless data,” is sold at a starting price of $74,000.

A spokesperson for the NYPD said the robot dog was on standby, but not used, during a domestic dispute at East 28th Street on Monday afternoon. After a man allegedly barricaded himself inside a room with a mother and her baby, officers showed up and convinced him to let them exit. The man was arrested for weapons possession, police said….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 15, 1944 –On this day in 1944, The Monster Maker which was originally titled The Devil’s Apprentice premiered. It was directed by Sam Newfield and produced from a script written by by Sigmund Neufeld which was by Lawrence Williams, Pierre Gendron and Martin Mooney. It starred J. Carrol Naish, Talla Birell, Wanda McKay and Ralph Morgan. It was almost completely ignored by critics at the time and it currently holds an extremely low five percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. You can see it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 15, 1452 – Leonardo da Vinci.  One of our greatest neighbors.  Among his many drawings were things that could almost be made then; dreaming them up, and depicting them, took imagination very much like SF authors’ and illustrators’.  Here is a 500th-anniversary exhibit I made for Dublin 2019 the 77th Worldcon with high-tech graphics wizard Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink (shown as it appeared at Loscon XLVI later; scroll down past Rotsler Award photos).  (Died 1519) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1908 – Howard Browne.  Edited Amazing and Fantastic; five novels, a dozen shorter stories for us, some under other names; also detective fiction; films, television.  More here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1933 Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had on every-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born April 15, 1937  Thomas F. Sutton. Comic book artist who’s best known for his contributions to Marvel Comics and  Warren Publishing’s line of black-and-white horror magazines. He’s particularly known as the first artist of the Vampirella series. He illustrated “Vampirella of Draculona”, the first story which was written by Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born April 15, 1938 – Unipán Helga, age 83.  (Personal name last, Hungarian style.)  Designed more than a hundred twenty books, many ours.  Here is The Antics of Robi Robot (in Romanian).  Here is an interior from the Jun 73 Korunk (“Our Age”).   Here is Orthopedic Hat.  Here is The Vicissitudes of a Brave Mouse.  Here is Calendar of Nature.  [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1941 – Mal Dean.  Six covers, twoscore interiors for us.  Particularly associated with Michael Moorcock and the graphic-art Jerry Cornelius.  Here is the Jun 69 New Worlds.  Here is “The Duke of Queens duels Lord Shark the Unknown” illustrating MM’s “White Stars”.  Here is the Nov 75 – Jan 76 Other Times.  Outside our field, jazz trumpeter & bandleader, illustrator; cartoonist.  Here is a posthumous artbook.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1949 – Tim Bolgeo.  Uncle Timmy chaired LibertyCons 1-25, Chattacons 7-11.  Fan Guest of Honor at Con*Stellation III (not this one), DeepSouthCon 43, StellarCon 33, LibertyCon 32.  Four decades a fixture in fandom.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1949  Sharan Newman, 72. Author of the most excellent Guinevere trilogy (GuinevereChessboard Queen and Guinevere Evermore), a superb reinterpretation of the Arthurian saga . They’re available at the usual digital suspects as is her superb Catherine LeVendeur medieval mystery series. Alas her SF short stories are not. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1966 – Cressida Crowell, age 56.  A dozen novels, particularly about How to Train Your Dragon (eleven million copies sold) and The Wizards of Once.  Illustrates many of her own books.  Blue Peter Book Award.  “Children are surrounded by adults who are VERY BOSSY.  They might not always mean to be bossy, and they have the best of intentions, but still.”  [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 47. Winner at Chicon 7 of the Best Fan Writer Hugo. Author of the Goblin Quest series which I’ve read at least two of and enjoyed. Same for his Magic ex Libris series. Yeah more popcorn reading. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1990 Emma Watson, 31. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise which lasted an entire decade. She was Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 24. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, during the time of Twelfth Doctor who would be back several times more. She was Wolfsbane in the Marvel film New Mutants. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) CLARION CALLS. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, organized by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego, is hosting the Winter Writers Series, a monthly series of conversations between Clarion alumni and instructors about the art of speculative fiction and their writing careers. These conversations, co-hosted by Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, are presented via Zoom Webinars and are free and open to the public. Each conversation will include time for Q&A with the audience. The next is —

Speculative Horror

April 21, 2021, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

Join us for a conversation about ins and outs of writing modern horror with three astounding writers and Clarion alumni/instructors who terrify and unsettle us.

Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The PhysiognomyThe Girl in the GlassThe Portrait of Mrs. CharbuqueThe Shadow YearThe Twilight Pariah, and Ahab’s Return. His story collections are The Fantasy Writer’s AssistantThe Empire of Ice CreamThe Drowned LifeCrackpot Palace, and A Natural History of Hell.

Victor LaValle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus, four novels, The EcstaticBig MachineThe Devil in Silver, and The Changeling and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the creator and writer of a comic book Victor LaValle’s DESTROYER. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the World Fantasy Award, British World Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award, Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Shirley Jackson Award, American Book Award, and the key to Southeast Queens. He was raised in Queens, New York. He now lives in Washington Heights with his wife and kids. He teaches at Columbia University.

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula-Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a best book of the year for Vulture, The Washington Post, Barnes & Noble, and more – and a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). A recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award and a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Sam’s work has been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, John W. Campbell and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. A community organizer by day, he lives in New York City. His latest novel is The Blade Between.

(10) LEEDS LIBRARY ARTICLE ON E.R. EDDISON. The Secret Library / Leeds Libraries Heritage Blog profiles the author in “Novels That Shaped Our World: Life, Death and Other Worlds”.

…In 1922 he published his first and most notable fantasy work, The Worm Ouroboros. The Worm, a serpent or snake, derived from the old Norse, ormr. This he followed with three volumes set in the imaginary world first observed by the Lords Juss and Brandoch Daha as they gaze from the top of great mountain, Koshstra Pevrarcha in The Worm, Zimiamvia, known as The Zimiamvian trilogyMistress of Mistresses (1935), A Fish Dinner in Memison (1941), and The Mezentian Gate (published posthumously in 1958). His Icelandic sagas were: Styrbiorn the Strong (1926) and his much admired translation of Egil’s Saga (1930).

In 1963 almost twenty years after Eddison’s death his late wife, Winifred Grace, and his close friend and literary executor, Sir George Rostrevor Hamilton deposited into the care of the special collections of the Leeds Central Library the vast majority of Eddison’s manuscript works….

(11) LIVE OCTOTHORPE. Big doings by John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty on the Octothorpe podcast.  Listen to Episode 29 here — “Ode to Badger”.

John is not Chris Garcia, Alison is full of beans, and Liz is T. S. Eliot. We handle letters of comment and then spend an hour talking about ConFusion in a BUMPER EPISODE.

You also are invited to join them for Octothorpe Live on 25 April – either join the Facebook group here or email them at octothorpecast@gmail.com for the Zoom link!

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League/Trilogy” on YouTube is HBO Max’s repackaging of Man Of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League into a trilogy.

[Thanks to Edd Vick, Bruce D. Arthurs, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Steven French, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/18/21 The Zack Pixel Cut

(1) THAT LESSON DOESN’T MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Charlie Jane Anders breaks down the “7 Wrong Lessons That Creators Learned From Game of Thrones” for Tor.com readers.

2. Viewers still love the “smartest guy in the room”

Superficially, Tyrion Lannister might appear to fit in with the “smartest man in the room” archetype, as made famous by HouseSherlock and certain Doctors on Doctor Who. And I think that the widespread love of Peter Dinklage’s fantastic performance as Tyrion helped give this already-popular trope a new lease on life.

Except that when you scratch the surface, Tyrion is lovable because he’s frequently one step behind his enemies, and wrong more often than right. Season one of Thrones features Tyrion blundering from one bad situation to another, without much of a clue, and he survives by luck as much as cunning. His best moments in season one are ones in which he acts recklessly, slapping Prince Joffrey and joking about turtle soup in front of people who already want to execute him.

And when Tyrion sets his mind to playing politics, he’s never particularly good at it. As Hand of the King, he’s mostly a disaster—he doesn’t work well with the king he’s supposed to be serving, and he wastes all his energy feuding with Cersei and trying to figure out whether he can trust the Grand Maester or Varys or Littlefinger. (News flash: he can’t trust any of them.) His big brainwave, sending Myrcella away for her own safety, results in Myrcella’s utterly predictable death. When Tyrion becomes Daenerys’ Hand and starts giving her terrible advice, it’s a continuation of his previous track record.

Nobody loved Tyrion because he was smarter than everybody else, but because he was funny and entertaining and obnoxious in a good way, and he wore his broken heart on his sleeve.

(2) SUBSTACK UNDER THE MICROSCOPE. Newsletters are proliferating as more writers find them useful for publicity and to create another revenue stream. Substack has been a popular platform for managing and distributing people’s content, but one of their programs has been a source of controversy because the company has been satisfied to let the money rain on the just and unjust alike.

Andrew Liptak provides a concise and lucid explanation of the issues in a recent issue of his Transfer Orbit newsletter (which extends well beyond this excerpt).

…That brings us to this week: Substack recently unveiled an initiative called Substack Pro, which subsidized a group of 30 or so writers by paying them an advance, which would get paid back through a newsletter that’s given the boost to self-sufficiency. In theory, that’s a good idea for both writers and Substack.

But — and there’s a but — in doing so, Substack crosses the line from being a platform that hosts user-generated content, to something that’s actually facilitating its publication. It’s an inherent editorial choice, one that comes with some particular problems. Author Jude Ellison Sady Doyle highlighted some of the issues that this poses: “In Queers We Trust. All Others pay Cash” in which he laid out some systemic issues that they’re seeing with the company, and how Substack Pro is troubling in that some of the authors who seem to be part of the program have engaged in some anti-Trans rhetoric….

… This whole thing has caused a bit of a firestorm amongst folks within the SF/F community. I’ve seen a bunch of folks like Aidan MoherKarin LowacheeAnnalee Newitz, and Maddie Stone depart the platform over this….

Liptak is not leaving Substack at this time, but he is looking for a suitable place to move.

Elizabeth Bear explained to her readers why she’s staying at Substack in “On the Kerfuffles of Capitalism” at Throw Another Bear in the Canoe.

… If I refuse to work with publishers who pay royalties to objectively crappy people, I’m going to have to go get a job as an office manager and frankly I no longer have the wardrobe for that gig. Also I’ve developed a morbid fear of telephones.

Heck, there are a few people in publishing who think I’m an objectively crappy person, for reasons of their own. I haven’t seen any of them refusing to work with my publishers.

I also don’t see why progressives should en-masse abandon a pretty useful tool for outreach and a decent income stream without a much better reason than “capitalism is kind of fucked, internet capitalism doubly so.” It is, but we all have to live here for now.

So for the time being, this content will continue to be available both here and over on Patreon. (If you’re no longer comfortable with Substack feel free to follow me over there. Same content, also delivered to your mailbox, different capitalist overlords.) Much of it free, a percentage of it for paid subscribers only….

Sarah Gailey is moving their Stone Soup newsletter from Substack to another platform: “We Are A Snail”.

I would say it’s time for us to go, but we aren’t really going anywhere. We don’t have to leave the home we’ve built out of each other; we can move through the world without risking the elements.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, our little community is going to travel from Substack to Ghost.io.

If you’re curious about the motivation behind leaving Substack, here’s a good place to start, and here’s a good place to learn more. The short and diplomatic version is that Substack is doing some questionable financial business, and simultaneously isn’t protecting trans people the way it ought to. There’s quite a lot I’d like to say about the situation, but for now I’ll leave it at this: the choice between protecting profit and protecting people feels like a difficult one, but in reality, it is a false choice. It’s easy to make that decision feel complicated, but it’s not. If there can be no profit without investment in exposing trans people to harm, then there should be no profit.

I think we’ll all be very happy at Ghost, and I know my heart will be quite a bit lighter once we’ve made the shift….

(3) ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE. This list of “114 Fiction Sub-Genre Descriptions for Writers” from Writer’s Digest should give you plenty to nitpick!

Here’s a breakdown of some of your favorite fiction genres, including romance, horror, thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/crime. Find more than 100 fiction sub-genre descriptions for writers….

(4) MULTIPLE CHOICE. YouTuber Dominic Noble reviews Kiln People by David Brin in “Detective Mystery… BUT WITH CLONES!”.

(5) HABIT NUMBER 5. The Onion’s slideshow “Habits Of Silicon Valley’s Most Powerful Fortune 500 CEOs” includes a bitter joke about the fate of the publishing industry.

(6) THE BIG STFNAL SLEEP. James Davis Nicoll rounds up five examples of “Classic SF About Extremely Long Naps”.

Sleep! How precious, how precarious! Many of us struggle with insomnia. Perhaps we have apnea. Perhaps we own a cat who believes motionless humans are food. Perhaps we are simply aware that up to forty thousand redback spiders can fit into the volume of the average pillow. But sleep can be overdone. Imagine waking to discover that decades or centuries have passed…

This is a convenient way for an author to arrange for a protagonist not unlike the reader to tour an alien setting. Unsurprisingly, a lot of authors have taken advantage of the plot possibilities of the long sleep…

(7) MORISSEY OBIT. Artist Dean Morrissey  (1951-2021), a four-time Chesley Award winner, died March 4. The family obituary is here. Morrissey was a self-taught artist who was inspired to become an illustrator through his admiration for the work of painters ranging from Rembrandt to N.C. Wyeth.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 18, 1981 — On this day in 1981, The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca.  It had to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product.  After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”). You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 18, 1909 – C. Walter Hodges.  Author-illustrator, theatrical costume & scenery designer, student of the Elizabethan stage; Shakespeare’s Theatre won the Greenaway Medal.  Here is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  Here is a Chronicles of Robin Hood.  Here is The Little White Horse (a unicorn).  Here is Make-Believe.  Here is Enter the Whole Army.  Here is The Wouldbegoods.  After a Wayne State Univ. plan to reconstruct the Globe Theatre collapsed, CWH sold nearly a thousand drawings to the Folger Lib’y; they can now be browsed electronically.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. No idea what it’s like as I’ve never heard of it before. He wrote a number of other genre-friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born March 18, 1936 – M. Thomas Inge, Ph.D., age 85.  Professor of Humanities at Randolph-Macon College (Ashland, Virginia), where he teaches, among much else, American humor and comic art, film & animation.  Edited A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for Oxford World Classics; James Branch Cabell, Centennial Essays (with E. MacDonald; JBC said “Tell the rabble my name is Cabell”); Comics as Culture; wrote The Incredible Mr. Poe on comic-book adaptations of EAP works; Anything Can Happen in A Comic Strip; threescore books.  Faulkner scholar.  Davis Award for Lifetime Contributions to Southern Letters. [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1947 – Drew Struzan, age 74.  Seventy covers, a few interiors; movie posters.  Here is Blade Runner.  Here is Back to the Future.  Here is Rebel Dawn.  Here is The Art of Drew Struzan. [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1949 – Tullio Proni, age 72.  Master machinist and electronics expert, co-founded General Technics.  Leading concocter of the blinkies which seemed to appear everywhere in the 1970s under the name Isher Enterprises.  This led to annual house parties called Ishercon.  Mad Scientist Guest of Honor at DucKon IV.  [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1950 J.G. Hertzler, 71. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the  “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, CharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 62. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast, Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 60. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1973 – Max Barry, age 48.  Six novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Invented electronic game NationStates.  Aurealis Award, Western Australian Premier’s Book Award.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1993 – Samantha Hoffman, age 28.   Fourteen novels.  Says of herself, “Her favorite genre to write is paranormal romance, but she also likes to dabble in fantasy and horror, as well as having a new love of science fiction.”  [JH]

(10) A SPECIAL DAY IS ON THE WAY. The International Carnivorous Plant Society recently announced that the first-ever World Carnivorous Plant Day, a worldwide event dedicated to spotlighting carnivorous plant public awareness and education, starts on May 5, 2021.

The ICPS is proud to promote the first ever World Carnivorous Plant Day, to be held on the first Wednesday of May (May 5th, 2021). In lieu of the international conference in Himeji, Japan, World Carnivorous Plant Day 2021 will serve as the preeminent carnivorous plant event of the year. This day-long web event will stand in for the delayed ICPS conference. The conference has been rescheduled to occur in Japan in 2022.

To assist with these efforts, events involving the Richardson-based carnivorous plant gallery The Texas Triffid Ranch (Dallas’s Pretty Much Only Carnivorous Plant Gallery) run through May 5, 2021, and continue through the end of 2021.

(11) KING’S CHOICE. “Ten Pulp Crime Authors Recommended By Stephen King” at CrimeReads. And guess who’s on the list!

RAY BRADBURY

In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, Hard Case Crime published Killer, Come Back to Me, a brand new collection of the master’s crime fiction—less well known than his trademark fantasy, but just as unforgettable. At the time of his death, King wrote, “Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder.’ The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.”

(12) WEEP WAIL. In the latest episode of Octothorpe. “John is excited, Alison is oh boy oh boy oh boy, and Liz… isn’t.” Listen here: “Eeyore of Eastercon”.

 We celebrate our anniversary with a myriad of letters of comment, we discuss Eastercon’s platform news, and then we talk excitedly about fanzines and that new Douglas Adams book.

(13) LEVERS OF CHANGE. Mental Floss extols a documentary that shows “How ‘Star Trek’ and Nichelle Nichols Changed the Face of NASA”.

Nichelle Nichols is best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series. But the 88-year-old actor also carries with her a lesser-known legacy: Playing a foundational role in the formation of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program and inspiring generations of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) leaders.

A new documentary titled Woman In Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek, and the Remaking of NASA details the powerful, revealing, and uplifting story of Nichols’s advocacy and the crucial part she played in not just bringing diversity to NASA’s astronaut classes but in shaping the American space program we know today….

(14) PUT A LID ON IT. “New analysis shows potential for ‘solar canals’ in California”Tech Xplore has the story.

UC Santa Cruz researchers published a new study—in collaboration with UC Water and the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced—that suggests covering California’s 6,350 km network of public water delivery canals with solar panels could be an economically feasible means of advancing both renewable energy and water conservation.

The concept of “solar canals” has been gaining momentum around the world as climate change increases the risk of drought in many regions. Solar panels can shade canals to help prevent water loss through evaporation, and some types of solar panels also work better over canals, because the cooler environment keeps them from overheating….

(15) FULL OF STARS. “A photographer spent 12 years capturing this Milky Way image – and it’s breathtaking”Microsoft News has the story, and a link to the picture.

What have you been working on for the past 12 years? Whatever it was, I bet it’s not as awesome as this ridiculously awesome Milky Way image by J-P Metsavainio. His work on the composite photo began in 2009 and a dozen years later he has one of the most spectacular works of astronomy art you’ll ever lay eyes on. The image is huge both in its pixel resolution and its ambition, as the photographer had to collect a whopping 234 photos in order to piece together the final product.

As PetaPixel reports, Metsavainio began capturing specific features of the Milky Way with his high-end camera equipment and astronomy accessories. Those images are works of art in their own right, but the composite image that they helped to produce is even more spectacular.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Super Mario 3D World & Bowser’s Fury” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the latest Mario release reintroduces gamers to “the strangely proportioned fictional plumber you love more than your own parents” with a bonus feature where Mario enters a “strange cat-centric alternate dimension” where he fights giant cats.

[Thanks to Ruth Sachter, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Frank Olynyk, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Moshe Feder, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lise Andreasen.]

Pixel Scroll 3/4/21 And All The Scrolls Are Full Of Pix

(1) SPACE OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY. The virtual Tucson Festival of Books will include a panel “Galactic Empires, Murderbots and More!” with Tochi Onyebuchi, John Scalzi, and Martha Wells on Saturday March 6 at 11:00 a.m. Mountain time. Registration info here.

(2) GUEST WHO? “Star Trek: The Next Generation Almost Featured Robin Williams” at CBR.com.

…One actor the show never snagged, however, was Robin Williams, despite the fact that an episode was written specifically for him and the actor’s passion for the series.

The episode written for Robin Williams was Season 5, Episode 9, “A Matter of Time.” The episode focuses on the time-traveler Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a 26th century historian who traveled back in time to observe Picard and the crew of the Enterprise during a crucial moment. Except Rasmussen didn’t come from the future — he came from the past. He had stolen his time machine and was visiting The Next Generation‘s 24th century in order to steal as much technology as he could and become rich back in his own time….

(3) THE WONDER OF THUNDER. Netflix dropped a trailer for Thunder Force, a superhero comedy with Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer.

(4) HARD SF LAUGHS. “Weir(d) Science: PW Talks with Andy Weir” is a Q&A at Publishers Weekly about the author’s neaw book Project Hail Mary.

How did you decide on the level of humor?

I’m a smartass myself, so smartass comments come naturally to me. For me, humor is like the secret weapon of exposition. If you make exposition funny, the reader will forgive any amount of it. And in science fiction—especially with my self-imposed restriction that I want to be as scientifically accurate as possible—you end up spending a lot of time doing exposition.

(5) FIRST STEP INTO SPACE. In the “ESA – Parastronaut feasibility project”, the European Space Agency will try to develop people with physical disabilities as astronauts. (Click for larger image.)

For the first time in over a decade, ESA is looking for new astronauts. These recruits will work alongside ESA’s existing astronauts as Europe enters a new era of space exploration.

In a first for ESA and human spaceflight worldwide, ESA is looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware.

ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as professional crew members on a safe and useful space mission.

… Because we believe that exploration is the matter of a collective effort, we need to extend the pool of talents we can rely on in order to continue progressing in our endeavour. One effective way of doing this is to include more gifted people of different genders, ages and backgrounds, but also people with special needs, people living with physical disabilities.

Right now we are at step zero. The door is closed to persons with disabilities. With this pilot project we have the ambition to open this door and make a leap, to go from zero to one.

…There are many unknowns ahead of us, the only promise we can make today is one of a serious, dedicated and honest attempt to clear the path to space for a professional astronaut with disability.

(6) AN INCREDIBLE CAREER. Sunday Profile: LeVar Burton on YouTube is an interview of Burton (he’s now a grandfather!) by Mo Rocca that aired on CBS Sunday Morning on February 28.

(7) #ILOOKLIKEANENGINEER . S.B. Divya, in “Hard Science Fiction Is Still Overwhelmingly White—But It’s Getting Better” at CrimeReads, says hard sf is becoming more welcoming to women and people of color as engineering and technology become more diverse professions.

…I didn’t start my adult life as a writer. First, I wanted to be a scientist. I went to Caltech to major in astrophysics, got sideswiped by computational neuroscience, and ended up working in electrical and computer engineering. From the moment I set foot on the Caltech campus, to the most recent tech job I held, I found myself and my fellow female engineers vastly outnumbered by our male cohort. Over almost 25 years in the industry, I have not seen these ratios improve. If anything, they’re getting worse.

The same phenomenon appears in so-called “hard science fiction,” which is another label that people attach to Michael Crichton’s novels. This subgenre encompasses stories whose speculative science and technology elements do not put a strain on credibility. (In contrast, see any fiction involving faster-than-light spacecraft, anti-gravity, or time travel.) Here, too, is a domain whose bestsellers are dominated by white men.

We live in the year 2021, and yet we persist in associating certain jobs—and certain types of stories—with specific groups of people. Engineers are Asian; startup CEOs are white. School teachers are women, and academics are men. Unfortunately, many times the statistics bear these out in reality, too. Why do we struggle to break free of these narratives and associations? Because we have so few counterexamples that are publicized. It’s not that they don’t exist, but they do not permeate our popular consciousness. It takes effort to overcome these associations, whether you fit in the stereotyped demographic or not. Without that struggle, the associations become self-fulling prophecies.

(8) ECHO WIFE NEWS. Sarah Gailey’s new book has been optioned – Deadline has the story: “Annapurna To Adapt Sarah Gailey’s Novel ‘The Echo Wife’ For Film”.

After a competitive situation, Annapurna has successfully optioned the rights to bestselling author Sarah Gailey’s most recent novel The Echo Wife and is adapting the book as a feature film.

Gailey will executive produce the project alongside Annapurna….

Hugo Award-winning and bestselling author Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Gailey’s nonfiction has been published by Mashable and The Boston Globe, and won a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Gailey’s fiction credits also include Vice and The Atlantic. The author’s debut novella, River of Teeth, was a 2018 finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Their bestselling adult novel debut, Magic For Liars, published in 2019.

The Echo Wife was published on Feb. 16 by Tor Books, the science fiction and fantasy division of Macmillan Publishers….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 4, 1977 — On this day in 1977,  Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four TV movies. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders.” Despite that, he’s here because he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour“. And he was also in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1933 – Bernie Zuber.  Original vice-president of the Mythopoeic Society.  Early editor of Mythlore.  Founded the Tolkien Fellowships, edited The Westmarch Chronicle.  Guest of Mythcon XIII.  Active in local (Los Angeles) fandom.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1952 – Richard Stevenson, age 69.  College English teacher of Canada, has also taught in Nigeria, musician with Sasquatch and Naked Ear.  A score of poetry books, memoir Riding on a Magpie Riff.  Six dozen poems for us.  Stephansson Award (Writers Guild of Alberta).  Has published haikusenryu (two Japanese short-poetry forms, unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines), tanka (Japanese short-poetry form, unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines).  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1954 Catherine Anne O’Hara, 67. First genre role role was in the most excellent Beetlejuice filmas artist Delia Deetz followed by being Texie Garcia in Dick Tracy, a film I’ll be damn if I know what I think about. She voices most excellently Sally / Shock bringing her fully to, errr, life in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I see she’s in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Justice Strauss. Lastly, and no this is by no means a complete listing of what she has done, she was on Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Dr. Georgina Orwell. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event HorizonAlien V. PredatorPandorum and even Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1966 Paul Malmont, 55. Author of the comic strips, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise which blends pulp tropes and SF elements including using as protagonists Heinlein and Asimov. He wrote the first four issues of DC Comics’ Doc Savage series with artist Howard Porter. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1969 – Sarah Bernard, age 52.  Half a dozen books for us.  Did her own cover for this one.  Has read a Complete Sherlock Holmes, three by Julian May, a dozen by Anne McCaffrey.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 – Marco Zaffino, age 48.  Author, filmmaker, musician; some for us e.g. Pure Bred Chihuahua.  Things can be unclear at borders (perhaps why those bookshops closed); see this Website.  These Sentries might be ours.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 Len Wiseman, 48. Producer or Director on the Underworld franchise. Also involved in StargateIndependence DayMen in Black and Godzilla in the Property Department. Sleepy Hollow series creator and producer for much of it, wrote pilot as well. Producer for much of the Lucifer seriesas well and is the producer for the entire series of Swamp Thing. Also produced The Gifted. (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Maggie Lehrman, age 39.  One novel for us; another outside our field, reviewed by Kirkus as “An earnest high school romp” which I guess leaves ML feeling as I did when someone – who as I’ve said is still my friend – described me as an earnest man in a propeller beanie, I mean what do you want?  Anyway, Website here. [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Lauren Miller, age 39.  Two novels for us, one other; now working on another as L. McBrayer.  She says “writing and seeing and being.  I have come to believe that there is magic to be found if we can learn to do all three at the same time.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SEUSS ON THE LOOSE. The New York Times’ coverage — “Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts” – includes these interesting sales figures.

…Classic children’s books are perennial best sellers and an important revenue stream for publishers. Last year, more than 338,000 copies of “Green Eggs and Ham” were sold across the United States, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks the sale of physical books at most retailers. “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” sold more than 311,000 copies, and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” — always popular as a high school graduation gift — sold more than 513,000 copies.

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” one of the six books pulled by the estate, sold about 5,000 copies last year, according to BookScan. “McElligot’s Pool” and “The Cat’s Quizzer” haven’t sold in years through the retailers BookScan tracks. Putting the merits of the books aside, removing “Green Eggs and Ham” would be a completely different business proposition from doing away with new printings of “McElligot’s Pool.” (Though the news that the books would be pulled caused a burst of demand, and copies of “Mulberry Street” were listed on eBay and Amazon for hundreds or thousands of dollars on Wednesday.)

(13) MISSION UNPOSSIBLE. Science Fiction 101 is a new podcast by Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie: “It’s Alive: Science Fiction 101 first episode!” Their first mission, should they choose to accept it, is to define the term!

In this debut episode, your friendly hosts Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie first attempt to define “science fiction”. If you want to know more about this thorny subject, check out Wikipedia’s attempt to do the very same thing. Or, for a more in-depth discussion, check out what the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has to say on the subject.

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. The latest episode of Octothorpe is now available – “26: I’m Not Even a Single-Tasker”

John [Coxon] is an annoying prick, Alison [Scott] is not sure she’s staying sane, and Liz [Batty] is going to a beach. We discuss all the news from Eastercon, going to Picocon, and then look back on Punctuation before staying sane in the apocalypse.

(15) NOT ULTRAVIOLENCE BUT HYPERVIOLENCE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Keanu Reeves, who co-created with Matt Kindt and artist Ron Garney BRZRKR, a 12-issue comic published by Boom! Studios. “Keanu Reeves on the joy of writing his first comic book: ‘Why not? That sounds amazing!’”

… To dramatize this “Highlander”-meets-“Logan” fighter during the Boom! introductions, Reeves stood and acted out potential scenes, even flashing some fighting moves — pitch meeting as full-body immersion. The approach was similar to when Reeves first met with Pixar for “Toy Story 4,” striking action poses to play Duke Caboom. “I’ll get in touch with a feeling or thought — or a feeling-thought,” says the bearded Reeves, wearing a black Levi’s jacket and starkly backdropped by a near-white wall — Zoom room as Zen room. “I’ll express it and it tends to come out through the filter of the character.”

“BRZRKR” opens with maximum carnage and minimal verbiage. The creative team promises more textured themes are on the horizon. Discussing the comic’s scope, Reeves riffs until he’s in full mellifluous monologue: “We do want to take on morality, ethics, peacetime, war, violence, whose side, what’s right, what’s wrong, truth, fiction, memory, what do we believe in, who are we, with not only violence but also love — and then our own identities and who we are as humans.” Whoa.

(16) STARSHIP EXPLODES AFTER LANDING. “SpaceX Starship appears to ace touchdown, then explodes in Texas test flight”KTLA has the story.

SpaceX’s futuristic Starship looked like it aced a touchdown Wednesday, but then exploded on the landing pad with so much force that it was hurled into the air.

The failure occurred just minutes after SpaceX declared success. Two previous test flights crash-landed in fireballs.

The full-scale prototype of Elon Musk’s envisioned Mars ship soared more than 6 miles after lifting off from the southern tip of Texas on Wednesday. It descended horizontally over the Gulf of Mexico and then flipped upright just in time to land.

The shiny bullet-shaped rocketship remained intact this time at touchdown, prompting SpaceX commentator John Insprucker to declare, “third time’s a charm as the saying goes” before SpaceX ended its webcast of the test.

But then the Starship exploded and was tossed in the air, before slamming down into the ground in flames.

(17) BY THE SEA. You can read the introductory paragraphs to an article about mermaids here — “Splash by Marina Warner – the rest of the article is behind a paywall at the New York Review of Books.

In l819 the French inventor Cagniard de La Tour gave the name sirène to the alarm he had devised to help evacuate factories and mines in case of accident—in those days all too frequent. The siren, or mermaid, came to his mind as a portent, a signal of danger, although it might seem a contradiction, since the sirens’ song was fatal to mortals: in the famous scene in the Odyssey, Odysseus ties himself to the ship’s mast to hear it, and orders his men to plug their ears with wax and ignore him when he pleads to be set free to join the singers on the shore. Homer does not describe these irresistible singers’ appearance—only their flowery meadow, which is strewn with the rotting corpses of their victims—but he tells us that their song promises omniscience: “We know whatever happens anywhere on earth.” This prescience inspired Cagniard: he inverted the sirens’ connection to fatality to name a device that gives forewarning.

In Greek iconography, the sirens are bird-bodied, and aren’t instantly seductive in appearance but rather, according to the historian Vaughn Scribner in Merpeople, “hideous beasts.” A famous fifth-century-BCE pot in the British Museum shows Odysseus standing stiffly lashed to the mast, head tilted skyward, his crew plying the oars while these bird-women perch around them, as if stalking their prey: one of them is dive-bombing the ship like a sea eagle. An imposing pair of nearly life-size standing terracotta figures from the fourth century BCE, in the collection of the Getty Museum, have birds’ bodies and tails, legs and claws, and women’s faces; they too have been identified as sirens… 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. It’s “FallonVision” with Elizabeth Olsen on The Tonight Show. “Jimmy Fallon’s ‘WandaVision’ spoof with Elizabeth Olsen alters our pandemic reality”.

Jimmy Fallon took viewers on a journey through the decades of talk-show history while spoofing “WandaVision” this week. Because after all, what is “The Tonight Show” if not the tradition of late-night TV persevering?

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

Pixel Scroll 2/18/21 I’d Gladly Scroll On Tuesday, For A Pixel Today

(1) MORE REACTIONS TO JASON SANFORD’S REPORT ABOUT BAEN’S BAR AND RELATED ISSUES.

Cat Rambo draws on her decades of experience moderating online forums, including SFWA’s private discussion forum, in “Opinion: On Baen Books, Moderating Discussion Boards, & Political Expression”. Also part of her background –

…In the interest of full disclosure, I’m technically a Baen author. I have a story in a couple of Baen anthologies and another in an upcoming one. I also was the main decider in the choice to give Toni Weisskopf a Kate Wilhelm Solstice award in 2016 in acknowledgment of how much she has shaped the field. I have never been on their discussion boards, as far as I can remember….

She covers a half dozen subtopics before concluding —

…Online harassment is used by a number of folks to silence other people and it includes tactics like SWATting, contacting one’s employer, doxxing, and worse. Jason Sanford is experiencing some of this right now, to the point where he’s had to take his Twitter and Patreon private, but he’s not the first, nor will he be the last. It is shitty and invasive, and it’s something that can constantly ambush you.

Moreover, stochastic terrorism is a thing, and it’s one that some of the “my wishing you were dead wasn’t really a death threat because I didn’t say I’d do it personally” yahoos are hoping for. That hope that someone will be hurt as a result of their rhetoric flickers dimly in the depths of their creepy little souls, even when they claim otherwise, because here in America, it’s a possibility every time they stir up an audience to think of their opponents as NPCs rather than people. And it’s something that is particularly hard on the vulnerable. If you’re a white male experiencing harassment, know that if you were a woman of color, you’d be getting it a hundred times worse, whether you acknowledge that or not.

So… I don’t know what will happen with Baen’s discussion boards. I hope that they’ll do what sometimes happens as a result of these challenges: emerge as something better and more useful, something that creates more community ties than eroding them. Because it’s a time and place when we need more kind, brave words and less hateful, thoughtless rhetoric, and I feel any efforts to establish that is where true heroism lies. Thank you for issuing the challenge, Jason. I hope people rise to meet it.

Sheree Renée Thomas, who is set to co-host the 2021 Hugo ceremony, gives extended commentary about the implications for the Worldcon in a 16-tweet thread. Thread starts here.

Malka Older, the other 2021 Hugo co-host, aired her views in a thread that starts here.

Leona Wisoker does an overview of the Jason Sanford and Eric Flint essays and where they fit into the immediate present day in “Baen’s Bar Fight”.

… The boundaries of free speech and individual liberty in the wild world of genre fiction is, as I’ve said already, not a new battle. However, right here, right now, today, we’re dealing with a new twist on the old situation: the critical flash point of people spreading and believing dangerous lies for years. This started before Trump came into office. Before Obama’s first inauguration. Over the last ten years, the rise of groups like the channers, Gamergate, Reddit, Parler, Fox News, OANN, and QAnon has boosted those lies into explosive territory.

We’re no longer simply talking about malcontents complaining in a chat room. We’re now dealing with a series of connected, systemically based incidents that are driving credulous people into increasingly violent actions, in groups that are steadily expanding in size. We’re talking about bad faith actors — some in government and law enforcement — who are in it for the money and power, who have and will continue to use that misguided passion to their own benefit, and who don’t care who gets hurt along the way. To wave away the bitter speeches and threats of randos in internet forums is to entirely ignore the escalating situation that led to the Capitol insurrection in the first place….

Simon McNeil surveys posts by Jason Sanford and others as a preliminary to his thesis that those who believe there is an overall sff community are mistaken, and that prospects for the 2021 Worldcon have been irreparably damaged.  “The vexatiousness of the culture wars in SFF – Baen’s Bar and the fantasy of total community”.

…And here we return to two central questions that have been at the heart of genre fiction’s long-running culture war, just who is this community and what, if anything are its standards?

We have here a situation where the genre fiction “communty” consists of several disparate actual groups of people. These people have mutually exclusive definitions of the ideal present notwithstanding what they may want to see in fiction about the future, the past or other worlds. The attempts of mass conventions like DisCon III to serve these vastly disparate communities means it’s ultimately impossible to serve any.

Now I’m honestly quite shocked that there is going to be an in-person WorldCon this year. Between international travel restrictions and the clear and present danger of mass gatherings, it really feels like a live convention in 2021 is unsafe quite regardless of who the editor guest of honour is. With this said, while I do believe that Sandford turning over this particular rock exposed the peril lying under the surface of science fiction I don’t think de-platforming Weiskopf is going to make the convention any less dangerous for anyone unwilling to tow the American conservative line. Frankly, Toni Weiskopf isn’t the problem, she’s merely a symptom of it. Baen, and its stable of Trumpist malcontents is in fact only a symptom of the systemic problem that is the faulty assumption at the core of the SFF communities that there is some overarching and totalizing community for all to contribute to.

It was never true.

All that has changed is that those people who once hadn’t enough power to speak out about John Campbell’s racismOrson Scott Card’s homophobia or Harlan Ellison’s busy hands have achieved enough power through adoption of new technology, changes in social understanding and various civil rights movements to fight back against the people who once kept them silent….

Camestros Felapton saves a thousand words by giving us a picture of his rebuttal to Eric Flint’s defense of Baen’s Bar in “Today’s Infographic: moderating comments”.

Chuck Gannon defended Toni Weisskopf’s statement about the temporary takedown of Baen’s Bar in the midst of a Facebook discussion by dissatisfied Baen supporters. He says in conclusion:

3) Lastly her statement was formulated so that it both showed a willingness to seriously engage the accusations, but without ceding ANY authority or agency over her rights and freedoms as the owner of a business. She did not stonewall the dertractors, did not counterattack, and did not cave, none of which are good strategies NO MATTER what politics are involved. That is smart business. And her tone was so measured and reasonable and *civil* that anyone who takes offense at it is essentially identifying their real motivation: to use this complaint as a weapon in the service of their deeper motive–cripple or kill Baen.

My assessment: she handled this as well as anyone could, and far, far better than most do.

(2) NEW ADDRESS. Perseverance made a successful landing on Mars today. The mission website is here: Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover.

(3) PRO TIP. You’ve been placed on notice!

(4) LET GO OF YOUR AGENDA. Once NPR’s Jason Heller took Sarah Gailey’s latest book on its own terms, he had good things to say about it: “Review: ‘The Echo Wife,’ By Sarah Gailey”.

…I went into Gailey’s new novel, The Echo Wife, with a big expectation for yet another immersive, wonderfully detailed, fictional setting. I was not catered to. There isn’t any real world-building in The Echo Wife because, well, there’s no world to build. It already exists. It’s our own. The book takes place, more or less, in the here and now, and even the rich concept behind its science-fictional premise — namely cloning — keeps a fuzzy distance. Once I got over my initial bout of pouting, though, I gave myself over to Gailey’s latest exercise in character-driven speculation. And I was happy I did…

(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 18, 2005 — On this day in 2005, Constantine premiered. Based off DC’s Hellblazer series, it starred dark haired Keanu Reeves as blonder haired John Constantine. It was, to put it  mildly, produced by committee. The screenplay by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello off a story by Kevin Brodbin. Its impressive cast included  Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin Rossdale, and Peter Stormare. Over the years, its rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes has steadily climbed now standing at an excellent seventy four percent. Huh. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 18, 1894 – Marjorie Hope Nicolson, Ph.D.  First woman to receive Yale’s Porter Prize (for her dissertation), Cross Medal (as a distinguished alumna).  First woman President of Phi Beta Kappa.  Crawshay Prize (for Newton Demands the Muse).  Voyages to the Moon reviewed by Willy Ley.  Pilgrim Award.  Festschrift in her memory, Zephyr & Boreas (works of Le Guin).  More here.  (Died 1981) [JH]  
  • Born February 18, 1904 – Rafael DeSoto.  A score of covers, a dozen interiors for us; also Westerns, thrillers, adventure.  See R. Lesser ed., Pulp Art; D. Saunders, The Art of Rafael DeSoto.  Here is the Feb 39 Eerie Mysteries.  Here is the Apr 43 Argosy.  Here is the Nov 50 Fantastic Novels.  Yes, descended from Hernando de Soto.  This site says it will be available again soon.  (Died 1992) [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as  The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in GalaxinaThe Incredible HulkJason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The RingsAdult FairytalesClonesDracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.) (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh, the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and He had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 92. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series based off the novel was broadcast several years back.(CE) 
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations which are gathered in a superb two volume collection, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on  A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1931 – Toni Morrison.  A score of novels – Beloved (Pulitzer Prize) and God Help the Child are ours – poetry, two plays (one about Desdemona), libretto for Margaret Garner, nonfiction.  Jefferson Lecture.  PEN/Bellow Award (PEN is Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists).  Medal of Freedom.  Nobel Prize.  Oprah Winfrey: “I say with certainty there would have been no Oprah’s Book Club if this woman had not chosen to share her love of words with the world.”  Today is TM’s 90th birth-anniversary; see this from the Toni Morrison Society.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1933 – Ray Capella.  A score of short stories for us; twoscore covers, five dozen interiors.  Here is Star Quest 4.  Here is the Oct 75 Amra.  Here is the Nov 81 Fantasy Newsletter.  Here is the Apr 01 Alien Worlds.  Here is an illustration for John Carter of Mars.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1936 – Jean Auel, age 85.  The Clan of the Cave Bear, five more; 45 million copies sold.  Studied how to make an ice cave, build fire, tan leather, knap stones, with Jim Riggs.  “The Real Fahrenheit 451” in Omni (with Bradbury, Clarke, Ellison).  Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters (France).  [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1943 – Jill Bauman, age 78.  One short story, a score of poems, a hundred thirty covers, ninety interiors for us; many others.  An appreciation in Wrzos’ Hannes Bok.  Here is Melancholy Elephants.  Here is the Apr 89 F&SF.  Here is the Aug 92 Amazing.  Here is Thumbprints.  Guest Artist at the 1994 World Fantasy Convention, Philcon 1999, Chattacon XXVI.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 53. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there. (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1979 – Shannon Dittemore, age 42.   Four novels.  Blogs for Go Teen Writers.  Website says “Coffee Fangirl”.  Has read The Importance of Being EarnestGreat ExpectationsThe Screwtape LettersLes Misèrables, two by Shakespeare, a Complete Stories & Poems of Poe, Peter PanThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and four by Jane Austen including Pride & Prejudice in the German translation by Karin von Schwab (1892-1940; alas, Stolz & Vorurteil doesn’t alliterate).  [JH] 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark peers over a vampire’s shoulder as he gets shocking news about his online meal order.
  • Randall Munroe got a hold of Perseverance’s schedule.

(8) OVERCOMING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Entrepreneur interviews physicist & author Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein about her new book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred and about sexism and racism in science. They also ask her about her interest in science fiction and about speaking at conventions, even if their fact checkers did allow the proofreaders to get away with calling them “Khans.” (Khen Moore would have been so proud.) “This Theoretical Physicist Boldly Goes Where Few Black Women Have Gone Before” at Entrepreneur.

Professor Prescod-Weinstein, an important theme running through your book is the sexism and racism inherent in science. Crucially, you take time to namecheck those who — like you — did make it through, such as Dr. Willie Hobbs MooreDr. Edward A. BouchetDr. Elmer ImesProfessor Arlie Oswald PettersDr. Shirley Ann Jackson and Dr. Marcelle Soares-Santos. It is only through seeing people like oneself that one can imagine being up there too, right?
Yes, that’s valuable when you have the opportunity. But I also know that sometimes we don’t get examples like us. As far as I know, none of those people are queer, for example. It’s important then to be the person who is like yourself. I know that sounds silly, but I encourage students to get people to take pictures of themselves doing physics, so that they can see that they are indeed what a physicist looks like….

(9) OCTOTHORPE. The latest episode of Octothorpe is now available! John Coxon has cats, Alison Scott has a milkman, and Liz Batty has a gecko. They plug Picocon, discuss Boskone and Eastercon, and talk more about their Hugo reading/watching/experiencing. “Ep. 25: Some of the Rocks Are Going to Be More Interesting Than Others”.

(10) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter forwarded his favorite wrong answers from tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: Types of Narrative Literature

Answer: You can bet “The Lottery” is a good example of this genre of brief narratives, usually under 10,000 words.

Wrong question: What is a novella?

Right question: What is a short story?

*

Category: All Fairs

Answer: A 1939 New York World’s Fair diorama predicting the look of the city in 1960 was called this, later a long-running animated TV series.

Wrong question: What is The Jetsons?

Right question: What is Futurama?

*

Category: Pulitzer Prizes

Answer: Bruce Catton took the 1954 history prize for his book titled “A Stillness at” this fateful place.

Dumb question: What is the OK Corral?

No one got, What is Appomattox?

(11) IT HAD TO BE SNAKES. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy makes “A Mel Blanc Discovery”.

Sometimes a gem can be hiding in plain sight—or within hearing distance. A few weeks ago I turned on Turner Classic Movies (my go-to channel) and watched part of Alexander Korda’s 1942 production The Jungle Book, starring Sabu. I hadn’t seen it in a while and it’s very entertaining. But when Mowgli encountered the giant snake Kaa, I listened carefully to the voice and realized it belonged to Mel Blanc. It had never occurred to me before; he’s speaking in a very low register so it isn’t immediately apparent. Then I thought of him performing his parody of a popular radio commercial in a Warner Bros. cartoon, saying, “Beee-Ohhh” and I was certain….

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