Pixel Scroll 8/25/21 Helen O’Loy And The Scrollcrank Redemption

(1) BLACK STARS. SYFY.com offers a preview of a Black Stars story plus comments by series editor Nisi Shawl: “Amazon Original Stories Black Stars: Read an excerpt by Chimamanda Ngzoi Adichie”.

…Titled Black Stars, the collection showcases some of the biggest names writing science fiction today, highlighting their visions of what the future might look like for the human race and the issues we might have to tackle. The six authors forming this all-star lineup include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (We Should All Be Feminists), C. T. Rwizi (Requiem Moon), Victor LaValle (The Changeling), Nnedi Okorafor (Binti), Nalo Hopkinson (The House of Whispers), and Nisi Shawl (Everfair), who also edited the entire collection, along with co-editor Latoya Peterson. 

“Freedom is the overarching theme among the stories,” Shawl tells SYFY WIRE, while discussing the throughline that connects all six stories. “Freedom to explore new star systems, to develop new economies, to break away from stale stereotypes.” 

Part of what makes Black Stars so special is the fact that it is showcasing speculative science fiction from Black authors from around the world.

“I want readers to take away the dazzling diversity that is the Black experience,” Shawl says. “I want us all to realize how our dreams and fantasies, our supposings and nightmares and aspirations are so very varied. Blackness is not a monolith! I’ve learned this, and I want to share with our readers the enormous wealth that is Black heritage and the many possible Black futures.” …

(2) YORK SOLAR SYSTEM. NickPheas, inspired by Ingvar’s photos of Sweden’s epic model, shot photos of the solar system model running for ten miles south of York, UK. Twitter thread starts here.

(3) STAR TREK EXPLORER. If you aren’t getting enough Star Trek news, Titan Comics promises to fix that for you when Star Trek Explorer – The Official Magazine Issue #1 hits stores on November 2.

EXPLORER is the no. #1 destination for everything Star Trek – filled with in-depth interviews and features taking you behind-the-scenes of all your favorite shows and movies.

The new-look EXPLORER magazine also includes two brand-new exclusive Star Trek short stories, and a bonus 16-page themed supplement bound inside each issue.  The hotly anticipated premier issue features a definitive guide to Captain Kirk!

Subscribers of STAR TREK EXPLORER – THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE will also receive an exclusive digital magazine, direct to their inbox with every quarterly issue. Each digital magazine will feature bonus short stories, printables, activities and much more!

(4) SLF NEEDS GRANT JURORS. The Speculative Literature Foundation is looking for grant application readers.

The Speculative Literature Foundation needs jurors to help read applications for the Working Class Writers’ Grant Ideally, we’re looking for people who are well read in speculative fiction, but we’d also like a mix of readers, writers, librarians, teachers, editors, etc. who are capable of judging literary quality in a work.

If interested, please send a brief note to Catherine Lin (catherine@speculativeliterature.org) with the subject line: JUROR.

Please include the grant you wish to be a juror for and a paragraph about what your qualifying background is to serve as a juror: for example, your interest in / connection to the field. (i.e., “I’m an ardent reader!” or “I’ve been writing SF/F for seven years…”). Please feel free to ask any questions you may have as well.

(5) AMAZING STORIES RETRENCHES. Following the announcement “Amazing Stories Special All Canadian Issue Now Available” comes a statement that “Amazing Stories has had a rough past year, mostly owing to the fact that our former Licensee – NBC/Universal Television – has failed to meet their contractual obligations” and how their publishing program is changing in response:

…Beyond denying you a regular issue of the magazine up till now, in order to continue publishing the magazine we have had to take the following steps as well:

Owing to the previously stated, Amazing Stories must change the way it produces issues, while at the same time attempting to do what is right by our subscribers. These are necessary, budget-related changes that represent our only option for keeping the magazine in publication. Those changes are as follows:

First, Amazing Stories will be changing to an annual format, producing one (over-sized) issue per year rather than quarterly (four) issues per year.

Second, we are eliminating the print edition as a regularly available option. Print copies of each issue will remain available as a separately purchased Print On Demand (POD) product.
All current print subscriptions will be converted to Electronic Editions moving forward. In addition, former print subscribers may select one of the Amazing Select titles, electronic edition, for each year of subscription that is being converted.

Please know that we are not happy with having to make these changes, but following long discussion, we believe that these changes offer us our best chance of moving forward. Those with questions, please feel free to get in touch with the publisher, Steve Davidson, via Steve (at) amazingstories (dot) com.

(6) RATIONALIZATIONS. James Davis Nicoll was able to think of “Five Ludicrous Reasons for Not Reading a Perfectly Good Book”. How about you?

There are perfectly legitimate reasons not to have read works widely regarded as science fiction and fantasy classics. Perhaps the most compelling is that the field is far too large for any one person to have read all of it, even if they were to limit themselves to works other readers enthusiastically recommend. However, there are other reasons, some quite silly, to have left promising books unread. Here are five of my stupidest reasons for not having read a widely-praised book cover to cover….

(7) STORIES THAT ARE THE FOUNDATIONS FOR RPG. Goodman Games, an RPG publisher, occasionally features interesting articles on their site. Here are two:

 Ngo Vinh-Hoi, co-host of the Appendix N Book Club podcast, profiles Andrew J. Offutt: A “Adventures in Fiction: Andrew Offutt”.

Appendix N of the original Dungeon Masters Guide has become a Rosetta Stone for the study of the literary roots of D&D. One figure carved on that stone is Andrew J. Offutt, who is cited not for his own writing, but for editing the Swords Against Darkness heroic fantasy anthology series. Oddly, only the third volume of the five-book series is singled out and none of the other four books are even mentioned. Who then is Andrew Offutt, and why is he enshrined with the other Appendix N luminaries? …

Pulp scholar Jason Ray Carney talks about dehumanising violence and compassion in “Red Nails”, Robert E. Howard’s final Conan story: “Dehumanizing Violence and Compassion in Robert E. Howard’s ‘Red Nails’”.

Robert E. Howard’s sword and sorcery tale “Red Nails,” published as a three-part serial in Weird Tales in 1936, tells the story of the city of Xuchotl, the enduring, blood-soaked war between the Tecuhltli and the Xotalanc, and the dehumanizing effect of sustained hatred and violence. “Red Nails” engages with several ancient literary tropes, but the one that centers “Red Nails” is what I term “the stalemate war.” By focusing on the stalemate war between the murderous Tecuhltli and insane Xotalanc, I hope to bring into focus a surprising facet of Robert E. Howard’s most famous sword and sorcery character, Conan of Cimmeria: the way the barbarian maintains his humanity through compassion….

(8) A KEY INVENTION. The Typewriter Revolution exhibit can be seen at the National Museum of Scotland through April 17, 2022. Or you can view photos of over 100 typewriters in their connection at the website.

The impact of the typewriter has been much wider than simply speeding up the way we write. It helped revolutionise the world of work and change the lives of working women in particular. Typewriters helped them launch their own businesses at a time when female employers were rare and became a vital weapon in the fight for the vote. 

The typewriter’s social and technological influence is revealed in this new exhibition and looks at its role in society, arts and popular culture. It traces the effect and evolution of typewriters across more than 100 years, from weighty early machines to modern style icons. And despite being erased from many offices by the rise of computers, the typewriter has remained a beloved design icon that is still in use today.

Drawing on our outstanding typewriter collection, the exhibition features a range of machines, including an 1876 Sholes and Glidden typewriter which was the first to have a QWERTY keyboard; a 1950s electric machine used by Whisky Galore author Sir Compton Mackenzie; and the 1970s design icon, the Olivetti Valentine.

(9) ON THE RADIO, Listen to “Black Sci-Fi: Stories from the End of the World” at BBC Radio 4.

Writer, activist and broadcaster Walidah Imarisha presents the untold story of black sci-fi and its vital role in redefining the present and imagining the future.

This documentary explores the power – and the rich history – of speculative, visionary fiction by black authors in the UK, USA and Africa, and how activists around the world have been inspired by science fiction as they strive to build new worlds. Walidah Imarisha unravels the idea that all organisation and activism is a form of “science fiction” – and how bringing new realities into being is itself a creative act.

Interviewees include multidisciplinary artists Moor Mother and Rasheedah Philips, Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor, and British feminist writer and researcher Lola Olufemi.

(10) DAVIN Q&A. The collection of “Science Fiction Author Interviews” linked at the Middletown Public Library, conducted by the Science Fiction Club Facebook group, has a new addition this month — “Interview with Eric Leif Davin (Aug. 2021)”.

Dr. Eric Leif Davin teaches labor and political history at the University of Pittsburgh. He wrote “Pioneers of Wonder: Conversations with the Founders of Science Fiction.” as well as “Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1928-1965.”

John Grayshaw: What is the Gernsback era?

[Davin] Although Hugo Gernsback briefly published an SF magazine in the 1950s, “SF Plus,” the Gernsback Era is actually referring to the period 1926-1934. In 1926 Gernsback launched “Amazing Stories,” the first SF magazine. It was the only SF magazine until 1929, when he launched “Wonder Stories.” In 1934 he sold the latter magazine to the Thrilling group, with it becoming “Thrilling Wonder Stories.” With that, he exited the SF magazine world until the 1950s

(11) SPACED OUT LIBRARIAN. David Nickle offers a personal tribute: “In the orbit of Lorna Toolis – 1952-2021”.

…In the late 1980s when I first met Lorna, the Spaced Out Library was on the second floor of the Boys and Girls House at Beverly and College Streets. Not climate-controlled. Not accessible. As ad-hoc a library as its name might suggest.

I’d come in as a journalist, ostensibly working with another writer on an article about the Canadian science fiction community for a local alternative paper – but really, dipping my toe into a world that I very much wanted to enter.

Lorna helped me do both. First, she gave me a who’s-who rundown of sources I might speak to, suggested I hit Ad Astra, the local science fiction convention to find those sources in one place.

Those sources included Judith Merril herself, who after a very professional interview, told me very candidly, about a writer’s workshop that might be looking for members – and introduced me to one of the founding members, Michael Skeet. Lorna’s husband….

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2007 – Fourteen years ago today, Masters of Science Fiction, an anthology science fiction series, finished its very brief run on ABC. And I do mean brief as only four of its six episodes actually aired. It was presented by Stephen Hawking which is why when it broadcast later on the Science Channel in its entirety that it was called Stephen Hawking’s Sci-Fi Masters. The six stories were all by SF writers, to wit John Kessel, Howard Fast, Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, Walter Mosley and Robert Sheckley. The few critics that actually noticed it liked it. Like so many similar short-run series, it has no Rotten Tomatoes audience rating. The trailer is up here. (Several YouTubers attempted to host the videos, however, they aren’t available as, of course, the series is under copyright.) 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 25, 1909 Michael Rennie. Definitely best remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on The Lost World as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time TunnelThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1971.)
  • Born August 25, 1913 Walt Kelly. If you can get them, Fantagraphics has released Pogo in six stunning hardcover editions covering up to 1960. They’re planning to do all of his strips eventually. Did you know Kelly began his career as animator at Walt Disney Studios, working on DumboPinocchio and Fantasia? (Died 1973.)
  • Born August 25, 1930 Sir Sean Connery. Best film overall? From Russia with Love. Best SF film? Outland. Or Time Bandits you want go for silly. Worst film? Zardoz. These are my choices and yours no doubt will be different. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 25, 1940 Marilyn Niven, 81. She was a Boston-area fan who lives in LA and is married to writer Larry Niven. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons.  In college, she was a member of the MITSFS and was one of the founding members of NESFA. She’s also a member of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.
  • Born August 25, 1955 Simon R. Green, 66. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written. Favorite series? The NightsideHawk & Fisher and Secret History are my all-time favorite ones with Drinking Midnight Wine the novel I’ve re-read the most. He’s got three active series now of which the Ishmael Jones and the Gideon Sable series are the best. 
  • Born August 25, 1958 Tim Burton, 63. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman is kind of interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was, and Sleepy Hollow is just damn weird. Not really true to the source material though. 
  • Born August 25, 1970 Chris Roberson, 51. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading. He’s also written two Warhammer novels, Dawn of War and Sons of Dorn, and is publisher with his wife Allison Baker of Monkey Brain Books which has twice been nominated for World Fantasy Awards. He won two Sidewise Awards for Alternate History, for his novella O One (2003), and novel The Dragon’s Nine Sons (2008).
  • Born August 25, 1987 Blake Lively, 34. She was Adaline Bowman in The Age of Adaline, a neat mediation upon life and death. She also played Carol Ferris in that Green Lantern film but the less said about it the better. Her very first role was as Trixie / Tooth Fairy in The Sandman at age eleven. 

(14) SMALL WONDER. The biggest hit sci-fi movie of 1966 (to date, anyway) – read the raves at Galactic Journey: “[August 24, 1966] Fantastic Voyage lives up to its name!”

It’s finally here! And it was worth the wait. Fantastic Voyage has reached the big screen, and it’s spectacular.

Fantastic Voyage may be the most advertised science fiction film ever made, with intriguing articles in Life and Look, a novelization published in The Saturday Evening Post and about a zillion articles in Famous Monsters in Filmland. And despite this endless campaign – or maybe because of it – I’m delighted to tell you this audacious film deserves its media ubiquity.

(15) YOU’LL SHOP HERE SOONER OR LATER. A business in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood has the fascinating name Time Travel Mart. Here are just a few of the items they sell there.

Portable Wormhole

(16) INSTANT CLASSIC. Joe H. contributed a fine verse to yesterday’s comments:

As we go filing, filing
In the pixel of the scroll
We climb our Mount Tsunduko
And we make our series whole

Our shelves shall not be emptied
From birth until life closes
Eyes starve as well as bodies
Into books we’ll stick our noses

(17) A LOOK BACK. Cora Buhlert has posted a new Retro Review: “’More Than Shadow’ by Dorothy Quick” about a 1954 Weird Tales story. Spoiler warning!

…Just to make sure that she isn’t imagining things, Mona calls over Ellen, the maid, and asks her what she sees in the puddle of spilled water. Ellen confirms that the puddle looks like a dog, but not just any old dog either, but the little dogs on which the leprechauns ride on moonlit nights. For Ellen just happens to be Irish and therefore a fount of Irish folklore…..

(18) IT CAUSES ME TO TINGLE. Not only is love real, so is Chuck.

(19) R.L. STINE REMEMBERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast that Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with R.L. Stine. “Maltin on Movies: R.L. Stine”. The Maltins began by remembering how they would chat with Stine in the Los Angeles Times Book festival green room, where they would also say hello to Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison.  Stine then explained how he, born in 1943, was first influenced by radio comedians (remember Mortimer Snerd?) He also loved E.C. comics and after his parents refused to let him buy the comics he made sure to get a haircut every Saturday because the local barbershop had a plentiful supply.  Stine then worked his way up at Scholastic Books, and became a YA horror author because an editor got mad at Christopher Pike and they wanted someone to write YA horror novels.  Stine said he was a hands-on producer of the Goosebumps TV series, which “gave every child actor in Canada a job” including 11-year-old Ryan Gosling.  Stine also explained that he had kids come up to him and say they learned how to use typewriters because they saw Jack Black use a typewriter playing Stine in the Goosebumps movie.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Monster Hunter Stories” on YouTube, Fandom Games says Monster Hunter Stories is a dinosaur-fighting game that has gone through “Pokemonification,.” and includes a scene here you fight a dinosaur with a bagpipe and another where a talking cat spends too much time explaining how she enjoys donuts.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/21 If Sharon Carter Became A Zombie, Would She Be Agent Rot-13?

(1) SIDEBAR. Cat Rambo has some of the most insightful comments yet offered about the harassment spawned by Jason Sanford’s report on Baen’s Bar, as well as Mercedes Lackey’s response to others’ claims made about her history with the Bar, in “Opinion: When Writers Punch – Up, Down, or Sideways” at The World Remains Mysterious.

… When a writer publicly calls someone out, they need to be aware of all of the implications, including the fact that the more popular the writer, the more devastating the results can be, not due to any intrinsic quality of the writer, but the number of fans. The more fans, the more likely it is that the group will contain people who, emboldened by the idea of pleasing a favorite writer, can — and will — go to lengths that go far beyond the norms of civil, and sometimes legal, behavior.

This played out recently with reactions to Jason Sanford’s piece on a specific forum within the Baen’s Bar discussion boards administered by Baen Publishing, which have included web posts doxxing Sanford and calling for complaints to be made to a lengthy list of people at Sanford’s placement of employment about the post he made on his free time on a platform that has nothing to do with his employment.

As I’ve said earlier, I have a great deal of respect for Baen and hope it emerges from this watershed moment in a way that suits the bigheartedness of its founder. But in the fray, a lot of writers have been egging their followers on to do shitty things in general, and what has emerged include the above specifics.

It’s not okay to point your readers at someone and basically say “make this person miserable.” It is okay to vote with one’s pocketbook. To not buy the books of people you don’t support. That is called a boycott, and it is an established tactic. (One of my consistent practices throughout the years, though, is to read a book by each one before I make that decision, so I know what I might be missing out on. So far, no regrets.) Going beyond that is, in my opinion, is the act of someone who’s gotten carried away and is no longer seeing their target as a fellow human being, and who needs to stop and think what they are doing….

(2) COMMENTING ON THE UNSTOPPABLE. Harper Campbell reviews Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction edited by Joshua Whitehead in “An Indigenous sci-fi moment” at The Ormsby Review.

…It really matters that so much space is being created by Native writers to tell Native sci-fi stories. Science fiction has seeped into the cultural subconscious of the world, providing our basic frame of reference for each successive wave of technological change. We understand that we have entered an age of technological modernity, and it isn’t enough to see the future as simply an extension of the past. Science fiction is what helps people all over the world make sense of a “normal” that is in perpetual change.

It is a serious shortcoming of science fiction, then, that it tends to gloss over colonialism and imperialism. The implicit view of most science fiction, after all, is one in which colonizers are the true vehicle of world-historical change. Science fiction is always saying — look how far we’ve come, look how much we’ve accomplished, see how unstoppable we’ve been. And what they mean is, look how unstoppable colonialism has been.

And like colonizers, the implicit perspective of science fiction tends to see the cosmos as a field of pure resource. The tendency is to insist that the earth, our beloved green and blue earth, is after all just one planet, theoretically interchangeable with any other that could support life. And why stick to just one planet? Like Cecil Rhodes, the arch-imperialist, sci-fi aspires to annex the stars.

So when an Indigenous writer starts to put down the first words of a science fiction story, they must already be grappling with nothing less than the significance of the history of the world and what it will mean for the future. They must wrestle with the cosmic dimension of colonialism from the other side, from a perspective that could never say “Look how unstoppable we’ve been.”

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Released today, the latest in a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives (and the second presented by ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, as part of its work on Learning Futures and Principled Innovation.) Leigh Alexander’s short story “The Void” at Slate begins –

Five things you can touch, whispers Rose, and I touch: duvet, her hand, my own hair, the rough plaster of the wall, and my device. It wakes up, a rectangle of soft light in our dark bedroom.

Four things you can hear, she says, and I listen for the tap-tap of water from somewhere in the kitchen, the rhythm of a neighbor’s music through the floor, the rustling of bedsheets and my pounding heart.

Then Andrea Thomer, an expert on information science, provides a response essay: “Leigh Alexander’s “The Void” and information overload”.

In grad school, I remember reading about—or at least, I think I remember reading about—a new browser plug-in designed to capture your internet click trails for later re-searching. The promo materials visualized this as a beautiful network of interconnected websites, making it possible to refind any page, article, recipe, meme etc. I am easily distracted and spend approximately 18 hours a day on the internet, so this sounded like a dream come true: Never again would I waste time retracing my digital steps to find something vaguely remembered reading but neglected to bookmark! I signed up to beta test this tool immediately. Or at least I think I did. I never heard anything about this widget again, and my attempts to remember its name have all been in vain. I’ve searched through my email, browser history, Twitter likes: nothing. I may have imagined this thing. Looking for it made me feel like a character in a Borges story: wandering the library stacks in search for the one book that will tell me what stacks I’ve already been in….

On Thursday, March 4, at noon Eastern, author Leigh Alexander and Andrea K. Thomer, information scientist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, will discuss this story in an hourlong online discussion moderated by Punya Mishra, professor and associate dean of scholarship and innovation at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. RSVP here.

(4) THE NEXT GRANTVILLE GAZETTE. On March 1, 2021, 1632 Inc. will release Issue 94, March 2021 of The Grantville Gazette at www.grantvillegazette.com.

The Gazette is a SFWA-approved venue for professional writers, and pays professional rates. The Gazette is published every other month, and has been published since 2007. It is available in several different electronic editions, including Kindle, ePub, PDF, and more. It can be downloaded directly from the Gazette website, or from our distributor, Baen.com.

This issue features works by best-selling authors Virginia DeMarce, Iver P. Cooper, and Edward M. Lerner, as well as columns by Kristine Katherine Rusch and Walt Boyes.

Edited by Walt Boyes, with Bjorn Hasseler as managing editor, and Garrett Vance as Art Director, the Gazette offers fiction and fact, both from the 1632Universe and from the UniverseAnnex, which is designed to provide a venue for general SFF.

More than 160 authors have had their first professional sale to The Grantville Gazette, through the medium of critique and workshops, both for 1632 fiction and general SF. Some of these authors have gone on to successful careers as writing professionals.

(5) LAPL FUNDRAISER. Charles Yu will be one of the Honorary Chairs for “The Stay Home and Read a Book Ball” on March 7, hosted by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

WHEN:
Anytime, and for as long as you choose to celebrate on Sunday, March 7, 2021.

WHERE:
Stay safe and read in the comfort of your home, bed, or even in the bathtub! Or mask up and go for a walk with an audiobook from the Library!

HOW:
Choose a book (or many!) and let the pages transport you! Have a ball while reading at home, and show your support for the Los Angeles Public Library by donating what you would have spent at an annual gala or a night out.

Share photos of your literary festivities on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tell us what you’ll be reading – tag #StayHomeandRead to let others know how you are celebrating!

ATTIRE:
Choose formal or warm and fuzzy – anything goes when you’re having a ball at home.

FOOD & DRINK:
Feast on lobster and champagne, milk and cookies, or wine and cheese.

Kindly RSVP by visiting LFLA.org/StayHome, or text the word LIBRARY to 41444.

(6) SMALL TOWN, GREAT RESOURCE. The Middletown Public Library, a small town library outside of Harrisburg PA, is associated with the Science Fiction Book Club on Facebook. In 2017 the library’s Director, John Grayshaw, started reaching out to sci-fi authors and doing Q&As with them. There are now over 60 Science Fiction Author Interviews in the archives with many well-known writers including Lois McMaster Bujold, Samuel R. Delany, and Robert J. Sawyer.

The latest addition is the interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky:  

Bryan Stewart: I’m curious what’s your favorite answer to the Fermi Paradox? Do you think we’ll make first contact in our lifetimes?

[AT] I have become more pessimistic about this as I’ve got older (and the personal element of that ‘in our lifetimes’ necessarily becomes shorter). I do believe life is common in the universe, but the universe is very big so that can still produce colossal, uncrossable vistas between any two species that might appreciate each other’s’ existence. On a bad day I feel that a sufficiently advanced civilization is likely to destroy itself rather like we’re in the process of doing ourselves. On a good day I suspect that our attempts to find life are predicated far too much on that life being like us, and that we may simply not be sifting unusual alien signals from the background hiss, or may be looking in the wrong place.

(7) YOU’VE READ HER. Jonathan Lethem tells Literary Hub “Why Shirley Jackson is a Reader’s Writer”.

Ten and twenty years ago I used to play a minor parlor trick; I wonder if it would still work. When asked my favorite writer, I’d say “Shirley Jackson,” counting on most questioners to say they’d never heard of her. At that I’d reply, with as much smugness as I could muster: “You’ve read her.” When my interlocutor expressed skepticism, I’d describe “The Lottery”—still the most widely anthologized American short story of all time, I’d bet, and certainly the most controversial, and censored, story ever to debut in The New Yorker—counting seconds to the inevitable widening of my victim’s eyes: they’d not only read it, they could never forget it. I’d then happily take credit as a mind reader, though the trick was too easy by far. I don’t think it ever failed.

Jackson is one of American ?ction’s impossible presences, too material to be called a phantom in literature’s house, too in-print to be “rediscovered,” yet hidden in plain sight….

(8) FANCASTS TO CONSIDER. Cora Buhlert has expanded her Fanzine Spotlight project to fancasts, of which these are the latest entries. She says, “I’m really enjoying this project, though it has upset my Hugo ballot, because there are so many great podcasts out there I never knew about.”

Tell us about your broadcast.

The Journey Show is an outgrowth of Galactic Journey, our time machine to 55 years ago in fact and fiction. That site has been around since 1958…er…2013, and the conceit is that we are all fans living in the past, day by day, reviewing all the works of the time in the context of their time.

Tell us about your podcast or YouTube channel.

On our podcast we like to explore how narrative helps people to envision and achieve a better future. In turn, we like to talk to writers, editors, activists, gamers, and anyone else who helps us imagine those worlds. We consider our podcast to be linked thematically with HopePunk. Our interpretation of HopePunk takes a stance of hope through resistance to the current norms. Emphasis on the PUNK. Any given podcast discussion can range from a specific novel or story, to a guest’s career, politics, religion, music, writing tips, and ttrpgs. Guests often include editors, traditionally published writers, and Indie writers.

Some other previous guests have included folks like Bill Campbell, Tobias Buckell, Malka Older, P. Djeli Clark, and James Morrow, Janet Forbes (founder of the world building platform World Anvil), and Graeme Barber (writer and ttrpg critic).

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

[Alasdair Stuart] I had it gently and affectionately pointed out to me that there was no reason not to. I’d had a lot of frustrations with freelance projects at that point (multiple projects paid years late, another company going insolvent, etc). So one day I made a joke about what my newsletter would be and 50 ‘I’d read that’ emails later I realised I had an audience if I wanted to do it. And I did. I took Matt Wallace’s words about building your own platform to heart and started building mine.

Sisters Alice Baker and Ann Spangler have set themselves the goal of reading and discussing all Hugo and Nebula winning novels.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Alice: For me, it was because I was looking for a way to connect with my sister who I do not often get to see in person. We both have a love of the genre (although Ann likes Fantasy more), and since we were going to be discussing it anyway, I thought we should record them. I have some previous experience on the Educating Geeks podcast. Also, I find it difficult to read for hours like I used so I am trying to retrain myself.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Way back in 2014, Andi was live-tweeting her first time through Star Trek, Grace was podcasting on All Things Trek, Jarrah was blogging at Trekkie Feminist, and Sue was podcasting and blogging at Anomaly Podcast. At different points in time, Andi, Jarrah, and Sue had all been guests with Grace on All Things Trek on TrekRadio – sometimes with each other, sometimes individually. Having been connected through podcasting, and with that show coming to a close, Andi proposed that we start our own. After much planning, Women at Warp launched as an independent podcast in 2015.

(9) PREPARING FOR THE APOCALYPSE. RS Benedict theorizes about the state of genre film in “Everyone Is Beautiful and No One Is Horny” at Blood Knife.

When Paul Verhoeven adapted Starship Troopers in the late 1990s, did he know he was predicting the future? The endless desert war, the ubiquity of military propaganda, a cheerful face shouting victory as more and more bodies pile up?

But the scene that left perhaps the greatest impact on the minds of Nineties kids—and the scene that anticipated our current cinematic age the best—does not feature bugs or guns. It is, of course, the shower scene, in which our heroic servicemen and -women enjoy a communal grooming ritual.

On the surface, it is idyllic: racial harmony, gender equality, unity behind a common goal—and firm, perky asses and tits.

And then the characters speak. The topic of conversation? Military service, of course. One joined for the sake of her political career. Another joined in the hopes of receiving her breeding license. Another talks about how badly he wants to kill the enemy. No one looks at each other. No one flirts.

A room full of beautiful, bare bodies, and everyone is only horny for war.

… This cinematic trend reflects the culture around it. Even before the pandemic hit, Millennials and Zoomers were less sexually active than the generation before them. Maybe we’re too anxious about the Apocalypse; maybe we’re too broke to go out; maybe having to live with roommates or our parents makes it a little awkward to bring a partner home; maybe there are chemicals in the environment screwing up our hormones; maybe we don’t know how to navigate human sexuality outside of rape culture; maybe being raised on the message that our bodies are a nation-ending menace has dampened our enthusiasm for physical pleasure. 

Eating disorders have steadily increased, though. We are still getting our bodies ready to fight The Enemy, and since we are at war with an abstract concept, the enemy is invisible and ethereal. To defeat it, our bodies must lose solidity as well….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 27, 1994 — On this date in 1994, the TekWar episode TekLab first aired. Though created by William Shatner, it was actually ghost-written by writer Ron Goulart. This extended episode was directed by Timothy Bondoff the the story by Westbrook Claridge which was developed into a teleplay by? Chris Haddock. As always the lead character was Jake Cardigan played by Greg Evigan, and yes, Shatner was in the series as Walter Bascom. Torri Higginson, of later Stargate fame, got her start on this series. The series doesn’t far well with the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes where it currently has a dismal thirty six percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 27, 1807 – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Taught at Bowdoin and Harvard.  First American translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy; better known to many for “Paul Revere’s Ride” and Hiawatha, whose accessibility had better not blind the thoughtful.  Book-length poems, novels, plays, anthologies, a dozen volumes of poetry.  “What a writer asks of readers is not so much to like as to listen.”  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1850 – Laura Richards.  Ninety books addressed to children; fifty stories ours, at least (what should count can be unclear with “children’s”).  LR’s mother Julia Ward Howe wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”; 1917 Pulitzer Prize for biography of JWH by LR & sister Maud Howe Elliott “assisted by [sister] Florence Howe Hall”.  LR also wrote biographies of Abigail Adams, Florence Nightingale, Joan of Arc; 5 others.  Maybe best known for “Eletelephony”.  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He was the Green Hornet (with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato) on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, and also do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well-disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he also appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)  (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not at all familiar with. So what else is worth reading by him? (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 61. Creator and illustrator of Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil. He’s won a very impressive eleven Harvey Awards and ten Eisner Awards! (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1945 – Hank Davis, age 76.  Nine short stories in e.g. AnalogF&SF, not counting one for The Last Dangerous Visions.  A dozen anthologies.  Correspondent of SF CommentarySF Review.  Served in the Army in Vietnam.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1951 – Mark Harrison, age 70.  Two hundred sixty covers, fifty interiors.  British SF Ass’n Award.  Here is The Story of the Stone.  Here is Valentine Pontifex.  Here is the Mar 93 Asimov’s.  Here is the Mar 95 Analog.  Here is Mercury.  Artbook, Dreamlands.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 57. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser which turns only such role. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series with over two dozen appearances, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon as he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for the episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship as Tex  Nolan. (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1970 – Michael A. Burstein, age 51.  Twoscore short stories.  Served a term as SFWA Secretary (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America), simultaneously Vice-President of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n).  Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  President, Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet.  Fanzine (with wife Nomi Burstein), Burstzine.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1976 Nikki Amuka-Bird, 45. The Voice of Testimony in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor story, “Twice Upon A Time”.  She’s shown up quite a bit in genre work from horror (The Omen), space opera (Jupiter Ascending)takes on folk tales (Sinbad and Robin Hood) and evening SF comedy (Avenue 5). (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1993 – Ellen Curtis, age 28.  Three novels (with Matthew LeDrew), three shorter stories; four anthologies (with Erin Vance).  Has read The Essential Calvin and HobbesThe Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThe Castle of OtrantoThe Name of the Rose, a Complete Stories & Poems of Lewis CarrollGrimms’ Fairy TalesHans Andersen’s Fairy Tales.  [JH]

(12) REDISCOVERING ‘UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY’. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Looking back on the final voyage of the original Star Trek crew, Escapist scribe Darren Mooney makes a compelling argument for the subtext of the movie. He reads the movie as a rejection of nostalgia, and the need to hear new voices within genre fiction. It’s an article that’s relevant to several of fandom’s ongoing internecine struggles: “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Rejected Franchise Nostalgia in a Way Impossible Today” at Escapist Magazine.

…Three decades later, it’s impossible to imagine a major franchise demonstrating this level of introspection without provoking a fandom civil war. The Undiscovered Country provides a contrast with films like The Rise of Skywalker, in that The Undiscovered Country is about an older generation learning that they need to step aside and make room for those that will follow, while The Rise of Skywalker is about how the older generation is never too old for a joyride in the Millennium Falcon….

(13) SLIPPED DISC. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Talking of mysterious bronze age artefacts, here is an article about the archeological dispute involving the famous Nebra sky disc:  “Archaeologists Are Caught Up in an Intense Fight Over Just How Important the Mysterious Nebra Sky Disk Really Is” at Artnet News. Even if the sky disc is not as old as previously assumed, it is still an intensely cool artefact. I was lucky enough to see it in person a few years ago, since I have family in Halle/Saale, the town where it’s kept.

  … In September, Rupert Gebhard, director of the Munich’s Bavarian State Archaeological Collection, and Rüdiger Krause, an early European history professor at Goethe University in Frankfurt, published a paper in the German journal Archäologische Informationen arguing that the artifact—which features images of the sun, the moon, and the Pleiades star cluster—is not the remarkable earliest-known depiction of astronomical phenomena that it had been heralded as.

“It’s a very emotional object,” Gebhard told the New York Times. He believes that the looters who discovered the disk before it was recovered in 2002 moved it from its original site and reburied it with real Bronze Age artifacts to make it appear older and more valuable.

Now, a competing paper put forth by experts including Harald Meller, director of the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, Germany, which owns the disk, has fired back….

(14) ALL THAT ROT. Here’s an interesting article about cryptography for everyday use in the 17th century: “Beyond Espionage: Cryptography for Everyday Use in 17th Century England” at Criminal Element.

 Cryptography in seventeenth-century England was not just the stuff of spies and traitors, a fact that became a major plot point in The Sign of the Gallows, my fifth Lucy Campion historical mystery. While ciphers had grown more complex between the 16th and 17th centuries with the development of new mathematics, the actual practice of secret and hidden writing occurred in different domains of everyday life. Merchants might send messages about when and where shipments might occur out of fear of theft. Leaders of non-conformist religious sects like the Quakers might communicate with their followers in code, informing them of their next meeting. Friends and merry-makers might write riddles and jests using ciphers to entertain one another, in a type of pre-parlor game. Lovers, especially those unacknowledged couples, might write amorous messages that could not be read if discovered by jealous husbands or angry parents….

(15) WRITERS’ BLOCK. Mental Floss knows fans will enjoy these “8 Facts About ‘Attack the Block’”.

5. PLACES IN THE ATTACK THE BLOCK ARE NAMED AFTER FAMOUS BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION AUTHORS.

The movie takes place in a fictional neighborhood. The main council block in the film is called Wyndham Tower in honor of John Wyndham, the English science fiction writer famous for novels such as The Day of the Triffids (1951) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). Other locations include Huxley Court (Aldous Huxley), Wells Court (H.G. Wells), Moore Court (Alan Moore), Ballard Street (J.G. Ballard), and Adams Street (Douglas Adams). Just after the movie title appears, the camera pans across a map of the area, showing the various names.

(16) WORSE THAN THE DIET OF WORMS. Antonio Ferme, in “George A. Romero’s Lost Movie ‘The Amusement Park’ Comes to Shudder” at Variety, says that Shudder will show Romero’s 1973 film The Amusement Park which was believed lost until it was found and restored in 2018.  The film was commissioned by the Lutheran Society to showcase problems of elder abuse but suppressed because the Lutherans thought it was too gory.

… “Amusement Park” stars Lincoln Maazel as an elderly man who finds himself increasingly disoriented and isolated during a visit to the amusement park. What he initially assumed would be an ordinary day quickly turned into a hellish nightmare filled with roller coasters and chaotic crowds….

(17) NOTHING SECEDES LIKE SUCCESS. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri interviews residents of Potatopia about their threat to secede if Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head became gender-neutral. “Opinion | An oral history of the Mr. Potato Head secession”.

… Helen Helenson, first applicant for asylum in Potatopia: The minutes when I thought I would have to look at a brownish plastic oval and not clearly know what gender it was were some of the most frightening of my life. I started to sob. I thought, what will they come for next? Soon I won’t know what gender any of the plastics are around my home….

(18) STREAMLINED FELINE. Gizmodo’s Andrew Liszewski sounds quite revolted by the whole idea: “Meet Flatcat, the Creepiest Robot We’ve Ever Seen”. Question: is the writer aware of that term’s sf roots? He doesn’t acknowledge them in the article.

…To make Flatcat more endearing so people will actually want to touch and interact with it, its creators at a Berlin-based robotics startup called Jetpack Cognition Lab have wrapped it in soft, fluffy fur so that it looks more like a cat—or at least a cat that somehow survived repeated run-ins with a semi-truck. In reality, Flatcat is more like like a ThiccFurrySnake, or maybe a FlattenedCaterpillar. Calling it a cat is certainly a stretch….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “That Mitchell and Webb Look–Holmes And Watson” on YouTube, British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb play two actors who keep fighting over who gets to play Holmes and who gets to play Watson.

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