Pixel Scroll 9/5/21 Scrollers Of The Purple Pixel

(1) LISTEN UP. Connie Willis proclaimed to Facebook readers “PRIMEVAL IS BACK!!!” (Hey, my ears may be deaf but my eyes aren’t!)

I just saw that the first two seasons of PRIMEVAL, the British science-fiction series, is now available from Britbox, and I thought it was a good time to encourage anybody who hasn’t seen it so far to take a look at it. That is, if there’s anybody left who I haven’t already told they HAVE to watch this series–

I have recommended it so many times that it’s become a standing joke in science fiction circles (I somehow figure out a way to mention it on every single panel) and Locus has forbidden me to mention it at the Locus Awards Banquet. As if that could stop me!

I know it sounds like I’m obsessed with the series, but so was Kit Reed, one of my favorite science-fiction writers of all time (see her brilliant short stories, “The Wait” and “Great escape Tours, Ltd.”) and nearly everybody I’ve ever introduced it to has loved it. (One couple took it on a beach weekend and ended up never going outside the entire time because they were binge-watching.)…

You know anything forbidden by Locus is mandatory here….

 … So, basically, the A-team with dinosaurs. So far, it’s completely formula, and you think the hunky guy and the pretty blonde will obviously get together, the geeky nerd will provide the plot explication and comic relief, the professor and the bureaucrat will flirt with each other, etc. but that only lasts for an episode or two, and then things start to get really interesting….

(2) SVENGOOLIE LENDS A HAND. Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications is one of five selected to host a special John Oliver exhibit. Horror-themed TV host Svengoolie told his fans how he helped with the successful pitch to Oliver, and that some of his items will be displayed by the Museum.

Tapped by Emmy-winning writer, comedian and television host John Oliver, the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) announced today it is one of only five museums in the country receiving an art display featured on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The special exhibit opens Oct. 2 through Oct. 26, 2021. In addition to winning the honor through a national competition, the Museum also receives $10,000 from Last Week Tonight. The MBC’s designated charity, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, also will receive a $10,000 donation.

… The national competition began after Oliver’s 2020 segment about the harsh effects of the global pandemic on small museums. Oliver wanted to help. He called for submissions from museums that wanted to compete for displaying items from his Masterpiece Gallery collection. The Museum responded with a humorous video pitch using the power of broadcast to communicate important stories and influence audiences….

Admission is free, but the Museum has suggested that visitors bring a non-perishable food donation which will go, along with the $10,000 donation, to the Greater Chicago Food depository.

(3) TV TUNES. The theme songs of four genre shows made it into The Guardian’s top 20, although it was crime series “Inspector Morse voted No 1 theme song in poll of TV and music fans”.

4 Game of Thrones – Ramin Djawadi
13 Doctor Who – Ron Grainer
14 The Lone Ranger (William Tell Overture) – Gioachino Rossini
19 Thunderbirds – Barry Gray

(4) DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL. The latest (in 1966) British sff sensation is on black-and-white TV. Let Galactic Journey tell you all about it: “[September 4, 1966] British Science Fiction Lives! (Alien Worlds #1 & New Writings in SF #9)”.

Move over James Bond and John Steed, there is a new dashing science fictional spy on the scene. I am of course referring to the latest hit from the team behind Doctor WhoAdam Adamant Lives!

An old-fashioned Victorian swashbuckling hero, Adam Adamant is frozen by a masked supervillain and buried under London. After being found by a construction crew, he finds himself resurrected in the strange world of London in 1966. Teaming up with a young mod woman named Georgina Jones, they solve unusual crimes such as satanic aristocrats or a soap manufacturer drugging the nation with plastic flowers.

(5) TWO THUMBS UP. A pair of early reviews of Denis Villenueve’s Dune are quite favorable.

The Guardian’s Xan Brooks calls Dune “Blockbuster cinema at its dizzying, dazzling best”.

Dune reminds us what a Hollywood blockbuster can be. Implicitly, its message written again and again in the sand, Denis Villeneuve’s fantasy epic tells us that big-budget spectaculars don’t have to be dumb or hyperactive, that it’s possible to allow the odd quiet passage amid the explosions. Adapted from Frank Herbert’s 60s opus, Dune is dense, moody and quite often sublime – the missing link bridging the multiplex and the arthouse. Encountering it here was like stumbling across some fabulous lost tribe, or a breakaway branch of America’s founding fathers who laid out the template for a different and better New World.

The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey says the “Spectacular sci-fi adaptation is this generation’s Lord of the Rings”.

… Villeneuve’s Dune is the sandworm exploding out from the darkness below. It is a film of such literal and emotional largeness that it overwhelms the senses. If all goes well, it should reinvigorate the book’s legacy in the same way Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy did for JRR Tolkien’s work. Indeed, much like Jackson, Villeneuve has a certain pliancy to his vision that, in this case, has been his saving grace. Arrival and Prisoners, two of his previous films, may have possessed their own distinctive look but, when it came to Blade Runner 2049, his belated sequel to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, it spoke fluently in the language of what came before….

(6) DRESSED FOR THE OCCASION. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Photo of myself (right) and Tony Edwards of Delta SF Film Group. Tony is wearing his Knight of St. Fantony jacket. The pic was taken at 2019’s Festival of Fantastic Films.

Tony Edwards (L), Jonathan Cowie (R)

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1942 – Seventy-nine years ago on this date, “The Impatient Patient,” a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon short featuring Daffy Duck and Dr. Jekyll premiered. The cartoon is set in Jekyll’s mad scientist’s laboratory. It was produced by Leon Schlesinger and directed by Norman McCabe. The story by Don Christensen. It starred Mel Blanc. In 1968, a redrawn color edition would be re-released and in 1992, a computer colorized version came out. Animation fans detest both of these versions. You can watch the original version here as it’s in the public domain.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1936 — Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played a series of androids in I, Mudd, a quite classic Trek episode. Both appeared as police women in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. They only acted for three years and every appearance of their total seven appearances by one was with the other. (Alyce died 2005; Rhae died 2009.)
  • Born September 5, 1939 — Donna Anderson, 82. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neville Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels. The first is a Sixties skinflick, the second is a Seventies exploitation film. She last shows up in a genre role series in The Incredible Hulk
  • Born September 5, 1939 — George Lazenby, 82. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. His turn as Bond was the shortest among the actors in the film franchise and he is the only Bond actor not to appear beyond a single film. (He was also the youngest actor cast as Bond, at age 29, and the only born outside of the British Isles.) Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was also a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. He voiced the Royal Flush King in a recurring role in the Batman Beyond series. 
  • Born September 5, 1940 — Raquel Welch, 81. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though she made One Million Years B.C. thatwith her leather bikini got her much more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy
  • Born September 5, 1951 — Michael Keaton, 70. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. He reprises that role as in Marvel’s upcoming Morbius film.
  • Born September 5, 1959 — Carolyne Larrington, 62. Norse history and culture academic who’s the author of The Land of the Green Man: A Journey Through the Supernatural Landscapes of the British Isles and Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones. She also wrote “Norse gods make a comeback thanks to Neil Gaiman – here’s why their appeal endures” for The Conversation.
  • Born September 5, 1964 — Stephen Greenhorn, 57. Scriptwriter who written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series whichJodie Whittaker and Alex Kingston appeared in. He also wrote the Mind Shadows strip which was featured on the Who website.
  • Born September 5, 1973 — Rose McGowan, 48. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in Planet Terror and Pam in Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld on all the hoops people will be expected to jump through upon the arrival of the next big book.

(10) GAIMAN INSPIRATION. “HBO Max orders ‘Dead Boy Detectives’ pilot from Greg Berlanti”SYFY Wire has the story.

Greg Berlanti‘s involvement with the DC Universe on the small screen is expanding once again. Variety has confirmed the Arrowverse producer extraordinaire is teaming up with HBO Max for a pilot of Dead Boy Detectives, a DC/Vertigo comic inspired by the Sandman universe created by Neil Gaiman.

Written by Mark Buckingham and Toby Litt (Buckingham also served as illustrator), the book follows a pair of deceased boys — Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine — who forego a ticket to the afterlife in order to remain on Earth, solving mysteries via supernatural means. Think Constantine meets The Hardy Boys.

(11) HE RODE A BLAZING CREDENTIAL. “George Takei teamed up w/ Mel Brooks in film inspired by Blazing Saddles” reports RedShirtsAlwaysDie.

Fans rightfully so give William Shatner props for still working at 90 years old, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only original Star Trek actor still going strong these days. George Takei is 84 years old and is himself still acting. Takei even has a major project coming up with the famed Mel Brooks (who’s 95 years old himself).

The new project is called Blazing Samurai and features a loaded cast. Names like Michael Cera, Samuel L. Jackson, Ricky Gervais, Gabriel Iglesias, Djimon Honsou, and Star Trek: Discovery’s very own Michelle Yeoh. The man himself, Brooks, will also be lending his voice to the animated feature.

The film is based on Brooks’ own Blazing Saddles comedy and will center around Hank, played by Cera, who is a dog that wants to become a samurai. Jackson plays a cat, and Gervais plays the evil villain….

(12) YOU BET YOUR LIFE. This time they mean it. Coming to Netflix: Korean sf. “Squid Game Official Teaser #1” with English subtitles.

How far would you go for 45.6 billion won? Welcome to Squid Game, a mysterious survival game that could change your fortune for good. The only cost to play? Your life.

(13) WORLD FANTASY HEAD START. Lela E. Buis, in “That Concludes the 2021 World Fantasy Award Reviews”, rounds up the links to all 15 fiction reviews.

(14) MR. SCI-FI. Marc Scott Zicree tells viewers “Why I Love Used Books!”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A visit to Walt Disney’s house, featuring animator Floyd Norman and Disney historian Don Hahn.

From legendary filmmaker Don Hahn and Disney Files Magazine Editor Ryan March comes “Disney Drop-In,” a Disney Vacation Club series of unscripted videos filmed in interesting Disney places with equally interesting Disney people. In this episode, Don Hahn leads Disney Legend Floyd Norman on a tour of Walt Disney’s historic home on Woking Way in Los Angeles, California.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/14/21 WandangerousVisions

(1) VOX DAY MOVES AGAIN. Three days after being shut down by Blogger Vox Day has migrated his blog to a second URL — “voxday.net”. The mirror blog he opened at “milosbookclub.com” was temporary and hasn’t been updated since August 12. 

The new site isn’t accepting comments, a deficiency Vox covered with a blustery attack on a critic at Anonymous Conservative [Internet Archive link] — “Comments Gone, Gammas Hardest Hit” [Internet Archive link]. Here are the first two of his four progressively more remarkable justifications:

…First, I have made it perfectly clear since 2003 that I don’t care about the comments. I permitted them as a courtesy, nothing more.

Second, it is a distinct pleasure to no longer have to spend any time moderating the hundreds of spam and troll and wise and insightful comments. I had no idea how much time I was wasting on it until I suddenly didn’t have to think about it anymore…

(2) CONVERGENCE COVID WARNING. The CONvergence 2021 committee announced on Twitter they received a report that someone who attended the con a week ago on Thursday and Friday has tested positive for COVID-19. Thread starts here.

(3) MIDDLE-EARTH FALLOUT. New Zealand is rocked by Amazon’s decision to move Lord of the Rings production to the UK reports Variety: “New Zealand Reacts to Shame of Losing ‘Lord of the Rings’ Mega-Series”.

…“It’s a shame and I feel for everyone who has put their hearts into this production. Season two was expected to begin later in 2022, so our role now is to work hard to keep the Kiwi screen sector employed,” said David Strong, CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission. He said that the series’ departure “opens the door wider to others to come in” and that the NZFC will continue to work closely with government on assisting these productions to shoot in the country.

New Zealand offers one of the most generous location incentive schemes in the world. This includes a 20% rebate scheme and, for especially large productions that deliver an infrastructure or other long-lasting benefit to the country, there is a discretionary additional subsidy known as an “uplift” equivalent to a further 5% of location spending.

According to government documents published in April this year, Amazon was estimated to be spending about NZ$650 million ($455 million) filming the first season of the show. It would have been eligible for a rebate of about NZ$162 million ($114 million), the government said, though it later reduced that figure.

Amazon’s statement makes it clear that it will walk away from the NZ$33 million ($23.1 million) of uplift that was agreed in April, when the company indicated, but did not commit to, shooting the second season in the country….

(4) UK CLUB REUNITES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] After 17 months the Northumberland Heath SF group had its first meeting. The event, held August 12 at the Heath’s Duchess of Kent in the Beer Garden, took place at the height of the Perseid meteor shower and an observation duly took place.

There was also a free SF/F book giveaway courtesy of a sponsor.

In addition to over a year’s worth of catch-up there was the usual wide-ranging SFnal chat with topics including —

Whether or not regular (the 2nd Thursday of the month) meetings will resume depends on whether CoVID cases reduce. Fingers crossed.

Attached picture of group and the books member’s chose for their free book give-away (courtesy of a group sponsor).

(5) TOON TUNES. SYFY Wire shares the music: “Animaniacs: Watch exclusive lyric videos from Hulu reboot”.

…Both musical numbers come from the reboot premiere and revolve around how much has changed since Animaniacs left the airwaves more than 20 years ago. Presidents and cultural norms may have shifted, but the core creative team behind the iconic property — save for creator Tom Ruegger — has not. Steven Spielberg is still an executive producer, while Yakko, Wakko, and Dot continue to be voiced by the trio of Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille. Maurice LaMarche rounds out the OG crew as the voice of Brain, the megalomaniacal lab mouse who is always trying to take over the world with the dim-witted Pinky (also Paulsen).

(6) STEVE PERRIN (1946-2021). Legendary game designer Steve Perrin died August 13 at the age of 75. Perrin helped create RuneQuest, published in 1978. While working at Chaosium he contributed to Thieves’ World (1981), Worlds of Wonder (1982), and Superworld.

Steve Perrin

George R.R. Martin notified all the Wild Cards writers of Perrin’s death because Superworld was the inspiration for the Wild Cards universe and Perrin just had his first Wild Cards story published in the latest volume, Joker Moon, which came out last month.

Chaosium posted a tribute: “Vale and farewell, Steve Perrin”.

…To sum up all that Steve was to the Chaosium family cannot be typed up in a few sentences. 

He is one of our Great Old Ones. An innovative genius who helped pave the way for us to exist today, delighting gamers while they sit around a table, in person or online, exploring stories and adventures together, weaving new tales of derring-do. RuneQuest and Superworld were his children, and his imprint on so many of our other games is indelibly present.

Many of us grew up playing his games. He was the uncle we admired, envied, and listened to for his wise counsel. In the last few years, as a new edition of RuneQuest was born he was there, his wisdom and experience reminding us of the simple, pure, and wondrous origins of the magic of roleplaying. How can you say thank you for that?…

The other projects he worked on during his career can be seen in his Wikipedia article.

Perrin also was a founding member of the Society for Creative Anachronism in Berkeley in 1966. The SCA is where he met his wife, Luise, who survives him. Unfortunately, Luise is in ill health, and last month Steve opened a GoFundMe to help pay for her care,

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2009 – Twelve years ago, District 9 premiered. It was produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, and directed by Neill Blomkamp in his feature film debut. Written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell. Adapted from Blomkamp’s Alive in Joburg short film. It starred Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Vanessa Haywood, Mandla Gaduka, Kenneth Nkosi and David James. Critics including Ebert loved it, the box office for it was fantastic as it earned over two hundred million against a thirty million budget and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent eighty-two percent rating. The screenplay was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 but the Moon screenplay won. Why were the screenplays nominated instead of the films? 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 14, 1910 Herta Herzog. At the Radio Project, she was part of the team of that conducted the groundbreaking research on Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds in the study The Invasion from Mars. The Radio Research Project was founded in 1937 as a social research project and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to look into the effects of mass media on society. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 14, 1932 Lee Hoffman. In the early Fifties, she edited and published the Quandry fanzine. At the same time, she began publication of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly which appeared regularly until ‘til 2006. It won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 which she shared with Geri Sullivan and Randy Byers. It was awarded after her death. She wrote four novels and a handful of short fiction, none of which are in the usual suspects. (Died 2007.)
  • Born August 14, 1940 Alexei Panshin, 81. He has written multiple critical works along with several novels, including the Nebula Award-winning Rite of Passage and the Hugo Award-winning study of SF, The World Beyond the Hill which he co-wrote with his wife, Cory Panshin. He also wrote the first serious study of Heinlein, Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis.
  • Born August 14, 1950 Gary Larson, 71. Setting aside long and delightful career in creating the weird for us, ISFDB notes a SF link  that deserve noting. The Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association’s clubzine Warp ran his cartoon “The crew of the Starship Enterprise encounters the floating head of Zsa Zsa Gabor” in the March 1991 issue.
  • Born August 14, 1951 Carl Lumbly, 70. I first encountered him voicing the Martian Manhunter on the Justice League series and he later played M’yrnn J’onzz, the father of the Martian Manhunter on the first Supergirl series.  His first major genre role was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Parker, and he later had a number of voice roles in such films as Justice League: Doom and Justice League: Gods and Monsters. He of course was the lead in the short lived M.A.N.T.I.S. as Miles Hawkins. 
  • Born August 14, 1956 Joan Slonczewski, 65, Their novel A Door into Ocean won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. They won a second John W. Campbell Memorial Award for their Highest Frontier novel. They were nominated for an Otherwise Award for The Children Star novel.
  • Born August 14, 1965 Brannon Braga 56. Writer, producer and creator for the Next GenVoyagerEnterprise, as well as on the Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact films. He has written more episodes in the Trek franchise than anyone else with one hundred nine to date. He was responsible for the Next Gen series finale “All Good Things…” which won him a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo (1995), along with Ronald D. Moore.
  • Born August 14, 1966 Halle Berry, 55. Her first role genre was not as I thought Miss Stone in The Flintstones but a minor role in a forgotten SF series called They Came from Outer Space. This was followed by being Storm in the X- Men franchiseand Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in Die Another Day, the twentieth Bond film. She then shows up as Catwoman. She has myriad roles in Cloud Atlas

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) RUN. Atlanta Magazine did a feature about Rep. John Lewis’s posthumous graphic novel. “The next chapter of John Lewis’s legacy”.

Back in 2013, the debut of a memoir in comic-book form by civil rights figure and longtime Atlanta congressman John Lewis seemed an unlikely format for a legendary activist with gravitas to spare. But Lewis’s March trilogy—co-authored with aide Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell—proved to be a juggernaut, landing on bestseller lists, securing a place on high-school and college curricula, and ultimately earning a National Book Award.

The March trilogy chronicles Lewis’s early life and involvement in the civil rights movement, ending with the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Lewis had planned to continue the work, and before the congressman’s death in July 2020, he and Aydin had drafted the script for the Run series. The first volume of Runpublished in August by Abrams ComicArts, covers the tumultuous events of 1965-1966, including schisms between established civil rights leaders and Black Power activists, the history-making election of Julian Bond to the Georgia Legislature. Just in March, the book does not shy away from unvarnished accounts of history. It opens with a fearsome scene of Klan intimidation and closes with Lewis’s departure from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Today, with political storms swirling around both the issues of expanding voter access and teaching the country’s racist history, Run feels more timely than ever. “The fight that’s happening today is a direct continuation of the fight that began on August 7, 1965, immediately after the signing of the Voting Rights Act,” Aydin said….

(11) REMEMBERING. JJ admires the Dedication from Matt Wallace’s new book, Savage Bounty, released July 20:

(12) REACHING OUT. And I love this title:

(13) SPEAK, MEMORY. MSN.com tells how “AI recreates actor Val Kilmer’s voice that was lost to throat cancer”.

A British artificial intelligence (AI) company has recreated Hollywood actor Val Kilmer’s voice – with amazingly realistic results. 

London-based firm Sonantic used the actor’s voice recordings from throughout his career, which were fed to their AI to create the lifelike yet artificial mock-up.  

Film producers could potentially use the tool – described as ‘Photoshop for voice’ – for voiceovers if they have a role in mind that would be suited to Kilmer’s tones. 

Kilmer, whose career has spanned nearly four decades, has starred in blockbusters such as Top Gun, Willow, The Doors, Tombstone and Batman Forever. 

But after undergoing a tracheotomy in 2014 as part of his treatment for throat cancer, Kilmer’s voice is now barely recognisable. 

Luckily, Kilmer himself is also able to use the AI tool in his personal life, to help him communicate, rather than relying on a voice box to speak.

Somatic, the company that did it, has its own article about “Helping actor Val Kilmer reclaim his voice”. And there’s a video where you can listen to a demonstration of the result:

(14) TROUBLESHOOTING REQUIRED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Boeing is having trouble fixing a valve issue on their Starliner space capsule which was due for an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station. They’re now planning to remove the craft from its booster to continue troubleshooting. This will ground the Boeing program for an indefinite time. The Crew Dragon from SpaceX will continue for now to be the only US spacecraft cleared for crewed trips to the ISS. Ars Technica reports: “Boeing to ground Starliner indefinitely until valve issue solved”.

Boeing said Friday that its Starliner spacecraft will be grounded indefinitely while it continues to investigate problems with the valves in the propulsion system.

In the 10 days since Boeing and NASA scrubbed the launch in Florida, technicians and engineers have sought to open 13 valves that control the flow of dinitrogen tetroxide (NTO) oxidizer through the service module of the spacecraft. There are 24 oxidizer valves in the propulsion system, which is critical both for in-space travel as well as launch emergency escapes.

Boeing has been able to open nine of the valves, said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. The other four remain stuck. As a result, the company plans to de-stack the Starliner spacecraft from its Atlas V rocket and move it to the nearby Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility for deeper troubleshooting…

(15) MARS RETURN TO SENDER. Science details the probe that will be “Searching for life on Mars and its moons”.

Sample-return missions will look for extraterrestrial life and biomarkers on Mars and Phobos

The planned Mars Sample-Return (MSR) mission of NASA and the European Space Agency should reveal more about the habitability of Mars by helping to determine the geologic evolution of Jezero crater and its surrounding areas, which are believed to be the site of an ancient lake… The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will attempt to collect samples that will allow scientists to explore the evolution of Jezero crater and its habitability over time, as well as samples that may contain evidence of biosignatures. A high-priority science objective for MSR returned-sample science is to understand the habitability of Mars and look for potential signs of both extinct and extant life.

(16) TRAILER PARK. Doom Patrol Season 3 begins streaming September 23 on HBO Max.

Go through the looking glass with a super-powered gang of outcasts (including Matt Bomer as Negative Man, Joivan Wade as Cyborg, Brendan Fraser as Robotman, and more). Last seen at a decrepit amusement park where Chief (Timothy Dalton) witnessed his metahuman daughter, Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro) engaged in a fiery face-off with “The Candlemaker,” an ancient evil deity who will stop at nothing to fulfill his world-ending destiny, join the #DoomPatrol for an action-packed third season.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/21 Imagine There’s No Pixels

(1) HELICOPTER OVERVIEW. In “How Twitter can ruin a life: Isabel Fall’s complicated story” at Vox, Emily VanDer Werff’s interview with author Fall is threaded throughout a wide-ranging commentary about the ways “Isabel Fall’s sci-fi story ‘I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter’ drew the ire of the internet” and what happened next. The article begins —

“In a war zone, it is not safe to be unknown. Unknown travelers are shot on sight,” says Isabel Fall. “The fact that Isabel Fall was an unknown led to her death.”

Isabel Fall isn’t dead. There is a person who wrote under that name alive on the planet right now, someone who published a critically acclaimed, award-nominated short story. If she wanted to publish again, she surely could.

Isabel Fall is a ghost nonetheless.

In January 2020, not long after her short story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” was published in the online science fiction magazine Clarkesworld, Fall asked her editor to take the story down, and then checked into a psychiatric ward for thoughts of self-harm and suicide.

The story — and especially its title, which co-opts a transphobic meme — had provoked days of contentious debate online within the science fiction community, the trans community, and the community of people who worry that cancel culture has run amok. Because there was little biographical information available about its author, the debate hinged on one question: Who was Isabel Fall? And that question ate her alive. When she emerged from the hospital a few weeks later, the world had moved on, but she was still scarred by what had happened. She decided on something drastic: She would no longer be Isabel Fall….

(2) AND THE WINNER IS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The public has selected “Commander Moonikin Campos” as the official name of the manikin to be launched on Artemis I, the uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft around the Moon. The launch is currently scheduled for later this year. The namesake of the moonikin is Arturo Campos — electrical power subsystem manager for the Apollo 13 lunar module — who was a key player in bringing that mission safely back to Earth. ”Public Names ‘Moonikin’ Flying Around Moon on NASA’s Artemis Mission” at NASA.

The final bracket challenge was between Campos and Delos, a reference to the island where Apollo and Artemis were born, according to Greek mythology. 

… The other six names under consideration were:

  • ACE, for “Artemis Crew Explorer.”
  • DUHART, a dedication to Irene Duhart Long, chief medical officer at Kennedy Space Center from 2000 to 2010.
  • MONTGOMERY, dedication to Julius Montgomery, first African American to work as a technical professional at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, now known as Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
  • RIGEL, a giant superstar in the Orion constellation.
  • SHACKLETON, a crater on the Moon’s South Pole, which is named after famous Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.
  • WARGO, a dedication to Michael Wargo, NASA’s first chief exploration scientist.

The Moonikin is a male-bodied manikin previously used in Orion vibration tests. Campos will occupy the commander’s seat inside and wear an Orion Crew Survival System suit– the same spacesuit that Artemis astronauts will use during launch, entry, and other dynamic phases of their missions.

Campos will be equipped with two radiation sensors and have additional sensors under its headrest and behind its seat to record acceleration and vibration data throughout the mission. Data from the Moonikin’s experience will help NASA protect astronauts during Artemis II, the first mission in more than 50 years that will send crew around the Moon….

(3) MORE OMENS. Good Omens has been renewed For Season 2 at Amazon reports Deadline. Neil Gaiman fills in the details at his blog in “Really Bloody Excellent Omens…”

It’s been thirty-one years since Good Omens was published, which means it’s thirty-two years since Terry Pratchett and I lay in our respective beds in a Seattle hotel room at a World Fantasy Convention, and plotted the sequel. (I got to use bits of the sequel in the TV series version of Good Omens — that’s where our angels came from.)

Terry was clear on what he wanted from Good Omens on the telly. He wanted the story told, and if that worked, he wanted the rest of the story told.

So in September 2017 I sat down in St James’ Park, beside the director, Douglas Mackinnon, on a chair with my name on it, as Showrunner of Good Omens. The chair slowly and elegantly lowered itself to the ground underneath me and fell apart, and I thought, that’s not really a good omen. Fortunately, under Douglas’s leadership, that chair was the only thing that collapsed. 

… So that’s the plan. We’ve been keeping it secret for a long time (mostly because otherwise my mail and Twitter feeds would have turned into gushing torrents of What Can You Tell Us About It? long ago) but we are now at the point where sets are being built in Scotland (which is where we’re shooting, and more about filming things in Scotland soon), and we can’t really keep it secret any longer.

There are so many questions people have asked about what happened next (and also, what happened before) to our favourite Angel and Demon. Here are, perhaps, some of the answers you’ve been hoping for. 

As Good Omens continues, we will be back in Soho, and all through time and space, solving a mystery which starts with one of the angels wandering through a Soho street market with no memory of who they might be, on their way to Aziraphale’s bookshop. 

(Although our story actually begins about five minutes before anyone had got around to saying “Let there be Light”.)

(4) KNOWN UNKNOWNS. Asimov’s does a “Q&A with Ursula Whitcher”, whose poem “Ansibles” appears in the current issue. The intro says Whitcher “is ready to fight for the honor of being the second-most-famous SF author named Ursula” – something definitely to aspire to, but I think at the moment that space is already filled.

Asimov’s Editor: The first line of your poem is, “I can’t explain gravity without using gravity.” Have you ever actually tried to explain gravity?

UW: I have! As well as being a poet, I’m a mathematician. My research is inspired by the physical theory of string theory, which offers one way to unify quantum physics and general relativity. I took more classical courses in general relativity as a graduate student, so I’ve spent quite a bit of energy working out equations for possible shapes of spacetime.

(5) THE BRADBURY LEGACY. The American Writers Museum in Chicago is hosting an exhibit called “Ray Bradbury: Inextinguishable” through May 2022.

Ray Bradbury is perhaps best-known for writing Fahrenheit 451The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man. He was much more than those stories though: a screenplay writer, a friend to Walt Disney, and an amateur painter, just to name a few.

From a young age, Ray was obsessed with finding a way to live forever. He will certainly be remembered for his writing, but his influence elsewhere may surprise you.

To explore the virtual exhibit, click on the link. To visit in person, see the information about Chicago Museum Tickets & Hours.

[Visit] the American Writers Museum in Chicago, your ticket into the interactive, inspirational, and surprising world of American writing of all genres. Learn about the history of writing in the United States and how it has shaped our lives through exhibits that stretch your imaginations and appeal to all 5 senses.. Then, explore the intricacies of language through games and try writing something for yourself on a vintage typewriter!

(6) LESS CURSE, MORE FILLING. The New York Times says “‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ to Slim Down Before Broadway Return”.

…The show will continue to run in two parts in London; Melbourne, Australia; and Hamburg, Germany, but will be a single part in New York, San Francisco and Toronto. It was not immediately clear how long that single part would be; the two parts have a total running time of about 5 hours and 15 minutes.

Structured essentially as a stage sequel to J.K. Rowling’s seven wildly popular “Harry Potter” novels, the show was the most expensive nonmusical play ever to land on Broadway, costing $35.5 million to mount, and another estimated $33 million to redo Broadway’s Lyric Theater. Before the pandemic, the play was routinely grossing around $1 million a week on Broadway — an enviable number for most plays, but not enough for this one, with its large company and the expensive technical elements that undergird its stage magic.

The play, a high-stakes magical adventure story with thematic through lines about growing up and raising children, was written by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany, based on a story credited to Rowling, Thorne and Tiffany. Thorne and Tiffany said they had been working on a new version of the show during the pandemic, which, they said, “has given us a unique opportunity to look at the play with fresh eyes.”

The writers did not say what kind of changes they would make, but the production promised that the new version would still deliver “all the amazing magic, illusions, stagecraft and storytelling set around the same powerful narrative.”

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” began its stage life in London, opening in the summer of 2016, and winning nine Olivier awards — the most of any play — in 2017. It arrived on Broadway in 2018, picked up six Tony Awards, and initially sold very strongly, grossing about $2 million a week. But the sales softened over time, as average ticket prices fell, apparently because of a combination of the lengthy time commitment and the need to buy two tickets to see the whole story, which made it particularly expensive for families….

(7) GAMING CONS ISSUE BANS. There are two different companies using the TSR name. The one known as TSR™ on Twitter is associated with Ernest Gygax as Vice President, who made news with some transphobic comments (which are discussed in GeekNative’s post “The new TSR Games clarify position as key names appeared to distance themselves”.) Two major gaming cons have now said they are closed to Gygax’s company.

The GenCon gaming convention made with this statement:

The Origins Game Fair has said the Gygax-connected TSR company is also unwelcome at their event.

(8) BOUCHARD OBIT. Detroit area fan and fanzine publisher Alexander Bouchard was killed yesterday in an automobile accident. Al produced a fanzine called The Lightning Round. He also liked to post political comment videos on his YouTube Channel AlexanderFilmWorks — the last two in January criticizing the attack on the Capitol. He is survived by his widow, Megan. A GoFundMe appeal has been opened by their friends Kimberly and Miki Ivey: “Al Bouchard’s burial and help for his wife Megan”.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 30, 1971 – On this date fifty years ago, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory premiered. It was directed by Mel Stuart and produced by Stan Margulies and David L. Wolper. It was based off Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. The exemplary cast consisted of Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone, Denise Nickerson, Dodo Denney and Paris Themmen. Some critics really didn’t like it, some kind of liked it and most were very fond of it. It really didn’t do well at the box office though not even making back production and marketing costs. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a very superb rating of eighty-seven percent. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 30, 1902 — Lovat Dickson. Australian-born publisher and author who was half-brother of Gordon R Dickson. He wrote a biography of H G Wells, H G Wells: His Turbulent Life and Times. (Died 1987.)
  • Born June 30, 1905 — Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series  for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft-forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though that was hardly his only genre role as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Addams Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.)
  • Born June 30, 1920 — Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con in what was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, he edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. First Fandom named its award for collecting after him. (Died 1997.)
  • Born June 30, 1959 — Vincent D’Onofrio, 62. His long running-role is Dective  Goren on Law and Order: Criminal Intent which is in no way genre. He was Kingpin in the Daredevil film, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film to date and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye.
  • Born June 30, 1961 — Diane Purkiss, 60. I’ve not read her Corydon Trilogy she wrote with Michael Dowling, her son, but I can say that At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things is as splendid as the title suggests it is. She’s also written Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History
  • Born June 30, 1963 — Rupert S. Graves, 58. Here because he played Inspector G. Lestrade on that Sherlock series. He also appeared on Doctor Who as Riddell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He had one-offs in The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells: The MothTwelve MonkeysKrypton and Return of the Saint
  • Born June 30, 1966 — Peter Outerbridge, 55. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the underrated ReGenesis series as well being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black anda recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s currently in two series, The Umbrella Academy with a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. 
  • Born June 30, 1972 — Molly Parker, 49. Maureen Robinson on the current Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The Legacy,  Human Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man asSister Rose / Sister Thorn. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz tries to for maximum reading efficiency.

(12) LOOK OUT BELOW. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] Third Planet Sci-Fi and Fantasy Superstore in Houston is suing the hotel next door to them because guests at the hotel keep dropping junk on top of the bookstore’s roof, and recently caused a lot of damage.  The suit is being presented in an unusually nifty format though!  To see the entire comic, skip down to page six of the Plaintiff’s Petition. (Screencaps from Above the Law’s post “Comic Store Includes Graphic Novel Of Allegations In Filing”.)

(13) CLARION CALL. The Clarion West Write-A-Thon is under weigh, but you can still get on board.

Here’s part of the FAQ:

2. How does the Write-a-thon work?

Participating writers sign up beginning June 7. They set writing goals, put up excerpts of their work, and use social media to let people know that they’re writing for a good cause. There are all kinds of writing goals—from the manageable “write for five minutes a day” to the ambitious “finish a novel” or “finish six short stories.” Every writer in the Write-a-thon chooses a goal that works for them.

This summer, writers may participate in additional online events, including affinity groups, writing sprints, (recorded) craft talks, and more. See [page] for the full list of perks.

After the Write-a-thon kicks off on June 20, friends and family can visit the Write-a-thon site, choose a writer or writers they would like to support, and use the button on each writer’s page to sponsor them. Every week, writers get a report on who’s donated to them, allowing them to communicate with their supporters. Many writers send their supporters updates on their progress, or show off their completed work at the end of the Write-a-thon, but it’s not required.

3. Am I too late to join?

The 2021 Clarion West Write-a-thon runs from June 20 to July 31. But no worries if you got here midway through; there’s no last day to sign up as a participant, and you can donate until August 31. 

(14) YOUR FIRST. Clarion West is also doing a panel about “Releasing Your First Book” on July 5 at 6:30 p.m. Pacific. “Releasing your first book is tough any time. Hear from four Clarion West alumni who did it last year and learn what their journey was like.” Register here.  The panel features Elly Bangs, Lauren Dixon, Emily Skaftun, and E. Lily Yu. 

On Monday, July 5, we’re hosting our first live panel: Releasing Your First Book. Learn what the journey was like from four Clarion West alumni — Elly Bangs (CW, ’17, author of Unity, Tachyon Publications), Emily Skaftun (CW ’09, author of Living Forever & Other Terrible Ideas, Fairwood Press), Lauren Dixon (CW ’10, author of Welcome to the Bitch Bubble, Hydra House Books), and E. Lily Yu (CW ’13, author of On Fragile Waves, Erewhon Books) — who released their books last year.

(15) NOT DEAD YET. This one is airplane hijackers v. vampires–and it’s in French! Blood Red Sky on Netflix.

Nadja and her ten-year-old son are on an overnight flight from Germany to New York when a group of terrorists violently take control of the plane and threaten the lives of the passengers. Suddenly Nadja faces an impossible choice – should she reveal her dark side and the inner monster she has kept hidden from her son for years in order to save him? The hunters become the hunted in this action-horror from director Peter Thorwarth.

(16) STAR HEIST. James Davis Nicoll recommends “Five SFF Characters To Help You Execute the Perfect Caper” at Tor.com.

…The core members of such a team might include a mastermind (to plan the heist), a thief (to get past any security devices), the driver (to orchestrate exfiltration), the muscle (in case something goes horribly wrong), and of course, the distraction (because it is much easier to get away with stuff if everyone is looking in the wrong direction). Speculative fiction offers numerous candidates who would combine the required expertise with the necessary moral flexibility. Here are the five SFF characters I’d pick for my retrieval team.

The Driver: McGill Feighan (The Journeys of McGill Feighan series by Kevin O’Donnell, Jr.)

McGill Feighan is a “flinger,” a teleporter whose reach spans the Milky Way. He is also one of the very few flingers to escape the Flinger Network’s methodical conditioning, which prevents flingers from doing anything untoward. Although he is not criminally inclined, he is at the centre of a compelling mystery—why did the terribly mysterious Far Being Retzglaran orchestrate McGill’s kidnapping as a baby?—and if you can convince him the job will somehow get him closer to answering that question, he may turn a blind eye to certain legal niceties. With him by your side, the entire galaxy is within reach.

Note: The vast criminal gang known as the Organization would also like an answer to McGill’s question. They play rough, so try not to attract their attention. Or the attention of the Far Being Retzglaran, for that matter.

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed these stumbles on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy: 20th Century Novels

Answer: British biochemist J.B.S. Haldane’s essay on ectogenesis, birth outside the womb, helped inspire this 1932 novel.

Wrong questions: “What is ‘Metamorphosis’?” and “What is ‘Steppenwolf’?”

Right question: “What Is ‘Brave New World’?.”

(18) WE SEE EXOPLANETS. HOW DO THEY SEE US? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] One of the best ways we currently detect exoplanets is when their orbit intersects our line of sight with their host star: these exoplanets transit their star. As said, this only works when observer, planet and star are all aligned. However, just as we can this way detect exoplanets, so exoplanets about stars in the plane of our Earth orbiting the Sun can similarly detect the Earth!

Assuming aliens have at least the same technology as us, how many of these are there?

Two US astronomers, using data from the Gaia mission that takes into account the movement of stars, have worked out how many stars could detect an Earth transit of the Sun.

It turns out that over the past 5,000 years there were some 1,715 stars within 100 parsecs (~350 light years) of the Earth that could detect us using the transit method. Currently, today, there are 1,402 stars that could detect the Earth using the transit method with our level of technology. Of these 128 are G type stars like our Sun.

The astronomers also estimate, taking a pessimistic view of our current exoplanet catalogue, and applying a probability based on that, that there 508 rocky planets in the habitable zone of these stars.

Finally, assuming that we have been generating significant radio waves for about a century, they calculate 29 of these potentially habitable rocky planets could, were there aliens there listening, be in a position to also detect our radio signals.

(See Kaltenegger, L. & Faherty, J. K. (2021) “Past, present and future stars that can see Earth as a transiting exoplanet” Nature, vol. 594, p505-7.)


(19) MARTIAN HOPS. Also from open access articles in Nature: “Mars Helicopter Kicks Up Dust Clouds – And Unexpected Science”.

Ingenuity, NASA’s pint-sized Mars helicopter, has kicked up some surprising science on its flights over the red planet. When whizzing through the Martian air, its blades sometimes stir up a dust cloud that envelops and travels along with the tiny chopper. In several videos of Ingenuity’s flights, planetary scientists have seen dust whirling beneath the helicopter’s rotors — even when Ingenuity is flying as high as 5 metres above the Martian surface. That suggests that dust can get lifted and transported in the thin Martian air more easily than researchers had suspected….

(20) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan, actors who played hobbits in The Lord of the Rings movies (Pippin Took and Merry Brandybuck), appeared on The Late Show to promote their podcast “The Friendship Onion.” Host Stephen Colbert referred to it as completing his set of Hobbits as he has previously interviewed Elijah Wood and Sean Astin—as well as many other LotR actors. There was singing, trivia, and banter plus a video appearance by Peter Jackson.

Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd share stories from the set of the “Lord of the Rings” movies and get our host to join them in singing a Hobbit drinking song. You can hear more from them in their new Lord of the Rings podcast, “The Friendship Onion.”

Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, and special guest Peter Jackson try to find a “Lord of the Rings” trivia question that will stump our host. And to up the stakes, they have a special LOTR prize for Stephen if he can get it right.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Justin Busch, Lloyd Penney, Robin A. Reid, Jennifer Hawthorne, Daniel Dern, 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 microtherion.]

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 4/30/21 This Is The Way The Scroll Ends, Not With A File But A Pixel

(1) ON THE CORPORATE RIM. Tesla, The Lego Group, Netflix, Zoom, and SpaceX are on the TIME100 Most Influential Companies 2021 list. So is Roblox —

When adults turned to Zoom for pandemic-era happy hours, kids filled the social void with Roblox. In 2020, Roblox Corporation’s free-to-play game—which allows users to construct original, three-dimensional online worlds—grew its daily user base 85% to more than 32.6 million. Players can do everything from delivering pizzas to exploring ancient Rome to shelling out real money for virtual Robux to outfit their blocky avatars. (As in many online communities, some have faced harassment.) “Futurists and science-fiction writers have been imagining the Metaverse for decades,” says CEO David Baszucki, referring to the concept of a persistent, shared, 3-D virtual space. Roblox is making it a reality.

(2) ANOTHER CONVENTION CASUALTY. Jo Walton’s Scintillation con — planned for October 2021 in Montreal — is canceled. Current plans are to hope for 2022. “2021 is also cancelled”.

There will be no Scintillation in 2021. There’s no word about the border opening. Vaccinations are happening, but unevenly, and it’s not possible to get any guidance as to whether it will be legal to have events in Quebec in October. We thought about pushing it back, but then it runs into both World Fantasy (still planned to be in Montreal, still planned to be at least partly in person) and winter. The hotel are very reluctant to commit, and keeping the whole thing as a possibility was making us anxious, and of course the closer it gets the harder it is for people to commit. The worst result would be having a con and losing money so we can’t do it other years. So I decided we’d be better to just cancel again, and have the best Scintillation ever in 2022….

(3) 2021 SEIUN AWARDS FINALISTS. Locus Online’s 2021 Seiun Awards Nominees post has translations into English of all the titles up for Best Japanese Novel and Best Japanese Story, as well as the correct English titles of the works nominated for Best Translated Novel and Best Translated Story (i.e. of works into the Japanese language.) And I don’t! So hie thee hence.

The award’s own official website also lists the nominees in Multimedia, Comic, Artist, Non-Fiction, and “Free” (other) categories.

The awards will be presented at SF60, the 60th Japan SF Convention, scheduled for August 21-22, 2021 in Takamatsu city, Kagawa prefecture.

(4) ACTOR NOEL CLARKE FACES HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, has suspended British actor and producer Noel Clarke following allegations of sexual misconduct reports CNN. He’s known to sff fans for playing Mickey Smith in 15 episodes of Doctor Who, and appearing in Star Trek: Into Darkness.

The body told CNN in a statement on Friday that it had made the decision to suspend Clarke’s membership, along with his recent award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema, “in light of the allegations of serious misconduct” leveled against him in the Guardian newspaper.

“BAFTA has taken the decision to suspend his membership and the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award immediately and until further notice,” it added.

The suspension comes just weeks after Clarke was given the award — one of the academy’s most prestigious honors — at its annual ceremony on April 10.

According to the Guardian, claims of sexual harassment and bullying were made against Clarke by 20 women, all of whom knew him in a professional capacity between 2004 and 2019.

(5) MANY I BUY ANOTHER VOWEL, PLEASE? James Davis Nicoll would like to point you at “The Single Best Bibliographical Resource There Is (if You Like SFF)” at Tor.com.

The ISFDB’s roots can be found in USENET, a now archaic decentralized worldwide distributed discussion system intended to be sufficiently robust enough that in the event of a global thermonuclear war, surviving users would still be able to exchange angry barbs about the latest Robert A. Heinlein novel even as deadly fallout collected in deep drifts around the furious posters. By its nature, however, USENET posts tend to be ephemeral. Thus, in the mid-1990s, Al von Ruff and the entity known as Ahasuerus created the web-based ISFDB….

(6) 124C41+. SF2 Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie sent another update about prospects for UK fan groups resuming in-person meetings in the foreseeable future.

I have almost finished downloading five months of Nature PDFs that accrued during my “digital lockdown”, fortunately I had paper subscriptions so I was kept up-to-date during this time. Next is ScienceBMJ, etc. And I’ve not yet looked at the backlog e-mails December 2020 to March ’21…

As lockdown over here in Brit Cit eases, our local Northumberland Heath DA8 Science Fiction Group is hoping for a members-only meet in June before resuming regular open meetings. Before then a few of us may though have a garden
gathering as under CoVID rules, before late May, six are allowed to gather outside. (We hope Buffy the dog doesn’t count as one of the six: she slays vampires you know.)

Whether or not our SF group will have a larger barbecue this summer remains to be seen.

As for larger UK meetings, such as the Birmingham SF Group or the London SF Circle, getting to these will involve public transport and that may put off some. We will see. For now, the London SF Circle is virtual.

Fortunately, over here, both the weekly rates of infection and fatalities seem to be in steady decline, for which we have the vaccines to thank. (All hail the UK Science Base, AstraZeneca and Pfizer.)

Trusting things are going well for you over in the rebel colonies? News from some places elsewhere is depressing. Hopefully we can speed up vaccinating the world.

?

(7) DOWN FOR THE COUNT. Dream Foundry has made Cassie Alexander’s seminar “Injuries in Fiction and Writing About Other Medical Topics” available on their YouTube channel.

Have you ever needed to incapacitate a character and gotten stuck wondering what was real versus what was functional for your project? As an author and RN, Cassie understands the way we need to sometimes bend things for fiction — but also the thrill of making fiction as truthful as possible. The first half of the talk will include an overview of such topics as: blows to the head, strokes, burns, gunshots/arrowshots, what’s “life support,” infectious processes, heart attacks, etc., and the second half of the talk will be audience questions about their WIPs.

(8) WAIT UNTIL I PRODUCE THE SILMARILLION. Uh, yeah. At Literary Hub, Emily Temple documents “How J.R.R. Tolkien Blocked W.H. Auden From Writing a Book About Him”.

…Of course, without Tolkien’s cooperation, the book never materialized—though I have to say I’m sorry. I personally would love to read what was, judging by the above, sure to be Auden’s half-catty, half-worshipful book on Tolkien. We’ll all just have to imagine it, I suppose.

(9) CHEAP CHEAP. The Independent’s Ed Cumming knows how it happened and is willing to explain: “Intergalactic: How Britain fell in love with the rickety, low-budget sci-fi show”.

Blame Doctor Who. When they arrived in 1963, the Time Lord and his chums didn’t merely create a franchise that would dominate British TV for more than 50 years – they spawned an entire universe of tonally imitative series set in space. From Blake’s 7 and Space Island One to Star Cops and Outcasts, UK TV schedules have been littered with these curiosities. With their rattling sets, iffy costumes and eccentric English charm, we might fondly call such shows “Mibs”, or Mostly Indoors British Sci-fi.

Another may be on the way in the form of Sky One’s space-prison drama Intergalactic, which begins tonight. While they differ in their specifics, these programmes share a love of big themes delivered on tight budgets. They’re also more liked than initial critical reception tends to suggest.

It stems from a paradox at the heart of the genre. For audiences, a futuristic setting conjures visions of spectacle, elaborate costumes and faraway locations, all augmented with cutting edge technology and special effects. In Hollywood, sci-fi has long pushed the envelope of what is possible in filmmaking. For TV producers on a tight leash, however, mostly indoor sci-fis have a different quality. When outside movement is limited by an infinite hostile void, you can film the whole thing in a tiny studio. Viewers get big ideas. You get great value. Everyone wins.

(10) LIGHTING UP THE TV. Netflix dropped a trailer for the second half of Season 5 of Lucifer.  

It’s time to meet your new maker! Lucifer is back with eight thrilling new episodes. Season 5 Part 2 premieres May 28th.

(11) MY ILIAD SCORE WAS AN ODDITY. “How Well Do You Know An Iliad?” Take the quiz. I scored six out of seven, but I predict many Filers will get perfect marks!

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 30, 1839 – Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.  (Personal name last, Japanese-style.)  Possibly the last great Japanese woodblock artist.  Some of his work is fantasy.  Here is the cover of Higashi ed., Kaiki [“fantastic”], Uncanny Tales from Japan vol. 1 (showing Minamoto no Yorimitsu Cuts at the Earth Spider).  Here is Midnight Moon at Mount Yoshino (Lady Iga no Tsubone confronting the ghost of Sadaki no Kiyotaka, see here).  (Died 1892) [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1926 Cloris Leachman. I’ve got her first in the genre in Young Frankenstein as Frau Blücher. (Strange film.) She does her obligatory mouse role when she voices Euterpe in The Mouse and His Child. Next up is being The Lord’s Secretary in The Muppet Movie. (Always a fun time.) Hmmm… she’s Millie Crown in Shadow Play, a horror film that I don’t plan on seeing. Not my cup of tea. Lots of voice work from there out and I will only note her as Mrs. Tensedge in The Iron Giant, a great film indeed. She in the live action and I assume disgusting Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse as Ms. Fielder. (Died 2021.) (CE) 
  • Born April 30, 1934 – Baird Searles.  Book reviewer for Asimov’s.  Film reviewer for Amazing and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Co-wrote A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction and A Reader’s Guide to FantasyFilms of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Co-founded the SF Shop, New York.  Drama and Literature director at Radio Station WBAI; weekly program “Of Unicorns and Universes”; 100-minute reading of “The Council of Elrond”, pronunciations verified with Tolkien by telephone; complete (serialized) reading of Last and First Men.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 83. One of my favorite authors to read, be it the Gil Hamilton the Arm stories, Ringworld, Protector, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle (The Gripping Hand alas didn’t work for me at all), or the the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 and in turn by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I,  “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976 which I admit surprised me. (CE) 
  • Born April 30, 1947 – Melinda Murdock, age 74.  Ten novels, one shorter story, three covers.  Here is Timegatehere is A Sea of Troubles.  [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1959 – Bill Congreve, age 62.  Two dozen short stories.  Three Ditmars.  Book reviewer for Aurealis.  Edited four Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy (three with Michelle Marquardt), four more anthologies.  Small press, MirrorDanse Books.  Favourite (he’s Australian) meal: tabouli, roast chicken, Guinness, and Street’s Blue Ribbon ice cream.  [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1960 – P.C. Cast, age 61.  Three dozen novels, nine shorter stories, some edited by daughter Kristin Cast.   In high school fell in love with mythology and Quarter Horses.  Served in the Air Force, taught high school herself.  NY Times and USA Today best-selling author.  Prism, Holt Medallion, Laurel Wreath, Oklahoma Book awards.  Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1968 Adam Stemple, 53. Son of Jane Yolen. One-time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy TalesPay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as engaging. (CE) 
  • Born April 30, 1968 David Goldfarb, 53. Worked part-time at The Other Change of Hobbit, when it was in its first location in Berkeley. Has been Tuckerized by Jo Walton in Ha’Penny and Half a Crown, and by Mark Waid in the comic book Legion of Super-Heroes. At ConJosé co-accepted Jo’s Astounding (then-Campbell) Award. He’s five-for-five in Mark and Priscilla Olson’s “Trivia for Chocolate” game at Worldcons he’s attended. He competed in “Win Tom Whitmore’s Books” at Denvention 3 and beat Tom and won a rare Bujold hardcover from him. [OGH]
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 48. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Astounding Award. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet read her Spinning Silver novel which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, so opinions are welcome. (CE)
  • Born April 30, 1973 – Jeanine Hall Gailey, age 48. Ten dozen poems; five collections.  Co-edited Dwarf Stars 11 (annual anthology, DS Award finalists, SF Poetry Ass’n; poems of at most 10 lines).  Two top prizes from Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Memorial Fund (2007, 2011).  Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington.  Elgin Award.  Moon City Poetry Award.  [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1982 Kirsten Dunst, 38. Her first genre role was as Claudio in  Interview with the Vampire. Later genre roles include Judy Shepherd in Jumanji, voicing Christy Fimple in Small Soldiers, voicing Becky Thatcher in The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man franchise,  voicing Kaena in Kaena: The Prophecy, and showing up on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Hedrilin in the “Dark Page” episode. She would have been nine years old in that episode! (CE) 
  • Born April 30, 1985 Gal Gadot, 36. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows cops tracing a witch’s missing sibling. You’ll probably solve this disappearance before they do.

(14) IN CHARACTER. Keith Houston, in “Miscellany #90: The Grawlix” on his blog Shady Characters explains that the bunch of random typography in comics used to portray obscenity is called “The Grawlix” and was invented by Mort Walker for Beetle Bailey in the 1950s.

…But here’s the thing. A grawlix is not a col­lec­tion of ty­po­graphic char­ac­ters — at least not the way that Walker defined it. In Lex­icon, he writes:

“A vari­ety of ac­cept­able curse words are at the car­toon­ist’s dis­posal. He may throw in a new one from time to time, but the real meat of the epi­thet must al­ways con­tain plenty of jarns, quimps, nittles, and grawlixes[.]”…

(15) MAY THE FOURTH ITH NEXT WEEK. SYFY Wire thinks you should spare no expense to celebrate — “May the 4th, Star Wars Day 2021: Bad Batch premiere, events, merchandise, more”. A roundup of several dozen thematic products.

… After more than a year of shutdowns and delays, cantinas and gangster hideouts throughout the galaxy are finally opening their doors to more and more clientele. We haven’t felt this giddy and hopeful since Vader tossed Palpatine into the reactor of the Death Star. It’s only fitting that Star Wars Day 2021 should ring in a new era of optimism. After all, the entire franchise is rooted in the concept of sparking hope in dark times.

So, cash in those galactic credits and clear your schedule for Tuesday, May 4, because we’ve got your guide on how to party like it’s the days of the Old Republic. (Be sure to check back in with SYFY WIRE as more May the 4th goodies are revealed over the next week.)…

(16) URSA PASSES ORSON. In the Washington Post, Brittany Shammas says that a negative review of Citizen Kane from the Chicago Tribune has been unearthed, which makes Paddington 2 the highest ranking film on Rotten Tomatoes with uniformly positive reviews. “Rotten Tomatoes downgrades Citizen Kane’s perfect score”.

… A thousand memes and jokes were born of the news that the talking-bear sequel’s score of “100 percent Fresh” had bested the “99 percent Fresh” now assigned to the film widely hailed as the greatest ever made.

“please don’t misinterpret the adjusted Rotten Tomatoes rankings to mean that ‘Paddington 2 is now the best movie of all time.’ Paddington 2 *already was* the best movie of all time,” quipped David Ehrlich, a senior film critic at Indie Wire. “thank you.”…

(17) NOT FOREVER, JUST TOMORROW. Variety introduces “’The Tomorrow War’ Trailer: Chris Pratt’s Time-Traveling Sci-Fi Film”.

Amazon has released a trailer for the upcoming sci-fi thriller “The Tomorrow War,” debuting this summer.

The movie, out July 2, stars Chris Pratt as Dan Forester, a high school teacher who is recruited by a group of time travelers to fight a war in the future. As an alien species threatens life on Earth, the only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to travel to the year 2051 and help save the planet. Dan teams up with his estranged father, played by J.K. Simmons, and a brilliant scientist, played by Yvonne Strahovski, to rewrite the fate of mankind.

(18) HIS GREATEST ROLL. “Hear Jeff Goldblum play D&D, because life finds a way” at Polygon.

Actor Jeff Goldblum is joining the cast of a fan-made Dungeons & Dragons podcast called Dark Dice, created and written by Fool and Scholar Productions. The high-concept audio drama starts out as a traditional session of D&D, complete with dice and a Dungeon Master. Sequences are then cut, condensed, and performed with additional voice acting, original music, and sound effects. Episodes featuring the Jurassic Park actor will begin airing for free on May 12. The announcement was made Wednesday by Deadline.

(19) STUCK. “NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter just failed to lift off from the Martian surface, but it will try again on Friday”Yahoo! has the story.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter was scheduled to embark on its most daring flight yet on Thursday. But it failed to lift off, so NASA plans to try again on Friday.

Ingenuity made history when it flew for the first time on April 19 – a 10-foot hover that marked the first controlled, powered flight ever conducted on another planet. Since then, the 4-pound drone has completed two more flights, venturing farther and flying faster each time.

Ingenuity was in good shape after its last flight, in which it traveled roughly 330 feet out and back. It was set to attempt an even more ambitious adventure on Thursday: a 117-second flight in which the little drone was supposed to reach a record speed of 3.5 meters per second. The plan was for the helicopter to climb 16 feet into the air, fly south for about 436 feet, and snap photos of the Martian surface along the way. It was then supposed to hover for more photos, turn around, and fly back to its original spot for landing.

But Ingenuity’s rotor blades didn’t lift it up at all.

The culprit is probably a software issue that first showed up during a high-speed spin test ahead of the chopper’s first flight…. 

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. I’m sure I can’t explain Captain Yajima but it’s pretty amusing.

 [Thanks to N., JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 4/14/21 The Abacus Stares Back

(1) IN TWEETS, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU EXPLAIN YOURSELF. Charlie Warzel’s article “It’s Not Cancel Culture — It’s A Platform Failure” at Galaxy Brain analyzes a problematic Twitter feature (illustrated by a topic that was mentioned in item #1 of Pixel Scroll 4/6/21.)

We Need To Get Rid Of Twitter Trending Topics

On April 6, Elle Hunt was in a pub in New Zealand, where life has basically returned to pre-pandemic normal. She was, by her account, two wines deep, having a light hearted argument with her friends about film genres. Half serious, but committed to the bit, she tweeted this:

A few minutes later, in response to a harmless reply, she tweeted her rationale and closed her phone:

Even if you don’t know the story, you probably have a sense of what happened next….

The whole affair is a perfect example of context collapse, which generally occurs when a surfeit of different audiences occupy the same space, and a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another — usually an uncharitable one — which then reads said information in the worst possible faith (You can read about the origins here from scholar danah boyd).

In this case, the collapse was substantially amplified by Twitter’s Trending widget, which took an anodyne opinion by a verified Twitter user and displayed it to millions of random people as if it was some kind of significant pop cultural event. “My imagined audience when I tweeted this was, ‘oh, we’re all at the bar and having this low stakes debate,” she told me recently. “In retrospect, that was totally naive to think anyone would have taken it that way.”

The point of Twitter’s Trending Topics is ostensibly to surface significant news and Twitter commentary and invite others to ‘join the conversation.’ Left unsaid, of course, is that ‘the conversation’ at scale is complete garbage — an incomprehensible number of voices lecturing past each other. It didn’t matter how Hunt had intended the argument — whether it was cheeky fun or part of a high-minded indictment of the sci-fi horror industrial complex — it was amplified by others as ammunition to make whatever convenient point that interested parties wanted to make….

(2) YOUR OINKAGE MAY VARY. J.K. Rowling’s children’s book The Christmas Pig will be published October 12 the author’s website announced yesterday.

The Christmas Pig is a heartwarming, page-turning adventure about one child’s love for his most treasured toy, and how far he will go to find it.  It’s a standalone story, unrelated to any of J.K. Rowling’s previous work, and is suitable for children 8+: a tale for the whole family to fall in love with.

“Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig.  DP has always been there for him, through good and bad.  Until one Christmas Eve something terrible happens – DP is lost.  But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life – even toys…  And Jack’s newest toy – the Christmas Pig (DP’s annoying replacement) – has a daring plan:  Together they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known…”

(3) WIKIPEDIA HAILS VONDA MCINTYRE WORK. [Item by rcade.] The featured article on the Wikipedia homepage today is about the SFF writer Vonda McIntyre’s novel Dreamsnake:

Dreamsnake is a 1978 science fiction novel by American writer Vonda N. McIntyre. It is an expansion of her Nebula Award-winning 1973 novelette “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”. The main character, Snake, is a healer who uses genetically modified serpents to cure sickness in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust on Earth. The titular “dreamsnake” is an alien serpent whose venom gives dying people pleasant dreams. The novel follows Snake as she seeks to replace her dead dreamsnake. The book is an example of second-wave feminism in science fiction. McIntyre subverted gendered narratives, including by placing a woman at the center of a heroic quest. Dreamsnake also explored social structures and sexuality from a feminist perspective, and examined themes of healing and cross-cultural interaction. The novel won the 1978 Nebula Award, the 1979 Hugo Award, and the 1979 Locus Poll Award. Snake’s strength and self-sufficiency were noted by commentators, while McIntyre’s writing and the book’s themes also received praise.

Hat tip to Kelly Robson for being the first to notice this on Twitter.

The article notes that Dreamsnake wasn’t finished getting award recognition after the Nebula/Hugo/Locus triple win in the late 1970s. It made the shortlist of the Retrospective James Tiptree award in 1995.

In describing the novel’s theme and structure, the article credits one element that’s particularly relevant today:

Gender expectations are also subverted through the character of Merideth, whose gender is never disclosed, as McIntyre entirely avoids using gender pronouns, thereby creating a “feminist construct” that suggests a person’s character and abilities are more important than their gender.

Wikipedians created the article in 2006 and have edited it 521 times since then, including 35 times today. Because contentiousness is part of the site’s DNA, there’s already a new argument on the internal talk page about whether it’s too long.

The article can be cleaned up by removing non-core fragments and listing the main themes. It reads as PHD dissertation by a gushing fan and would benefit from shortening to the main parts.

(4) JOY STILL FELT. Seanan McGuire gives six tips about “How To Be A Hugo Nominee And Come Out Of It Happy About the Honor” in a superb Twitter thread that starts here

(5) CREATING WORLDS. “Building Beyond… an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be” continues in Sarah Gailey’s newsletter with Rick Innis and Shana DuBois joining in to play: “Building Beyond: An Ocean of Resistance”. Gailey winds it up by challenging readers –

What comes after the message on the beaches in your story? What demands are being made? Are they possible to fulfill?

Do whatever you want with these questions. You can write something down in the comments or on social media or in a notebook nobody will ever see. You can draw or paint or sit down a friend and talk their ear off about your ideas. You can stare at the horizon and imagine, letting the infinite landscape of your mind unfold just a little farther than it did yesterday. No matter what you do, take pride in the knowledge that you’re creating something that has never existed before. You’re building a little corner of a whole new world.

That’s amazing.

(6) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Bruce McAllister and Nalo Hopkinson via livestream on Wednesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. EDT. Check the KGB site for the link.

(7) REV. BOB. Chattanoogan.com ran an obituary article about Rev. Bob today: “Hood, Robert Lewis”.

Robert Lewis Hood of Hixson, Tennessee passed away peacefully in his home on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at the age of 50.

He was born on October 29, 1970, the only child of Janet Hood. He graduated from Chattanooga’s McCallie School in 1988 and attended Tennessee Tech University.

Robert loved computers long before they became popular. He quickly moved from playing computer games to modifying them. It wasn’t long before he transitioned to coding. His lifelong love of computers led him to a career in website design.

A kind and compassionate spirit, Robert used his wit on and offline. He had a knack of making people smile and a gift of making people feel cared for. Robert, who was known among his friends as “Bob” or “Rev. Bob,” loved science fiction books, including author Robert A. Heinlein, an American author who emphasized scientific accuracy in his writings. In recent years, Robert channeled his love of books into editing ebooks by various authors, including science fiction and nonfiction author David Brin among others.

Among his friends, Robert was known for being an unapologetic liberal and for his ability to express ideas succinctly and with a touch of humor. He was sharp, quick and gentle, and will be remembered by many as a loyal, caring friend with an easy smile and frequently, a glint of mischief in his eyes. 

…Robert’s loved ones will hold a celebration of life memorial in his honor on Saturday, April 17, at 11 a.m. at Vandergriff Park, 1414 Gadd Road, Hixson, Tn. 37343. This is going to be a casual gathering for anyone to be able to share their thoughts.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Epilepsy Foundation or the American Heart Association….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

A mass sighting of celestial phenomena or unidentified flying objects (UFO) occurred in 1561 above Nuremberg (then a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire). The phenomenon has been interpreted by some modern UFO enthusiasts as an aerial battle of extraterrestrial origin. This view is mostly dismissed by skeptics, some referencing Carl Jung‘s mid-twentieth century writings about the subject while others find the phenomenon is likely to be a sun dog.

broadsheet news article printed in April 1561 describes a mass sighting of celestial phenomena….

The broadsheet describes objects of various shapes including crosses, globes, two lunar crescents, a black spear and tubular objects from which several smaller, round objects emerged and darted around the sky at dawn.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 14, 1879 – James Branch Cabell.  (“Tell the rabble my name is Cabell.”)  Two dozen novels, a hundred shorter stories, poems, nonfiction.  A score of volumes comprise the Biography of the Life of Manuel.  What has helplessly been called C’s droll style can be seen in e.g. the related titles SmirtSmithSmire; a New York judge said of Jurgen, seventh in the Biography, “it is doubtful if the book could be read or understood at all by more than a very limited number of readers”; an admirer has applauded C’s “engagingly haughty use of SF tropes”.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1924 – Leland Sapiro.  Lived all over North America, Canadian provinces, California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas.  Did enough for LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) to earn its Evans-Freehafer service award.  Noted for Riverside Quarterly, which in our great tradition of fans and pros mixing it up drew James Blish, Redd Boggs, A.J. Budrys – Ursula LeGuin – Sandra Miesel – Arthur Thomson – Roger Zelazny.  See it here. (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1925 Rod Steiger. Carl in The Illustrated Man which is specifically based on three stories by Bradbury from that collection: “The Veldt,” “The Long Rain,” and “The Last Night of the World.” Great film. Genre wise, he also was Father Delaney in The Amityville Horror, showed up as Charlie on the short-lived Wolf Lake series, played Dr. Phillip Lloyd in horror film The Kindred, was Pa in the really chilling American Gothic, played General Decker in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks (really, really weird film), Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in Modern Vampires and Peter on “The Evil Within” episode of Tales of Tomorrow series. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and when need be voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty two episodes was I think the finest of his puppet based shows though Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Fireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson before their divorce. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born April 14, 1933 – Boris Strugatsky.  With and then without his brother Arkady (1925-1991) wrote substantial Russian SF.  Reminiscent of an old jest (“Where were you born?”  ”St. Petersburg.”  “Where were you brought up?”  “Petrograd.” “Where do you live?” “Leningrad.”  “Where do you hope to die?”  “St. Petersburg”) B was born at Leningrad and died at St. Petersburg.  Of more than a dozen novels, plus novellas, novelettes, short stories, plays, by A & B together, three by A alone, two by B after A left, probably the best-known in English is Roadside Picnic; subtler, I think, is Hard to Be a God.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born April 14,1935 Jack McDevitt, 86. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races. He won the Robert A. Heinlein Award six years ago. (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 67. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. (It won a Campbell Memorial Award.) Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan”. (CE)
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 63. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar. (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Frances Dorer, age 63.  Half a dozen novels with her mother Nancy Dorer, some under a joint pen name.  Here is one with a Bruce Pennington cover. [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1967 – Steven desJardins, age 54.  In his own words, “Aspiring Hungarian translator.  World traveller.  Vegetarian.  D.C. native.  Have ankylosing spondylitis.”  He has been active for decades in WSFA (Washington, District of Columbia, SF Ass’n), in fanzines, and more widely in person when occasion served, e.g. co-sponsoring two of the remedial motions passed at the Sasquan (73rd Worldcon) Business Meeting.  For a 1995 sample of his fanwriting see here (note to WSFA Journal on World Fantasy Con).  [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1969 – Rebecca Shelley, age 52.  Half a dozen novels, four shorter stories for us; twoscore books all told.  “‘Stop whining and keep typing.  I know what I’m doing,’ my subconscious answers.”  Has read The Phantom Tollbooth, two by Jane Austen, LolitaMoby-DickThe Hunt for “Red October”The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 39. Her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” novella (lovely title that)  won a Nebula Award, and her short story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” would do the same a short while later. Very impressive indeed. I’ve read her “Eros, Philia, Agape” which is wonderful and “Portrait of Lisane de Patagnia” which is strange and well, go read it. (CE)

(11) BELATED BIRTHDAY.

  • April 13, 1967 Rogers Cadenhead,54. This Filer is a computer book author and web publisher who served once as chairman of the RSS Advisory Board, a group that publishes the RSS 2.0 specification. He’s still a member of the Board. Very, very impressive. He also gained infamy for claiming drudge.com before a certain muckraker could, and still holds on to it. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Sheldon – Daniel Dern asks, does the style remind you of Vaughan Bode? E.g., his Cheech Wizard comics? (There should be a line over the “e” in Bode but WordPress won’t cooperate.)

(13) CALL TO RECAST T’CHALLA. A YouTube video called “The #RecastTChalla Petition To Honor Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther” describes a big petition drive to have the MCU cast someone else as Black Panther eventually rather than killing off the character in the next Black Panther movie.

The petition is hosted at Change.org: “Recast T’Challa To Honor Chadwick Boseman In the Black Panther Franchise”:

In August of 2020, the world mourned the death of Chadwick Boseman. To many, he was known for his on-screen role of Black Panther in the Marvel Universe. While his character of T’Challa was adored by fans, there have been rumors that Marvel will kill off his character in the new movie and for good. 

This is a call for the President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, Co-President Louis D’Esposito, and Writer/Director Ryan Coogler to reconsider their decision, and recast the role of “T’Challa” in the Black Panther franchise. If Marvel Studios removes T’Challa, it would be at the expense of the audiences (especially Black boys and men) who saw themselves in him. That also includes the millions of fans who were inspired by the character as well. 

By not recasting, it could stifle the opportunity for one of the most popular, leading Black superheroes to add on to their legacy. The #1 way to kill a legend, is to stop telling their story. 

(14) APOLOGY BY SIMPSONS ACTOR. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler says Hank Azaria has apologized for voicing Apu for 30 years on The Simpsons and says he will work with the “anti-racist Soul Focused Group” on issues affecting racism in entertainment. “Hank Azaria apologizes for playing Apu on ‘The Simpsons’ for three decades”.

…Initially, Azaria said he didn’t want to “knee-jerk respond to what could have been … 17 hipsters in a microbrewery in Brooklyn.” But he realized he needed to educate himself: “I talked to a lot of Indian people. I talked to a lot of people who knew a lot about racism in this country,” Azaria said. “I took seminars. I read.”

One conversation that particularly resonated with Azaria took place at his son’s school, where the actor spoke with a group of Indian students. One 17-year-old approached Azaria with tears in his eyes. “He’s never even seen ‘The Simpsons’ … but knows what Apu means,” Azaria explained. “It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is this is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.”

The student asked Azaria to pass a message along to his industry colleagues: “Will you please tell the writers in Hollywood that what they do and what they come up with really matters in people’s lives, like it has consequences?”

(15) NOT READY TO SAY GOODBYE. James Davis Nicoll forwarded the YouTube link below with the note:The context is that popular Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience was cancelled very abruptly. Bitter Asian Dude is Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, one of the lead actors. I thought the issue of having something suddenly cancelled and how people react to it might be interesting to your readers. (ObSF: he’s acted in SF shows, and he defended Hench in Canada Reads.)”

The context is very different than the previous item — even the Canadian Prime Minister complimented the program’s diversity:

…Meanwhile, the airing of the final episode was commemorated with social media posts from members of the cast, celeb fans such as “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy — and even a tweet from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“For years, @KimsConvenience has celebrated diversity and championed inclusion,” wrote Trudeau to accompany a video of “Kim’s Convenience” star Simu Liu discussing the importance of diversity in film and television, both in front of and behind the camera.

“Although the show ends tonight, and we have to say ‘okay, see you’ to @SimuLiu and the entire Kim family one last time, let’s continue to #SeekMore representation in the stories on our screens,” he added.

Here is the “Post KC final episode livestream with Paul Sun-Hyung Lee”.

(16) ERR TAXI. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Another hard-to-verify tech prediction. Hopefully, if they’re wrong (by a noticeable amount/%) they’ll issue a follow-up release…

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2021 12:52:08 +0000 (UTC)

Subject: Private equity/eVTOL research: Private equity and VC professionals predict huge growth in the eVTOL market

Please see attached a press release on new research with senior private equity and venture capital professionals, revealing 71% expect there to be more than 160,000 commercial air taxis operating around the world by 2050.    Some 17% anticipate there will be over 200,000.

The research was commissioned by Horizon Aircraft, the advanced aerospace engineering company that has developed the Cavorite X5, the world’s first eVTOL (Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing) that can fly the majority of its mission exactly like a normal aircraft. …

“However, investors should be warned that there are over 400 eVTOL concepts around the world being developed, and the vast majority of these will never become commercially viable.  They either won’t meet the requirements needed to secure insurance, or because of their design and operational costs and challenges, they may be too expensive to run.”

(17) SF CONCATENATION. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has its latest seasonal edition now up of science and SF news, articles and reviews.

Its seasonal news page includes listings of forthcoming SF as well as fantasy books from several British publishers. Such multi-publisher forthcoming book listings are rare, and though from British publishers, most will also be available in N. America. The seasonal edition consists of:

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Summer 2021

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Will R., John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, James Davis Nicoll, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/9/21 Magnetic Monopology: Do Not Exceed C, Do Not Collect 200 Zorkmids

(1) NOT MY FAULT. The designer of the coin that shows H.G. Wells’ Martian tripods with four legs, Chris Costello, is passing the buck to the unknown artist of an old paperback cover which he displays as part of the following statement:

It appears that I have once again drawn ire from the sci-fi community. First it was the Papyrus/AVATAR thing, and now this. No disrespect to H.G. Wells or any of you. To give more context, I will share about this specific coin design challenge and my creative process on a permanent page next month, but for now…

The characters in War of the Worlds have been depicted many times, and I wanted to create something original and contemporary. My design takes inspiration from a variety of machines featured in the book—including tripods and the handling machines which have five jointed legs and multiple appendages.

(2) WHAT YOU’D EXPECT AT BAEN. Tom Kratman is coaching the next stage of the insurrection in the storefront window. Here’s an excerpt from a comment made in his Baen’s Bar author forum.

So where do Trump and the nation go from here?

He needs to do three things; start his own news channel, start his own party, and start his own well-armed militia as part of the party.

The militia – again, a _well_armed_ militia – is necessary to present a threat in being to the powers that be such that, should they use extra-, pseudo-, and quasi-legal means to try to suppress the party, the price presented will be far too high.  The militia will be heavily infiltrated; this is a given.  No matter; it will not be there for any purpose but to present a serious threat of major combat, and the shame of defeat, and the reality of death, to the tactical elements, police and military, that may be used against the party.

It ought to be made clear that, “I can start the civil war with a stamp of my foot.  I’ve refrained, so far, but you cannot count on that restraint under all circumstances.  And if I am infiltrated, you are even more so.”

The militia should probably be neatly but simply uniformed, nothing flashy.  Solid colors, no camo.  Haircuts and facial hair trimmed.  A simple shirt and bluejeans for non-firearms related activities / head busting….

(3) WHEN AUTHORS DON’T GET PAID. Sff critic Paul Kincaid shares an email he has written to the publisher that has announced a book containing his essay which they didn’t buy the rights to. It begins — 

Following my ongoing posts relating to the unexpected appearance of my essay in Science Fiction published by Routledge, I have just sent the following email to Taylor & Francis. Let us see what sort of response this brings….

(4) TA-NEHISI COATES’ BLACK PANTHER FINALE. The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Saga continues next month in Black Panther #23, which hits the stands on February 24. Featuring art by Daniel Acuña and Ryan Bodenheim, the issue marks the beginning of the epic conclusion of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ redefining work on Black Panther that began in 2016.

Deep in space, T’Challa has discovered an alternate Wakandan society. Known as the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, these ruthless warriors present a dark reflection of T’Challa’s kingdom. Having abandoned their peaceful ways, this powerful empire looks to conquer the cosmos… and Earth’s Wakanda is their next target. This daring, thought-provoking take on the Black Panther mythology also features surprising developments for supporting characters such as Shuri, Storm, and Black Panther’s greatest foe, Erik Killmonger.

(5) JEWISH SF. Jewish Museum of Maryland will host a panel discussion “People of the (Futuristic) Book” on March 4 at 7:00 Eastern about Jewish science fiction with Steven H Silver, Valerie Estelle Frankel and Michael A. Burstein.

What makes a science fiction story Jewish? Jewish writers have worked in the science fiction genre since the very beginning, thought you might not always know it from reading their work. But some stories are clearly Jewish, whether through tone and theme or explicitly based on Jewish ideas and culture. Join us for an exploration of Jewish sci-fi and fantasy – and a discussion of what makes them Jewish stories.

This Zoom event is presented by the museum in relation to the special exhibit Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit, on view through April 11, 2021. 

(6) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Leah Schnelbach lines up “The Most Anticipated Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of 2021” at Book Marks, including Andy Weir’s next novel.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
(Ballantine Books, May 4)

The author of The Martian and Artemis is back with another interstellar thriller! When Ryland Grace wakes up in a small makeshift spacecraft, he can’t remember his own name—but that’s not even his biggest problem. Why is he on this ship? And should he know the two corpses who are on the ship with him?

As his memories return, he realizes that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. His ship was thrown together by dozens of different governments. And, unfortunately, his mission is to stop a terrifying threat which, if it reaches Earth, will mean the destruction of the human race. If only he had any idea how to do that.

(7) REDISCOVERING THE WRITER IN AMERICA. On Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom blog he collects links to the 1963 KQED documentary Take This Hammer with James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, Janet Flanner and “Ross Macdonald” and others on The Writer In America, and producer/director/editor/interviewer Richard O. Moore. Mason says, “With luck, I might find some more of these. I’d hope this would be the kind of thing World Channel would be dusting off, along with Take This Hammer.” About the link to the Toni Morrison episode of The Writer In America he says, “These old film or video source copies certainly mangle their fine musical soundtracks, but Morrison’s voice particularly manages to retain its musicality.” 

KQED’s mobile film unit follows author and activist James Baldwin in the spring of 1963, as he’s driven around San Francisco to meet with members of the local African-American community. He is escorted by Youth For Service’s Executive Director Orville Luster and intent on discovering: “The real situation of Negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present.” He declares: “There is no moral distance … between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. There is no moral distance … between President Kennedy and Bull Connor because the same machine put them both in power. Someone’s got to tell it like it is. And that’s where it’s at.” Includes frank exchanges with local people on the street, meetings with community leaders and extended point-of-view sequences shot from a moving vehicle, featuring the Bayview Hunters Point and Western Addition neighborhoods. Baldwin reflects on the racial inequality that African-Americans are forced to confront and at one point tries to lift the morale of a young man by expressing his conviction that: “There will be a Negro president of this country but it will not be the country that we are sitting in now.”

(8) INSIDE HOLLYWOOD. Interesting discussion about making Terry Gilliam’s classic film. “The oral history of 12 Monkeys, Terry Gilliam’s time travel masterpiece” at Inverse.

Charles Roven (producer): I was given the short film La Jetée by Chris Marker by a gentleman by the name of Robert Kosberg. I then gave that to Dave and Jan [Peoples].

David Peoples (screenwriter): We had missed seeing La Jetée in the ‘60s when we should have seen it. They sent us a terrible video of it, but in spite of the fact that it was an awful video, it really was such a wonderful movie. We said, “We’ll spend a weekend on it and see if there’s anything we can come up with that would be interesting.” It did come to us that people hadn’t been doing a lot of stuff with the threat of germs – man-made germs or germs from nature. We had an image of a city with no people and just animals roaming around, totally out of place. Chris [Marker] hadn’t said it was OK to make a movie out of his movie. He hated all Hollywood movies except Vertigo.

Janet Peoples (screenwriter): We bumped into a friend of ours from Berkeley: Tom Luddy. Tom laughed and said, “Oh, I know Chris. You know, Chris loves Francis Coppola. And Francis is in town.” So we all met at a Chinese restaurant – writers and a couple of directors; no producers, no suits – and Chris Marker at one end of the table and Francis at the other. Francis looks up and says, “Chris!?” and Chris says, “Yes, Francis?” and Francis says, “Jan and Dave want to make this movie. They’re good people; I think you oughta let them do it.” And Chris says, “Oh, OK, Francis.”…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 — Thirty years ago, Ellen Kushner’s Thomas the Rhymer wins both the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award. (It was the last single Award given out before it was split into into Adult and Children’s Awards.) Based off Thomas the Rhymer myth who was carried off by the Queen of Elfland and returned having gained the gift of prophecy.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 9, 1886 – Walter Brooks.  Two hundred stories; ours are two dozen about Mister Ed, a talking horse (these got onto television), and two dozen novels about Freddy the Pig and more talking animals on the upstate New York farm of a man named Bean.  The Freddy books have some science fiction; Uncle Ben, Mr. Bean’s brother, is an inventor, and beside that some Martians show up (Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars).  As with much good art, what matters is less the so-called contents than the manner of telling, at which Freddy is deft and enough fun to please both The NY Times and The Imaginative Conservative.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1890 – Karel Capek.  (The software won’t allow a caron over the C, a diacritical mark like a showing the has the sound of ch in English chat.)  Three novels for us, as many others; thirty shorter stories for us, as many others; timeless for the play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) introducing the word robot (although, being chemical not mechanical, they’re what we’d later call androids) and portraying the fundamental unease about them.  (Died 1938) [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1906 – Barbara Sleigh.  Five novels, four anthologies for us; two other novels, shorter stories, radio scripts, film criticism, picture books, memoirs.  Best known for books about Carbonel the King of Cats.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1925 Lee Van Cleef. The Warden of the Prison in Escape from New York but he was best known for acting in Spaghetti Westerns. Genre wise, he was also Col. Stone in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and Dr. Tom Anderson in Corman’s It Conquered the World. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1931 Algis Budrys. I am trying to remember what I read by him and I think it was Some Will Not Die which I remember because of the 1979 Starblaze edition cover. I’ve also read and enjoyed his Rogue Moon. Setting aside his work as a writer which was exemplary, he was considered one of our best genre reviewers ever reviewing for GalaxyMagazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and wrote genre reviews even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologies which I’ll admit I’ve not read any. I should note his Tomorrow Speculative Fiction prozine was quite excellent.(Died 2008.)  (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 71. He’s the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in the oh-so-perfect Scrooged, he played Halston in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in “The Cat from Hell” episode, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack. I think the brief Ghost of Christmas Past riff in the aforementioned Scrooged is enough to earn him as Birthday Honors here. (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1955  J. K. Simmons, 66. You may know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the various Spider-Man films but I find his more interesting genre role to be as Howard Silk in the Counterpart series where he plays two versions of himself in two versions of parallel Berlins in a spy service that may or may not exist. He also portrayed Commissioner James Gordon in Justice League. (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1957  — Greg Ketter, 64.  Leading Minneapolis fan and bookseller; chaired Minicon 40-41 and the 1993 & 2003 World Fantasy Conventions; Guest of Honor at DucKon 16; has written for Rune and Minneapa; published the DreamHaven Fortieth Anniversary Scrapbook having earned his way there with a press so named and a shop, which last year suffered but is thankfully recovering from a disaster.  [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1954 – Philippa Gregory, Ph.D., age 67.  Half a dozen novels for us; thirty others (half about Plantagenets and Tudors), also picture books.  Outside our field The Other Boleyn Girl won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award; it and successors are also bemoaned as failing the historical accuracy they’re promoted for.  PG’s charity Gardens for the Gambia has dug two hundred low-budget wells, teaches bee-keeping, and funds batik and pottery workshops.  [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1975 – Gunnhild Øyehaug, age 46.  Two dozen of her short stories for us available in English, see the collection Knots.  Also poetry, teaching, criticism.  Co-edits literary journal Kraftsentrum (in Norwegian).  Dobloug Prize.  [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1976 Jenna Felice. Tor Books Editor. She suffered what the doctors are called a massive allergic reaction compounded by asthma. She died having never emerged from her coma. There’s a memorial page for her here. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born January 9, 1981 Julia Dietze, 41. She’s Renate Richter in Iron Sky: The Coming Race, a Finnish-German film in which the Nazis are occupying the moon after a nuclear war. (It garnered a 31% rating by reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And yes critics were really, really hostile.) It wasn’t her first bad film as she was Princess Herzelinde in 2  Knights: In Search of the Ravishing Princess Herzelinde (1+ 1 / 2  Ritter – Auf der Suche nach der hinreißenden Herzelinde) which it won’t surprise you  didn’t exactly make the German reviewers gush over it. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TAKING TO THE LIFEPODS. Alexandra Petri provides some much-needed comic relief in “I see no choice but to resign from this Death Star as it begins to explode” at the Washington Post.

It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of responsibility that I must submit my resignation, effective immediately, from my post on this Death Star. However, I see no other choice.

Now is the time for all of us to stand up from our posts and do what is right.It’s been an honor to work on this Death Star. I love the aesthetic. I love how I’ve been able to pursue my greatest passion: destroying planets and pressing buttons. I love my little hat that is a sunshade for no reason!

(13) GOTHAM’S SISTER CITY, ISTANBUL. Take a look at “Turkey’s legacy with sci-fi and superheroes in film” at Daily Sabah.

Last week marked the start of Turkey’s first-ever science fiction television series, “Ak?nc?,” which tells the story of an Ottoman superhero tasked with guarding over the Istanbul of Sultan Mehmed II, also known as Mehmed the Conqueror, in contemporary times.

A teacher by day and a superhero by night, the handsome Ak?nc?, whose name refers to the advanced troops of the Ottoman Empire, is tasked with stopping terrorism while being followed by an equally attractive female journalist who has been on his trail for the past three years. An enthralling and entertaining watch, the highly anticipated Ak?nc? premiered on Jan. 1 and will continue to air on Friday evenings at 8 p.m. on ATV.

In light of this exciting addition to Turkish primetime television, which is also the first of its kind within the genre of science fiction and superhero television series, it might be an opportune time to reflect back on Turkey’s famous legacy of its films in these genres….

(14) SF2 CONCATENATION HERALDS SPRING WITH NEW ISSUE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] The latest edition of SF2 Concatenation is now up. The spring season sees the return of a full news-page and the return of its forthcoming SF and fantasy books listings.

SF2 Concatenation is about the only place on the net with a forthcoming books listing from several genre imprints and major UK publishers.

As done every January, SF2 Concatenation has its choices as to the Best SF books and Best SF films of the previous year.  Just a bit of fun, yes, but over the years every year, one of either their choices of books or films, often both, subsequently go on to be short-listed for a major award (Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Locus etc.) some even win.  See their track record (scroll down).

Also in the mix are half a dozen articles covering conrunning, publishing, fanzines, convention reviews and an SF diary, as well as another in the series of articles by SF author scientists on their science heroes. Plus there’s over 30 standalone fiction reviews. Hopefully something for everyone.

v31(1) 2021.1.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Spring 2021

v31(1) 2021.1.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(1) 2021.1.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. What will NASA be doing this year?

Sending the first Artemis mission to the Moon in preparation for human missions, landing a new rover on Mars, and launching the James Webb Space Telescope into space, expanding our ability to see deep into the universe, are just a few of the things NASA has planned for 2021.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Mlex, Todd Mason, Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3/20 I Sing The Pixel Electric, The Files Of Those I Love Scroll Me And I Scroll Them

(1) UK LOCKDOWN BEGINS. “England is going into a month (at least) of hard lockdown,” says Jonathan Cowie – see details at SF2 Concatenation. About that sff/science news publication Cowie reassures:

We have enough articles in and thirty or so book reviews in hand for a spring edition of  SF² Concatenation in January.

If lockdown ends as planned in December, then there’ll also be a pre-Christmas Best of  ‘Futures’ short story.  If not then we’ll roll it into the Spring edition.

(2) ISS AT 20. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Today’s (Tues Nov 3) Science section of the New York Times is mostly about the International Space Station, celebrating “20 years of…”, including a two-page spread with like a dozen short items, three of which are by Mary Robinette Kowal. It looks like these are reprinted.

Here’s the collective link.

And here’s Kowal’s trio:

Andrew Porter also sent a note:

If you can access this, gorgeous photos and historical background. Note to editors: the photos, being from NASA, can be used with credit. “How the Space Station Became a Base to Launch Humanity’s Future “ at the New York Times.

(3) NEW TAFF REPORT PUBLISHED. John Coxon’s 2011 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip report is now available. Covers his perambulations through Canada and the USA, and attending Renovation (the 69th World Science Fiction Convention).

  • In electronic form here (£5.00)
  • Or as a physical book from Lulu (£20.00)

(4) FUTURE WALK. “Cory Doctorow on his drive to inspire positive futures” – an interview at Polygon.

We’ve been talking a lot at Polygon about whether it’s possible for science fiction to model a positive future. Your earliest science fiction books felt utopian, but your recent books, especially the Little Brother series,is much more cynical and concerned about America. Has the way you think about technology and the possibility for a positive future changed since your early books?

I don’t know, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is definitely a complicated utopia, because it supposes that a non-monetary mechanism for allocating resources would just become money again, right? That it would just turn into another unequal rich-get-richer society. So it is, in some ways, a critique of the utopian idea of reputation economics.

Walkaway is about utopianism, in the sense that it’s a book in which crises are weathered. One of the things I recognized when I went out on tour with that book and started talking to people about it is that utopianism is not the assumption that nothing will go wrong. Being an engineer who builds a system on the assumption that it won’t break doesn’t make you an optimist, it makes you an asshole. That’s the thing that makes you decide we don’t need lifeboats for the Titanic.

Instead, being hopeful and utopian means believing that when things break down, we can rebuild them. One of the things we’re living through right now is people acting as though we have lost, as a species, the ability to weather big global crises, like we want to build the pyramids with Egyptian technology or something. Like it’s the practice of a lost civilization that we will never recover. To be an optimist, or to be utopian, is to believe that we can rise to challenges.

Not that challenges will be vanquished once and for all — even if you built a stable system where everything worked well, that system would be subjected to exogenous shocks….

(5) THE COMMONWEALTH, ER, FEDERATION OF PLANETS. The Royal Mail is taking pre-orders for their Star Trek Special Stamps.

Our Star Trek Special Stamps and limited edition collectibles celebrate classic characters from the ground-breaking TV series and big-screen blockbusters.

The Royal Mail blurb says of this panel —

Twelve new illustrations celebrate British actors who have boldly explored the final frontier as Starfleet captains or crew members.

(6) HEARD THAT VOICE BEFORE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] SNL alum Darrell Hammond, who does a GREAT impression of Sean Connery, sent out a tweet with a highlight reel of his Connery dueling on Jeopardy! with Will Farrell as Alex Trebek.

(7) SESSIONS OBIT. John Sessions, an English actor whose genre credits include Gormenghast, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Dr Who, Outlander, and the audiobook versions of Asterix, died November 2. He was 67.

In the 2014 Doctor Who episode “Mummy on the Orient Express,” he provided the voice of Gus, a sentient computer controlling the titular train. He also co-created and starred in the cult ’90s comedy series Stella Street and made TV appearances in Skins, Outlander, and Friday Night Dinner.

His impeccable impression of his late friend Alan Rickman, which you can watch here, proved especially popular over the years.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 3, 1967 — “I, Mudd” first aired as the eighth episode of the second season of the original Trek series. Written by Stephen Kandel from a story by Gene Roddenberry, it was directed by Marc Daniels. It reprised the character of Harry Mudd as played Roger C. Carmel who first appeared in “Mudd’s Women”, a season one episode. Although Kandel is the credited writer on the episode, though David Gerrold performed an uncredited extensive rewrite. Carmel was rumored to have been planned to reprise the character on Star Trek: The Next Generation but died before that could happen. He did voice the character in “Mudd’s Passion”, an episode of the animated series. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 3, 1921 Charles Bronson. He didn’t do he a lot of genre acting but I’ve got him in One Step Beyond as Yank Dawson in “The Last Round” and he’s in The Twilight Zone in “Two” as The Man opposite Elizabeth Montgomery as The Women. He was also in Master of The World which is based on the Verne novels Robur the Conqueror and its sequel Master of the World. (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born November 3, 1925 – Monica Hughes, O.C.  Twenty novels, half as many shorter stories, for us, not counting three dozen children’s books of which some are SF; various others.  Dress designer in London and Bulawayo.  Codebreaker in the Women’s Royal Naval Service.  Gardener.  Beachcomber.  Phoenix Award, Hal Clement Award, Vicky Metcalf Award, Alberta Ross Annett Award.  Order of Canada.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born November 3, 1929 Neal Barrett, Jr. Heavily nominated for many awards including a number of Hugos but he never won any. He was Toastmaster at LoneStarCon 2.  He was prolific writing over two dozen novels and some fifty pieces of short fiction including a novelization of the first Dredd film. As good much of his genre work was, I think his finest, best over the top work was the Wiley Moss series which led off with Pink Vodka Blues. He’s generously available at usual digital suspects. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born November 3, 1933 – Jack Harness.  Among much else he was the Fan With Too Many Names; Scribe JH, Jxtn Muir, Hawkman, the Golux; these bred variations, like “Wheet-wheet”.  They all had origins.  He’d been Hawkman in the Chicon III (20th Worldcon) Masquerade.  Thurber’s Golux in The Thirteen Clocks wore an indescribable hat, Jack wore indescribable shirts.  He dreamed up card games, fanart, cooking.  For a while LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) played strange poker; I believe he invented Soft Shoe, where you could shuffle off to bluff a low.  Once he sat staring upward so long that other players demanded to know what he was doing; he answered “I’m worshiping the ceiling”; this was put into song.  The LASFS Secretary has been the Scribe ever since his term; he wrote, not the minutes, but the Menace of the LASFS; this too stuck.  I could go on, but I won’t.  (Died 2001) [JH]

  • Born November 3, 1933 Jeremy Brett. Still my favorite Holmes of all time. He played him in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in a total of 41 stories. One web source said he was cast as Bond at one point, but turned the part down, feeling that playing 007 would harm his career. Lazenby was cast instead. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born November 3, 1942 Martin Cruz Smith, 78. Best remembered for Gorky Park, the Russian political thriller, but he’s also done a number of  genre novels in The Indians Won (alternate history), Gypsy in Amber and Canto for a Gypsy (PI with psychic powers) and two wonderful pulpish novels, The Inca Death Squad and Code Name: Werewolf
  • Born November 3, 1946 – Kathryn Davis, 74.  Two novels, four shorter stories for us.  Six other novels.  Janet Heidinger Kafka PrizeMorton Dauwen Zaubel AwardLannan Award for Fiction.  “When you are lost in the uncanny woods of this astonishing, double-hinged book [Duplex], just keep reading, and remember to look up.  Kathryn Davis knows right where you are”, NY Times 20 Sep 13.  [JH]
  • Born November 3, 1956 Kevin Murphy, 64. Best known as the voice and puppeteer of Tom Servo for nine years on the Mystery Science Theater 3000. He was also the writer for the show for eleven years. I’m surprised the series was never nominated for a Hugo in the Long Form or Shot Form. Does it not qualify? (CE) 
  • Born November 3, 1957 – Dan Hollifield, 63. Editor of Aphelion.  Two short stories there, collection Tales from the Mare Inebrium.  Has read The Past Through TomorrowIshmaelRainbow MarsOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Jane Austen, and Dickens.  [JH]
  • Born November 3, 1963 Brian Henson, 57. Son of Jim Henson, he co-owns and runs the Jim Henson Company. Can we all agree that The Happytime Murders should never have been done? Thought so. Wash it out of your consciousness with Muppet Treasure Island or perhaps The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you want something darker, he was a puppeteer on The Witches, and the chief puppeteer on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he voices Hoggle in Labyrinth. (CE) 
  • Born November 3, 1968 – Janni Lee Simner, 52.  Seven novels, thirty shorter stories. “Five Reasons Not to Self-Publish” in Reflection’s Edge, “Folkroots” about Icelandic folklore in Realms of Fantasy after Thief Eyes.  Judy Goddard Award.  Guest of Honor at CopperCon 31, TusCon 41.  [JH]
  • Born November 3, 1995 – Kendall Jenner, 25.  This top model and Kardashian relative wrote two SF novels (with a sister and ghostwriters).  The amazing astounding planetary startling thing is that she did it at all; hard even for us to imagine in 1939.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wondermark’s entry “In which Armageddon awaits” illustrates a plan to unite humanity. But we are dealing with humans, after all. [H/t to David Langford.]
  • The Far Side often has thoughts I’ve never thunk before – this one’s about flying saucers.

(11) PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM. In “Honest Trailers: National Treasure” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say if you like historical mysteries, National Treasure “places the setting on ‘easy’ for a scavenger hunt anyone can figure out –even kids and Americans!”

(12) PREFERRED FUTURE. Sf writer Ariel S. Winter’s CrimeReads article “In A Pandemic World, We’re All Engaging In Speculative Fiction” says the speculative future we’re thinking about now is one where we can see our friends, not socially distance, and not wear face masks.

… “Wearing surgical face masks was [Laughton’s] least favorite part of being in a hospital. He hated the warm, damp feeling of his own breath coating his cheeks and nose, but it was the law.”

When I wrote that scene, the idea that I would be legally required to wear my own face mask in the months before the novel came out was impossible. The future I was writing towards was focused on humanoid, self-aware, artificial intelligences rather than the fictional pandemic that had given rise to the AI’s power. Artificial intelligence was the part of my novel that I envisioned for the future, not a plague.

While all fiction writing could be called a thought experiment, writing about the future is a special kind of thought experiment that doesn’t just ask how particular events affect particular people, but how collective historic events affect the way all people live. If one thing changes—technology, biology, history—what does life look like then?

(13) REACTIONS PREFERRED. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Amnesia:  Rebirth,” Fandom Games says this is a game for gamers who like solving “puzzles prepared for learning-impaired monkeys” with characters who chug far too much laudanum.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ. Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John Coxon, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day johnstick.]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/20 Strange Scrolls Lying In Ponds Distributing Pixels Is No Basis For A System Of Filing

(1) TITLE BOUT. Shelf Awareness publicized the release of the six-book shortlist for the 2020 Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. “Founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson in 1978 ‘as a way to stave off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair,’ the Diagram Prize has had a home at the Bookseller and with legendary diarist Horace Bent since 1982.” The finalists are —

  • A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path by Gregory Forth
  • Introducing the Medieval Ass by Kathryn L Smithies
  • Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music by K.F.B. Fletcher and Osman Umurhan
  • How to Make Love to a Despot by Stephen D. Krasner
  • Lawnmowers: An Illus­trated History by Brian Radam
  • The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways to Enhance Animal Welfare by Temple Grandin and Michael Cockram

More details from the award hosts here: “The Bookseller announces the Diagram Prize 2020 shortlist”

The winning title will now be chosen by members of the public via an online vote. The public vote closes on Friday 20th November, with the winning entry to be announced on Friday 27th November. There is no prize for the winning author or publisher, but traditionally a passable bottle of claret is given to the nominator of the winning entry. If a title wins that was nominated by The Bookseller staff, the claret will be given at random to a member of the public who participated in the online voting. 

(2) FIYAH FOUNDER Q&A. The latest episode of The Imagination Desk, a podcast from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, is live now, featuring an interview with speculative fiction author Troy L. Wiggins, who is also one of the founders of FIYAH Literary Magazine. Listen in here.

The next episode will be with science fiction author and researcher Regina Kanyu Wang.

Here is the CSI newsletter on Black Speculative Fiction Month activities, which features this podcast, among other things. And here are direct links to the podcast, on the CSI website (which links out to the other services), Apple PodcastsSpotifyRadioPublic, and Libsyn

(3) ROCKY HORROR LIVE FUNDRAISER. This invitation was sent in Tim Curry’s name for a Rocky Horror Live virtual event to aid the Wisconsin Democratic party.

Right now, we can almost see blue skies through the tears… of the Trump presidency, of course. But we absolutely must keep the pressure on!

That’s why we’re doing the Rocky Horror Show — LIVE — this Halloween night — to help get out the vote in Wisconsin. RSVP and reserve your spot today!

This is a live, once-in-a-lifetime musical livestream event, featuring cast members both old and new. There will be singing, dancing, laughs and plenty of fun.

Chip in any amount to join us for the Rocky Horror Show Livestream on Halloween with Tim Curry, Wilmer Valderrama, Lance Bass, Rosario Dawson, Jason George, Nell Campbell, Seth Green, Jason Alexander, David Arquette, and more!

Featuring musical performances by The Dresden Dolls, Miss Peppermint, Eiza Gonzalez, Josh Gad, Ben Barnes, Jenna Ushkowitz, Rachel Bloom, Karen Olivo, Marissa Jaret Winkour, Madison Uphoff, Kalen Chase, and Rumer Willis.

This event is only going to be livestreamed once at 9pm CT on Saturday, October 31st.

(4) SANS CLUE. LitHub confirms, “We Have Edgar Allan Poe to Thank for the Detective Story”.

…These are the similarities between the Dupin stories and Sherlock Holmes, and there are many. One writer said that “The only difference between Dupin and Holmes is the English Channel.” Similarity number one: in both stories we have at the heart a highly intelligent but somewhat eccentric and enigmatic detective. The word detective did not actually exist when Poe was writing, which gives you a sense of how novel he was. He might have taken the idea from a series of magazine articles about a French policeman. Otherwise, he was on his own. This was all his….

(5) MAD, YOU KNOW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Our Culture’s Ongoing, Ever-Evolving Fascination With ‘The Mad Scientist’” on CrimeReads, sf novelist Jane Gilmartin explains why “mad scientists” remain popular characters in sf.

… Examples of the mad scientist/evil genius in everything from comic books to classics spring to mind without even breaking a sweat: Dr. No of James Bond fame, whose experiments with atomic energy cost him his hands as well as his conscience; Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, whose unquenchable thirst for knowledge drove him to a deal with the devil; Dr. Henry Wu, who fooled around with genetics and opened a questionable theme park in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, and, my personal favorite, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll, whose work brought to the surface his baser self as Mr. Hyde.

It is the last example, I think, that speaks most clearly to our fears. Scientists are people like the rest of us—multi-faceted, unpredictable and (for the most part) human. Like all of us humans, there’s always that slim chance that they’re going to turn to the proverbial dark side, especially when they get a taste of power….

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, the Hugo for Best Novella went to Connie Willis for “The Winds of Marble Arch”, a precursor to her Blackout/All Clear novel which would win the Best Hugo Novel eleven years later at Renovation. Runner-ups were Harry Turtledove‘s “Forty, Counting Down”, Adam-Troy Castro and Jerry Oltion‘s “The Astronaut from Wyoming”, Mike Resnick‘s “Hunting the Snark” and Kage Baker‘s “Son, Observe the Time”. It can be found in The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories, the Subterranean Press collection, which is available from the usual digital suspects. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 —  Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might-be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1945 – Jane Chance, Ph.D., D.Litt., 75.  Mellon Distinguished Professor emerita at Rice; first woman appointed to tenure track in English; founder president of the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages; doctorate of letters, Purdue.  For us, six books on Tolkien; a score of others, a hundred articles.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1951 – Melanie Herz, 69.  Hardworking Florida fan.  Many regionals and Worldcons; chaired Traveling Fête 1996, Tropicon 21, OASIS 6. When we’ve been on the same con committee, and particularly when we were on the same DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) ballot, we tried to make sure our mail didn’t get crossed.  Still wasn’t as bad as when I had an office down the hall from a man named Heitz.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 66. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed is her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells the Robin Hood tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis. (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 60. He’s Redgick, a Squid,  a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. And he has a recurring role as Larry Your-Waiter, a member of V.F.D. on A Series of Unfortunate Events series. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1960 – David LaRochelle, 60.  A score of children’s books, many with fantasy elements.  Also an amazing astounding stellar thrilling pumpkin carver; see here.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 58. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1969 – Mary Ting, 51.  A score of novels; taught a score of years, toured with the Magic Johnson Foundation.  Makes Twilight-themed jewelry.  Besides husband, children, has two dogs Mochi and Mocha.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 49. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on the most Discovery series . His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, and he showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1972 – Zetta Elliott, Ph.D., 48.  Five novels, seven shorter stories for us; poetry; essays; plays; children’s illustrated books under her Rosetta Press.  “I write as much for parents as I do for their children because sometimes adults need the simple instruction a picture book can provide.” [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 47. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? I’ll must admit that having it described as trying to be a better Trek ain’t helping. (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1975 – David Walton, 45.  Author and engineer.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Baen Memorial Award, Campbell Memorial Award, Philip K. Dick Award.  Plays chess and go.  “Science fiction can show us the viewpoints of people whose lives and experiences are so far away from ours that … our minds are stretched and our vision is expanded.”  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds law enforcement pondering why no pumpkin is safe!
  • Yesterday’s Bizarro recalls that time Sesame Street fought for its independence. (Just when was that, anyway?)
  • Jonathan Muroya’s Greek Quarantology shows how all your favorite mythical figures are dealing with life during COVID-19.
  • After you take a look at this Wulffmorgenthaler cartoon for Denmark’s Politiken you’ll want a translation for the dialog (courtesy of Lise Andreasen):

“The death star is flat.”

“Actually, some of us believe, the death star is flat. That being round business is a conspiracy.”

(9) PIRANESI. Camestros Felapton promises substantial spoilers: “Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (substantial spoilers)”. See, what did I tell you?

This was a charming, thoughtful, often whimsical story full of a deep horror that at times wholly unnerved me. I’ll be discussing many key plot points and revelations….

(10) THE DOOM FROM THE SUN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In a quirky bit of science news, astronomers recorded a large solar flare that happened to look like a prop from an old science fiction TV show… “NASA satellites capture massive ‘Doomsday machine’ solar flare”.

From the article: “The image of the explosion was described by some as the stuff of science fiction, specifically the Doomsday machine from Star Trek. Fortunately, the CME did not hit Earth.”

(11) SILENT GOLD. Leonard Maltin has a roundup of silent film releases — “Rare Silent Films On Blu-Ray And DVD”. One of them is the rediscovered 1916 version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.  The poster for this movie is very cool.

It’s not a typo: Universal produced a feature-length version of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1916, and the new DVD/Blu-ray release is a 4K transfer of the surviving material. Luckily for us, silent film historian Anthony Slide delivers a highly informative commentary track that tracks the careers of underwater-photography specialists Ernest and George Williamson. Indeed, it is their work that makes this release so intriguing, not the hackneyed mishmash of Verne’s famous story and The Mysterious Island. Alan Holubar, then a prominent actor about to turn director, and Jane Gail star. The music score is credited to Orlando Perez Rosso.

(12) SOL SEARCHING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A new way has been found to determine which stars are likely to host weird planetary systems and those stars likely to have planetary systems more like our own Solar system.

The following will appear in next season’s SF² Concatenation but they’ve shared it with File 770 now…

How many Solar system type planetary systems are there in our spiral arm? We may soon be finding out from new research.  Some planetary systems around stars are very unlike our Solar system. For example, they will have what are called hot Jupiters with a gas giant close to their star in an orbit similar to that of Mercury about our sun, rather than beyond the asteroid belt where Jupiter is in our system.

It had been thought that the type of planetary system that forms is determined by the star’s protoplanetary disk of gas and dust.  While this may be so, there is also another factor at play – whether the star formed in comparative isolation or along with loads of others in a stellar nursery.

Up to now it has been impossible to address this question as stars disperse (as the Galaxy rotates, spiral arms oscillate, local stellar conditions etc) from when they were born within a billion years of their formation.  However, ESA’s Gaia star mapping has helped British and German astronomers to determine that whether or not a star is born in a stellar nursery or more isolated by itself, is key to the type of planetary system it will host.

You see the Gaia probe not only maps stars positions, it does it so accurately that after a few years and the star is re-mapped, it is possible to discern its movement, velocity and direction.  What the researchers have found is that they can correlate those stars that seem to be moving more or less parallel to, and with a similar velocity, to other stars. These stars can be assumed to have a common birthplace in a stellar nursery. Other stars that have no movement correlation with others, can be assumed to have been born in comparative isolation. With this in mind, the astronomers looked at 600 stars Gaia had mapped.

What the astronomers found was that systems with hot Jupiters tend to be formed in crowded stellar nurseries, while those with gas giants further from their star almost invariably saw the star’s birth in comparative isolation: there were few such systems with hot Jupiters – a hot Jupiter system was roughly ten times more likely in a star born in a stellar nursery.

As the researchers themselves point out, their discovery has “possible implications for planetary habitability and the likelihood of life in the Universe” questions.  (See Winter, A. J., Kruijssen, J. M. D., Longmore S. N & Chevance, M. (2020) Stellar clustering shapes the architecture of planetary systemsNaturevol. 586, p528-532.)

Planetary systems around stars born in stellar nurseries less likely to have Solar System type planetary arrangement, but will be more likely to have hot Jupiters.

(13) MANDO MERCH. “This RC Baby Yoda Waddles Around Your House Like a 50-Year-Old Toddler” io9 writes that like it’s a bad thing!

…Available this fall for $60, the Star Wars: The Mandalorian the Child “Real Moves Plush” stands 11 inches tall, so it’s slightly smaller than the animatronic figure used in the series. Mattel still managed to stuff it full of electronics, including authentic sound effects and motors to bring it to life.

The Child’s head can turn from side to side, and look up and down while it’s giant ears wiggle, and all the mechanisms are hidden under a flexible outer skin, which makes sense when you say it, but out of context feels like a horrifying thing to say about a baby. His tiny, snuggly robes can also be further adorned with an included Mythosaur skull pendant, like the one gifted to him by Din Djarin at the end of the first season.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/17/20 The Eliot Ness Monster

(1) CARRYING OUT THEIR LAST WISHES. J. Michael Straczynski posted on Facebook today about his all-consuming role as executor for Harlan and Susan Ellison.

… “How do YOU know what the deal is, huh? My guy talked to the executor just yesterday, who told him this straight-up. How do YOU know better than HE does?”

How do I know better? How do I know these are just rumors?

Because I am the Executor of the Harlan and Susan Ellison Trust.

I’ve kept a low profile since accepting this position in order to focus on of the million-and-one details that have to be addressed. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been appointed an executor, but it is a massive undertaking. To be an executor is to inherit nothing but be responsible for everything, and to implement the last wishes of those who entrusted you with the totality of their life’s work.

Consequently, ever since Susan’s passing, 80% of my day, every day, has gone into establishing the Trust, dealing with tax issues, creditors, court documents, lawyers, accountants, affidavits, death certificates, corporate minutes…in simpler cases, the process only takes a few months, and usually ends by parceling out bequests or auctioning off the estate.

But that is not the case here, because there is the legacy of Harlan’s work that must be preserved and enhanced. Looking after all this, and seeing to Harlan and Susan’s wishes, is something I will likely be doing for the rest of my life.

Everything that Harlan ever owned, did or wrote will be fiercely protected. Steps are being taken to certify Ellison Wonderland as a cultural landmark, ensuring that it will remain just as it is long after I have gone to dust.

To revive interest in his prose, literary representation has been shifted to Janklow & Nesbit, one of the largest and most prestigious literary agencies in the world. Film and TV rights will be handled through A3, previously known as the Abrams Agency, also a leading and influential agency. I will be working hand in glove with them to get Harlan’s work back into print in a big way.

There is more to say on future plans – much more – but all of that will come in time….

(2) WORD MAGIC. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick promises that Alix E. Harrow’s “‘The Once And Future Witches’ Will Have You Spellbound”.

…Harrow likes a secret society in the best way, and Witches is riddled with secrets, honeycombed with groups working toward overlapping or opposing goals. The Sisters engage in imaginative skulduggery, scrounging plans from overlooked skills and ignored know-how. She also likes an uprising, and here, where witchery and sickness both run deep as water under a layer of oil, that’s heady stuff. We all (I hope) agree women getting the vote was long overdue. Framing the reclamation of magic and power against that real-world struggle, which we know turned out a certain way, feels particularly apt to themes of once and future, poignant to the powerlessness many feel this year.

I adored watching characters as their expectations were subverted, as their understanding of their world expanded. Harrow revels in many-layered mysteries, in a story of many acts, in wordplay….

(3) MAUS ARTIST. The Guardian’s Sam Leith interviews “Graphic artist Art Spiegelman on Maus, politics and ‘drawing badly'”.

…Spiegelman’s success had the disconcerting effect of placing an artist who had been happy in the comix-with-an-x underground – a lysergic disciple of R Crumb – very firmly in the literary establishment. He became a staple of Tina Brown’s New Yorker, a darling of academics, and came to be regarded by many, not without resentment, as a sort of capo of the US comics scene.

“I remember when I first got this Pulitzer prize I thought it was a prank call,” he says, “But immediately after I got back to New York, I got an urgent call from a wonderful cartoonist and friend, Jules Feiffer: ‘We have to meet immediately. Can you come out and have a coffee?’ And we met. He said: ‘You have to understand what you’ve just got. It’s either a licence to kill, or something that will kill you.’”

That comics are now considered “respectable” – thanks in part to Maus – is something Spiegelman never quite looked for. But he acknowledges it has its advantages. “I’m astounded by how things have changed. And I would say I might have been dishonest or disingenuous when I said I wasn’t interested in it being respectable. I love the medium. And I love what was done in it from the 19th century to now. But I know that on some level, I want it to be able to not have to make everything have a joke, or an escapist adventure story.”

His rocket launch into canonicity was both “liberating and also incredibly confining – trying to find places to go where I wouldn’t have to be the Elie Wiesel of comic books”. Even at the time, Spiegelman seems to have been conscious that Maus would be in danger of defining him. The next project he took on was illustrating Moncure March’s jazz-age poem The Wild Party for a small press: “This was going to be a kind of polar opposite [to Maus]: decorative, erotic, frivolous in many ways and involved with the pleasures of making; although it didn’t turn out to be so pleasurable in its third year. Every project I start turns into a coffin.”

(4) MAKE IT SO. “‘I Longed To See Something Different, So I Wrote It’: Questions For Rebecca Roanhorse” at NPR.

… In an email interview, Roanhorse tells me that’s something she’s always wanted to write about. “I have been reading epic fantasies inspired by European settings since I was a child, and while I’m still a fan of many of these works, I longed to see something different,” she says. “So I wrote it. I never made a conscious decision to go in that direction. That direction was simply the natural culmination of my love of the architecture, poetry, politics, and history of these places and people that I’ve been learning about forever.”

(5) IN MEMORY NOT GREEN. The actress says it ain’t so: “Tatiana Maslany Refutes She-Hulk Casting Report: Lead Role In Disney+ Series ‘Not Actually A Thing” at SYFY Wire.

Previous reports that Tatiana Maslany was getting ready to go green may have been premature. The Canadian-born Orphan Black star recently told an Ontario newspaper that she’s not been cast, after all, as the star of Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk series at Disney+.

Speaking with the The Sudbury Star this week, Maslany tapped the brakes on all the She-Hulk hype, saying she’s “unfortunately” not currently tied to the series. First reported by Variety in September, word quickly spread that Marvel had tapped Maslany to play Jennifer Walters (aka She-Hulk), the comics-based cousin of Bruce Banner.

(6) GAME FACE. Ty Schalter’s “Personal Canons: Ender’s Game” is the latest guest post in Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series.

…So why, then, am I putting on my cape and riding out for this book as one that Everyone Must Read?

It’s not just because it remains a beautiful piece of art. Neither is it just because many other great books Card wrote have been silenced by his own inability to let them speak for themselves. Nor is it just because Ender’s Game deserves to be snatched from the canonical pyre and preserved for future generations.

It’s because Ender’s Game is a warning.

It’s a warning to privileged kids like me, who believe they know better than everyone else, when they don’t know how to turn in their homework on time. It’s a warning to everyone who thinks the universe owes them anything, just because of the circumstances of their birth. It’s a warning to a society that will stop at nothing to put itself first, even if that means perverting everything it’s supposed to stand for. Most of all, it’s a warning to authors, to readers, to writers, to the SFF community.

Yes, it’s possible to build a future where everyone can thrive together. Where our stories and our lives are enriched by the diversity of our voices, experiences, myths, cultures, and canons. Where the stories we tell light the way for all of humanity.

But the moral arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice by default. It requires constant, collective work with hammer and tongs. It requires pain, exhaustion, sacrifice by those who are able on behalf of those who aren’t. It requires humble reflection on everything we’ve ever done and choosing to do the right thing now, again and again, no matter how badly (or how often) we’ve screwed up. It is the journey of a lifetime, or many lifetimes.

(7) THE LIGHTHEARTEDNESS OF OTHER DAYS. James Wallace Harris surveys the field in “Poking Fun at Science Fiction”, but confesses, “My problem is sarcasm, satire, and subtle jabs go right over my head (my lady friends take advantage of this).”

…Study that Emsh (Ed Emshwiller) painting above. At first I thought it a clever way to suggest action – a woman had been abducted from a space colony. But then I thought of something, and it became funny, But how could it possibly comic? Obviously a woman has been kidnapped by an alien on a colony world – that’s tragic. But if you know the history of science fiction magazines, and the cliches about covers with BEMs carrying off a scantily clad women, then you might think Emsh is playing around. In case you don’t know the lingo, BEM stands for bug eyed monster. Sex sells, even for science fiction magazines. Why did Emsh leave off the sexy woman and lower the sales of that issue? Because we expected a naked woman he thought might be funny to disappoint us. Sure, the painting is of a serious action scene, a man is running to rescue a woman. Maybe even the editor told him, “No babes.” But I like to think Emsh is also poking fun at science fiction (See the section below, Sex, Nudity, and Prudity in Science Fiction.)

(8) FLEMING OBIT. Actress Rhonda Fleming died October 14. The New York Times paid tribute: “Rhonda Fleming, 97, Movie Star Made for Technicolor, Is Dead”. Here’s a brief excerpt concerning her genre connections.

Rhonda Fleming, the red-haired actress who became a popular sex symbol in Hollywood westerns, film noir and adventure movies of the 1940s and ’50s, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 97.

Ms. Fleming’s roles included those of a beautiful Arthurian princess in the Bing Crosby musical version of Mark Twain’s novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (1949).

… Ms. Fleming’s … last film was “The Nude Bomb,” a 1980 spy comedy based on the 1960s sitcom “Get Smart,” in which she played Edith Von Secondberg, an international fashion designer.

In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star, relaxing at her California home with Mr. Mann, she said, “My husband recently asked me if I’d seen any movie I wanted to appear in.” She went straight for a specific role. “I said yes, the dinosaur in ‘Jurassic Park.’”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago at Noreascon Two, Alien would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Ridley Scott from the screenplay by Dan O’Bannon off the story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. This would the second Hugo nomination form O’Bannon who was nominated earlier at MidAmeriCon for Dark Star. He’d would win his second Hugo several years later for Aliens at Conspiracy ’87, and be later nominated at Chicon V for Total Recall and Alien 3 at ConFrancisco. A half million audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a horrifyingly great ninety-four percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 17, 1856 – Jane Barlow.  Knew French & German; classical scholar; pianist.  D.Litt. from Univ. Dublin.  A score of books; Irish Idylls went into nine editions.  For us The End of Elfintown book-length poem; translation of The Battle of Frogs and Mice, title page here; under another name, A Strange Land.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1917 Marsha Hunt, 103. Performer who appeared in both the original versions of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, also appeared in Star Trek: The Next GenerationShadow Chasers and Fear No Evil. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1934 Alan Garner, 86. His best book? That’d be Boneland which technically is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath but really isn’t. Oh, and The Owl Service is amazingly superb! There’s a BBC video series of the latter but I’ve not seen it.  (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1942 – John Sapienza, Jr., 78.  Gamer (six years in Alarums & Excursions), WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) stalwart, helpful con-runner (he was at SMOFcon 7; SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” being as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better; SMOFcon 37 was in 2019), and lawyer, who found himself marrying Peggy Rae Pavlat, which had an effect like Atomic Mouse’s U-235 pills.  He was and is quite worthy; I said the only way Peggy Rae could have got more sapience was by marrying him.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1948 – Robert Jordan.  Best known for the Wheel of Time series, finished by Brandon Sanderson at RJ’s death.  Also Conan the Barbarian books.  Under other names, historical fiction, a Western, dance criticism.  In the Army earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with oak-leaf cluster, Bronze Star with “V” and oak-leaf cluster, two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm.  His widow continues as an editor.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1950 – Michael J. Walsh, F.N., 70.  Another WSFA stalwart, he chaired ConStellation the 41st Worldcon, three Disclaves including one he couldn’t attend, two Capclaves, Balticon 15, three World Fantasy Conventions.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 29, Lunacon 40, Armadillocon 36, World Fantasy Con 2018.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Publisher, Old Earth Books.  Occasional Filer.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1951 – Geraldine Harris, 69.  Five novels, two shorter stories; see her Website here.  Also children’s books on ancient Egypt.  Married name Geraldine Pinch identifies her academic work in Egyptology, from which she says she has retired.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1958 Jo Fletcher, 62. British editor who, after working for Gollancz for 16 years, founded Jo Fletcher Books in 2011. Interestingly ISFDB says she’s done two World Fantasy Convention souvenir books, Gaslight & Ghosts and Secret City: Strange Tales of London, both with Stephen Jones. She also wrote with him the British Report aka The London Report for Science Fiction Chronicle. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1968 Mark Gatiss, 52. English actor, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. Writer for Doctor Who; with Steven Moffat, whom Gatiss worked with on Doctor Who and Jekyll, he also co-created and co-produced Sherlock. As an actor, I’ll noted he does Vogon voices in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1971 Patrick Ness, 49. Best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls. He’s also the creator and writer of the Doctor Who spin-off Class series. And he’s written a Doctor Who story, “Tip of the Tongue”, a Fifth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1983 Felicity Jones,  37. She played Ethel Hallow for one series of The Worst Witch and its sequel Weirdsister College. She’d later be in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Felicia Hardy and in Rogue One as Jyn Erso. I’d say her role as balloon pilot Amelia Wren in The Aeronauts is genre adjacent. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1984 – Randall Munroe, 36.  Stick-figure cartoons can degenerate into word gags, and the endlessly sour can tire like the sweet, but speaking of endlessness, “Time” in RM’s xkcd won the Best-Graphic-Story Hugo having been updated every thirty minutes 25-30 Mar 2013, then every hour until 26 Jul, in total 3,099 images; he evidently learned Time must have a stopHuxley did.  A teacher of mine said “There’s a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • October 17, 1937 — Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald Duck’s nephews) first appeared in a comic strip.
  • Bliss suggests the next Harry Potter title.
  • A mega-dose of secret history at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

(12) GRAB AND GO. October 20 will be the day NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex snatches a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Planetary Society has a briefing: “Your Guide to the OSIRIS-REx sample collection”. Click on planetary.org/live for NASA TV coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET / 21:00 UTC.

…Collecting a sample from Bennu is no small challenge. The asteroid, which measures 500 meters (a third of a mile) wide, ended up being much rockier than mission designers expected. The sample site is just 16 meters in diameter and surrounded by boulders bigger than OSIRIS-REx itself. The spacecraft must collect its sample without guidance from Earth, since it currently takes nearly 20 minutes for signals to travel between our planet and Bennu at the speed of light.

The entire process takes almost 5 hours. OSIRIS-REx will match Bennu’s 4-hour rotation rate and slowly descend to the surface. To give the spacecraft more room to maneuver, it adjusts itself into a Y-shape, extending its sample arm 3 meters and tilting back its two solar panels. Eventually OSIRIS-REx must turn its high-gain antenna away from Earth, restricting the volume of information ground controllers can receive. The spacecraft figures out where it is by comparing surface views from prior flyovers with real-time camera images. It will back away immediately if it thinks it’s going to crash.

Bennu barely has any gravity, so OSIRIS-REx can’t land. Instead, the spacecraft will high-five Bennu with a cylindrical dinner plate-sized device at the end of its arm called TAGSAM, the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism. TAGSAM blasts nitrogen gas into the surface, kicking dust and small rocks into a collection chamber that runs around the inside of the device.

OSIRIS-REx won’t overstay its welcome, immediately backing a safe distance away from Bennu. The mission team will take pictures of TAGSAM to verify they got a sample, and later spin the spacecraft to weigh it. If for some reason things go awry, the spacecraft carries enough nitrogen for two more collection attempts. But if everything goes according to plan, OSIRIS-REx will store the sample in a capsule and depart for Earth next year. In September 2023, the capsule will parachute to a landing in Utah.

(13) POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH WITH BRAIN INSPIRED COMPUTING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A core trope of science fiction has been ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) from Arthur Clarke’s HAL 9000 to Philip K. Dick’s replicants.  In real life, computer scientists have over-used the term, applying it to things like facial recognition, and so for what SF folk would call AI they call it General Artificial Intelligence (GAI).  In addition to the rod to GAI, there is also the problem of Moore’s Law by which computing power of a chip doubles every couple of years: this cannot go on indefinitely and we may reach the limit in a decade or so’s time.  Chinese computer scientists from the Centre for Brain-Inspired Computing Research, Tsinghua University, Beijing, have just had a breakthrough that is likely to help address both issues.  Their work is rather technical but in essence they have developed a new approach using neural networks. Instead of getting the network to work like a normal computer, they have developed a new computer system hierarchy.  In essence, while normal computers have an algorithm described in software which is accurately compiled into an exact equivalent intermediate representation of hardware — a set of instructions that is then run on the hardware, what the computer scientists have done is develop an inexact, approximate way to do this.  This overcomes the difficulty of producing exact representations in neural networks. One advantage of this is that their programs can be run on a number of different types of neural network.  Another is that while exactness is lost, processing speeds and power greatly increases.

All this sounds very fine, but will it work? Well, they have tried it out with three experiments done both their new way and on a traditional computer as well as a platform, based on devices called memristors, that accelerate neural network function. One, was to simulate the flight of a flock of birds. The second was to simulate riding a bike, and the third performing a linear algebra analysis called QR decomposition.  All worked.  However the degree of accuracy presented by the new architecture depended on the degree of approximation used. For example, with 10% error no bird, in the flock of birds simulation, matched the standard computer simulation. But with 0.1% error nearly all the birds were plotted either overlapping or immediately adjacent to those plotted with the standard traditional computer simulation.  It may well be that in a couple of decade’s time, when you are locked out of your home by your house AI and arguing with it to be let in, you may reflect that the key stepping stone to creating such GAIs was this research.  (See the review article as well as the primary research abstract and the full paper (available only to subscribers and at subscribing academic libraries’ computer terminals.)

Meanwhile you can see a summary of last season’s science over at ;SF² Concatenation.

(14) REPEATEDLY FRAMED. Not Pulp Covers gives Ray Harryhausen a taste of his own stop-motion:

Special effects master, Ray Harryhausen, demonstrates animating a skeleton warrior from 1963’s ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.

(15) VOLUMES OF MONEY. Learn “Why first edition books can attract obsessive collectors and sell for eye-watering sums” at Inews.

Sales of first editions have made headlines around the world this week after fetching eye-watering price tags.

A copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of his plays, from 1623 – was sold by Christie’s at auction in New York for a record $9.98m (£7.6m), hot on the heels of the sale of a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for £75,000 on Tuesday.

But beyond the big hitters, there are collectors all around the world quietly seeking out first editions. They can amass important collections that would be nigh-on impossible to achieve if it was art, and not books, they were buying.

… Beyond that, collectors love first editions because they can show how the author wanted the book to look and can be a joint collaboration between author and publisher.

F Scott Fitzgerald, for example, was shown the original artwork for the dust jacket of The Great Gatsby and it influenced his thoughts on the novel. He wrote to his publisher in August 1924, begging them to keep the jacket for him as he had “written it into the book”.

Arthur Ransome so disliked the drawings produced for his book Swallows and Amazons that only the dust wrapper, endpaper and frontispiece designs were retained. He would eventually go on to illustrate it himself.

The Hobbit’s famous first edition cover – featuring a mountainous landscape – was designed by JRR Tolkien himself and is loved by collectors and fans alike.

And Lewis Carroll withdrew the initial print run of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland over the quality of the images. There are thought to be only 22 of them in existence; with such scarcity comes a willingness from collectors to pay huge sums.

(16) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, so it’s actually a plasma torch, but it does look (and somewhat act) like the “real” thing. “Lightsaber technology has improved in the real world with the help of this retractable plasma sword” at SYFY Wire.

Lightsaber technology has come a long way since Star Wars‘ George Lucas painted some wooden dowel rods for Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Now people in the real world have actually created the ancient and respected blade of the Jedi — and it’s getting closer and closer to the legit canon construction. The latest evolution involves a retractable flaming beam that offers up 4000° of Darth Maul-halving power.

The latest step in The Hacksmith‘s grand quest for a real-life lightsaber (the YouTuber has been advancing his constructions over many different iterations) involves a retractable “blade” that replaces the super-hot metal rod from previous editions like the protosaber. Now it really looks like the lightsaber blade is extending and retracting, along with all the fiery damage it brings.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Every now and then.]