Pixel Scroll 9/26/21 Gonna Scroll Them Pixels

(1) A COLORADO FAN MARRIAGE. “A Wedding 18 Years in the Making for Colorado Governor”. The Governor of Colorado and his spouse first met at a bookstore in 2003, and a month later went to MileHiCon. They finally wed earlier this month.

Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado gets one question a lot about his Sept. 15 wedding to Marlon Reis. “People say, ‘You know, it took you a while to get married,’” Mr. Polis, a Democrat, said. “But what’s important to remember is that Obergefell v. Hodges wasn’t until 2015. So we really only waited six years.”

Obergefell v. Hodges is the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage. Mr. Polis, 46, and Mr. Reis, 40, met 18 years ago. Back then, neither imagined he would one day be able to have a legal union. Finding others who identified as L.G.B.T.Q. in Boulder was hard enough.

“It was a relatively small community here,” Mr. Polis said. “There was no Tinder.” There were chat sites and forums that helped connect the community, though. Which is how Mr. Polis and Mr. Reis ended up meeting at Boulder Book Store in September 2003. First came a browse through the sci-fi section, then came dinner.

Mr. Reis, a writer whose focus is animal welfare and L.G.B.T.Q. rights, was in his last year of college at the University of Colorado. Mr. Polis was an entrepreneur with political aspirations; before he became governor in 2019, he served for a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the bookstore, “we just really hit it off,” Mr. Polis said.

By the time they attended MileHiCon, a gathering for science fiction and fantasy fans, a month later, they were falling in love. The weekend-long convention in Denver was, for Mr. Polis, a yardstick for compatibility. “I remember Jared being slightly nervous about it, saying, ‘This is the test to see if we can be around each other a few days,’” Mr. Reis said. “I had never seriously dated anybody. To my way of thinking, it was, Of course we’re going to be fine.”…

(2) HOW FANTASTIC WAS SHE? At Galactic Journey, John Boston and Cora Buhlert profile a legendary editor in “[September 26, 1966] All that glitters: in praise of Cele Goldsmith Lalli”.

Boston, the blog’s resident Amazing reviewer, comments on Amazing and Fantastic in general:

…Goldsmith’s most often recognized achievement is the significant number of excellent writers whom she discovered and who went on to considerable success. The list speaks for itself: Keith Laumer, Neal Barrett, Jr., Roger Zelazny, Sonya Dorman, Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Phyllis Gotlieb, Piers Anthony. She also provided a home for David R. Bunch, who had been publishing in semi-professional and local markets throughout the ‘50s, but who became a regular in Amazing and Fantastic, albeit to decidedly mixed reception. Similarly, she was the first American editor to publish J.G. Ballard, who had made a substantial reputation in the British SF magazines but had not previously cracked the US magazines. Lalli’s lack of background in SF before she came to Ziff-Davis may have served her well by leaving her more open than other editors to departures from genre business as usual….

Cora Buhlert sets her focus on Cele Goldsmith Lalli’s role in ushering in the sword and sorcery revival of the 1960s: 

…Cele Goldsmith had only just been born during sword and sorcery’s first heyday in the 1930s and certainly did not read Weird Tales in the crib, but she knew a rising genre when she saw one. So she began publishing more sword and sorcery stories by other authors.

Roger Zelazny is one of Cele Goldsmith’s great discoveries. His first professional story “Horseman!”, which appeared in the August 1962 issue of Fantastic, was a sword and sorcery story. It wasn’t even the only sword and sorcery story in that issue. The title story “Sword of Flowers” by Larry M. Harris a.k.a. Laurence M. Janifer as well as “The Titan,” a reprint of a 1934 story by P. Schuyler Miller, were sword and sorcery as well….

(3) PSYCHOHISTORY’S FIRST PAGES. On Cora Buhlert’s own blog, she reviews the first episode of Foundation: “Foundation enjoys “The Emperor’s Peace” and turns out better than expected”.

… But Foundation? Yes, my 16-year-old self would have killed for a Foundation TV show and indeed she is the reason I watched and reviewed it, because she would not forgive me. But my 48-year-old self says, “Ahem, better leave that one alone and film something that’s easier to adapt and also more suited to modern sensibilities.” Because Foundation is less a novel or several, but a series of interconnected short stories from the 1940s, which span a period of 500 years and have no continuing characters except for Hari Seldon’s wisdom dispensing hologram (and Daneel, if you want to include him). Worse, the characters that make up the cast of the individual stories are rather underdeveloped and not particularly memorable. Also, the first five stories, which make up the first book, are a little dull, heavy on the talking and low on action. All the really exciting stuff, which will leave you at the edge of your seat with your jaw dropping open, happens in books 2 and 3. So in short, Foundation is extremely difficult to adapt, probably impossible, if you take Hollywood’s insistence that their audiences are stupid into account.

But no one wants my opinion and so, after decades of trying, Apple has finally adapted Foundation series for its streaming service. …

(4) VARIATIONS ON A THEME. In case it’s the sort of thing you like to keep track of, Screen Rant covers “Foundation Book Differences: All Major Changes The Show Makes”.

… Gaal Dornick isn’t the only one to have been changed significantly. Salvor Hardin has been gender-swapped as well, played by industry newcomer Leah Harvey, and she’s been reinvented as the Warden of Terminus rather than its mayor. This fundamentally alters the dynamics on Trantor, because Salvor’s role is a military one rather than an administrative one. In the books, Hardin was well-known for his many sayings, with the most famous being that “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” But Foundation‘s Salvor Hardin feels like a much more action-oriented character, suggesting her role going forward will be very different….

(5) VISIT TO THE LEIBER ARCHIVE. Michael Curtis gives Goodman Games readers a tour of the Fritz Leiber Papers Archive at the University of Houston: “Michael Curtis Visits Leiber’s Legendary Lankhmar Library in Houston”. This is also where Leiber’s Retro Hugos reside. Not sure about the regular Hugos he won.

…In the meantime, here’s a partial summary of some of the things I examined while in Houston:

The correspondence between Leiber and Harry Otto Fischer, the co-creator of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Amongst many revelations in the letters, I discovered Fischer had plans for another F&GM story he discussed with Leiber but never penned. The story, as Fischer envisioned it, “all ends in a single handed combat with the Mouser unarmed (or so it seems) dressed as a He-whore of Lankhmar against a peculiar foe (axman deluxe).” Am I the only one who wishes I could read a story featuring the Gray Mouser dressed as a gigolo fighting a maniacal axe-wielding warrior empty-handed?…

(6) RETURN TO SENDER OF THE JEDI. An opinion piece published by Scientific American seeks to persuade readers “Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion”.

The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent. This set of pop cultural associations is one that some JEDI initiatives and advocates explicitly allude to.

Whether intentionally or not, the labels we choose for our justice-oriented initiatives open them up to a broader universe of associations, branding them with meaning—and, in the case of JEDI, binding them to consumer brands. Through its connections to Star Wars, the name JEDI can inadvertently associate our justice work with stories and stereotypes that are a galaxy far, far away from the values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The question we must ask is whether the conversations started by these connections are the ones that we want to have.

As we will argue, our justice-oriented projects should approach connections to the Jedi and Star Wars with great caution, and perhaps even avoid the acronym JEDI entirely. Below, we outline five reasons why.

The first reason advanced is —

The Jedi are inappropriate mascots for social justice. Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes. So it is that Force potential is framed as a dynastic property of noble bloodlines (for example, the Skywalker dynasty), and Force disparities are rendered innate physical properties, measurable via “midi-chlorian” counts (not unlike a “Force genetics” test) and augmentable via human(oid) engineering. The heroic Jedi are thus emblems for a host of dangerously reactionary values and assumptions. Sending the message that justice work is akin to cosplay is bad enough; dressing up our initiatives in the symbolic garb of the Jedi is worse.

This caution about JEDI can be generalized: We must be intentional about how we name our work and mindful of the associations any name may bring up—perhaps particularly when such names double as existing words with complex histories….

Lela E. Buis’ response was: “Scientific American Tries to Cancel Star Wars”. She concludes:

…So, this article was rated on Twitter and mentioned in a couple of news feeds. It did not fare well. The obvious problem is that they’re dissing the Jedi, so Star Wars fans are derisive. The films are built on important archetypes and have entered the cultural consciousness of our society, which means they’re pretty sacred. The other problem hasn’t been pointed out very clearly, which is that this is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. Enforced conformity to an ideal? Who’s the absolute worst for that?

(7) TOLKIEN’S THIRD LIFE. Bradley J. Birzer praises Carl Hostetter’s new book, which continues the revelation of Tolkien’s unpublished material: “Book Review: ‘The Nature of Middle-earth’ Reminds Us of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Greatness” at National Review.

When J. R. R. Tolkien (b. 1892) passed away in 1973, he left an immense amount of unpublished writings — much of which consisted of his own personal Middle-earth mythology, known as the legendarium, begun just prior to World War I. After his father’s death, Tolkien’s youngest son, Christopher (1924–2020), became his literary heir, publishing his father’s The Silmarillion in 1977, Unfinished Tales in 1980, the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth (1983–1996), the three great tales of the First Age, as well as several books on various non-Middle-earth mythologies, such as on the Nibelungenlied, Beowulf, and King Arthur.

Amazingly, however, even with Tolkien’s writings taking two adult professional lives to publish, the corpus of Tolkien’s work is still not completely available to the public in book form. Just this month, a full year and a half after Christopher Tolkien’s death, Houghton Mifflin has released yet another volume of Tolkien’s mythological writings. Titled The Nature of Middle-earth, it is beautifully and expertly compiled and edited by one of our greatest living Tolkien scholars, Carl F. Hostetter….

(8) DOUG BARBOUR (1940-2021). Canadian fan, poet and academic Doug Barbour died of cancer September 25 at the age of 81. His “Patterns of Meaning in the SF Novels of Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ and Samuel R. Delany, 1962-1972,” in 1976 was the first Canadian doctoral dissertation in the field of science fiction.

He also co-edited with Phyllis Gotlieb Tesseracts 2 (1987), one of the Tesseracts series of anthologies containing original Canadian stories.

As a fanwriter he contributed to Ash-Wing and Riverside Quarterly. Also, notes Bruce Gillespie, “He has been a tireless writers of letters of comment and articles for my magazines. We shared many enthusiasms, especially music (classical, jazz, and what is now called Americana), some SF writers, and poetry. Doug was a well-known Canadian poet and writer about poetry. …He did several poetry-reading tours of Australia, during which he met and made friends with far more Australian poets than most Australian poets ever meet.”

 The Canadian Encyclopedia entry about him discusses his accomplishments as a poet.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1987 – Thirty-four years in syndication, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Encounter at Farpoint” opening episode premiered. It was written by D. C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry and directed by Corey Allen. The series would run for seven years. It was premiered eighteen years after the original series was cancelled. I’m not going to list the cast as y’all well know who they are. The series would win two Hugos, first at ConFrancisco for the “Inner Light” episode, and then for “All Good Things…” at Intersection. The “Encounter at Farpoint” premier episode was nominated at Nolacon II but lost out to The Princess Bride. It currently holds a ninety-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 26, 1888 — T. S. Eliot. He’s written at least three short poems that are decidedly genre, “Circe’s Palace” “Growltiger’s Last Stand” and “Macavity: The Mystery Cat”. Then there’s his major work,  “The Waste Land” which is genre as well.  It’s worth noting that Lovecraft intensely hated the latter and wrote a parody of it called “Waste Paper: A Poem of Profound Insignificance”. (Died 1965.)
  • Born September 26, 1941 — Martine Beswick, 80. Though she auditioned for Dr. No, she was instead cast in From Russia with Love as Zora. She also appeared as Paula Caplan in Thunderball. She would appear in One Million Years B.C. opposite Raquel Welch.  She made several Hammer Studio films including Prehistoric Women and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. She showed up on Fantasy Island once. 
  • Born September 26, 1942 — Kent McCord, 79. Several genre roles with his first being an uncredited role as a Presidential aide in Seven Days in May.  His next is in Predator 2 as Captain Pilgrim, then he had a recurring role as Commander Scott Keller on Seaquest DSV, and finally being Jack Crichton on Farscape.  Oh, and if you look very carefully in “The Quadripartite Affair” episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., you’ll spot him as the Man in Hallway. 
  • Born September 26, 1946 — Louise Simonson, 75. Comic editor and writer. She started as editor on the CreepyEerie, and Vampirella titles at Warren Publishing. Working for DC and Marvel, she created a number of characters such as Cable and Doomsday, and written quite a few titles ranging from DoomsdayWonder WomanConan the Barbarian and X-Terminators. She’s written a Star Wars title for Dark Horse. 
  • Born September 26, 1956 — Linda Hamilton, 65. Best known for being Sarah Connor in The Terminator film franchise and Catherine Chandler in the Beauty and the Beast series. (I wonder what the Suck Fairy would do to the latter series. It’s on Paramount+ which I subscribe to.) She is also Vicky Baxter in Children of the Corn, and Doctor Amy Franklin in King Kong Lives. She would be Acacia, a Valkyrie in “Delinquents” of the Lost Girl series, a role she would reprise in two more episodes, “End of a Line” and “Sweet Valkyrie High”. She’s currently playing General Macalliaster in the Resident Alien, the Syfy series based on the comic book series of the same name by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse. 
  • Born September 26, 1957 — Tanya Huff, 64. Her now-concluded Confederation of Valor Universe series is highly recommended by me.  And I also give a strong recommendation to her Gale Family series. I’ve not read her other series, so I’ll ask y’all what you’d recommend.
  • Born September 26, 1959 — Ian Whates, 62. The Noise duology,  The Noise Within and The Noise Revealed, are space opera at its finest. As an editor, he’s put together some forty anthologies of which I’ll note only the most recent, London Centric: Tales of Future London, as it’s a quite amazing collection. 
  • Born September 26, 1968 — Jim Caviezel, 53. John Reese on Person of Interest which CBS describes as a “crime drama”. Huh. He was also Detective John Sullivan in Frequency, and Kainan in Outlander. And yes, he played Number Six in the rather unfortunate reboot of The Prisoner

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SET AND MATCH. Trekonderoga 2021 took place this weekend in Ticonderoga, NY. There’s a reason for the location, as we learn from a Gothamist article: “Interview: The Star Trek Fandom Lives Long & Prospers At Trekonderoga”.

First of all: why does Ticonderoga have this incredible replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise? I suppose the answer is “why not?”, but I’d expect to see something like this in Hollywood. Well, here’s the thing. It’s 13,000 square feet, so it’s massive. And as we all know, real estate in Manhattan and Los Angeles is extremely expensive, and this is a permanent attraction — it doesn’t move from place to place. So you’re literally walking into a one-to-one recreation of the Desilu soundstage from 55 years ago. So you have to plan it out and build it appropriately so that it stays in one place. And Ticonderoga is part of the greater Lake George region. We have a very beautiful tourist area up here in the Adirondacks so it’s a great place for it. A lot of people come through here annually and we expect that just to continue to grow.

There’s also the transporter room. Why was this something that you felt like you had to do? It’s more than the bridge and the transporter room. It’s every set that the actors worked on every day, laid out and recreated exactly the way they were when the actors worked on them. So you’re talking about the transporter room, the sick bay, the lab, Dr. McCoy’s office, Captain Kirk’s quarters, the briefing room, engineering, the entire corridor layout. It’s literally like being an actor on a time trip and going back to work on the show. I grew up with Star Trek. I was just enamored with it and never lost the passion for it. So here we are today still celebrating it.

How accurate is the set? Deadly. We worked from the original blueprints. They were given to me by the original costume designer who had them in his possession. We kept thousands of stills from the original series in high definition. We’ve sourced and located hundreds of antiques and antique furniture. We’ve rebuilt every jelly bean button. Everything is laid out, every color, proportionally. Every surviving actor from the main cast has been here, and many of the guest stars. Bill Shatner loves it so much he’s here twice a year.

(13) A WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOING ON. “Mars probe records a big hour-and-a-half Martian quake” reports Mashable.

NASA recently reported that its InSight lander — sent to observe geologic activity beneath the Martian surface — recorded one of its biggest quakes yet on Sept. 18. The 4.2 temblor, a quake that would have been big enough for people to feel had it happened on Earth, lasted an hour-and-a-half….

(14) DROP EVERYTHING! Hypebeast says this seasonal flavor was recently spotted in a SoCal grocery store. OMG! “Kit Kat’s Pumpkin Pie-Flavored Wafers Return”.

As summer comes to an end, Kit Kat is bringing back its seasonal Pumpkin Pie creme-covered wafers. Fall is the season for turning leaves, a new NFL season, and a variety of pumpkin-flavored food and drinks such as Nissin’s “Pumpkin Spice” cup noodles and Kraft’s Pumpkin Spice mac and cheese.

While there may be mixed feelings about the flavor of the season, Kit Kat’s Pumpkin Pie is a highly sought-after rendition…. 

Meanwhile, Taste of Home promises “Gingerbread Kit Kat Bars Will Be Here for Christmas 2021”. Makes no difference if you’re naughty or nice.

…The Gingerbread Kit Kat takes your favorite breakable candy bar and jollies it up for the holidays. Instead of the classic chocolate coating, you’ll instead find yourself biting into a blanket of gingerbread-flavored creme. Ooh, yes please! 

(15) EAT ‘EM ALL. A corporation manipulating the marketplace, imagine that. Food & Wine tells why “Pokémon Oreos Are Listed on eBay for Thousands of Dollars”.

…So here’s some news Oreo probably saw coming: Earlier this month, the world’s best known cookie brand launched a collaboration with the game Pokémon, and in true “catch ’em all” fashion, each specially-branded pack was filled at random in what Oreo billed as its “first-ever cookie rarity scheme.”

In total, 16 different Pokémon characters were embossed onto the cookies, with some being harder to find than others. Oreo even stressed that “the hardest to find (Mew) is featured on an extremely limited amount of the total cookies produced!”

As a result, each pack “does not necessarily contain cookies with all 16 embossment designs.” So what’s someone who’s landed a bag full of worthless Pikachus and Bulbasaurs supposed to do? Turn to eBay, of course.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Bruce Gillespie, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jerry Kaufman.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you get into writing genre fiction?

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

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

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

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

OR:

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

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

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

Here is the Zoom link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Pain will change your mood. 

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

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

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

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

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

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

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

(10) MEMORY LANE.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 8/15/21 The Filer Who Cried ‘Click’ At The Heart Of The Scroll

(1) KOREAN SF THRIVING. Abigail Nussbaum offers a “Quick Book Rec: Tower by Bae Myung-hoon” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

…In late 2020 and early 2021, someone seems to have decided that it was Korean SF’s turn, with several major works receiving English-language editions (in particular, check out UK-based publisher Honford Star, who have put out handsome editions of several books). At the vacation house where I recently stayed with some friends, these books were available for reading, and today I’d like to talk about one them. Tower by Bae Myung-hoon was originally published in 2009 (the English translation is by Sung Ryu), and its concerns connect with conversations we’ve had on this blog about urbanism, vertical construction, and most importantly, the relationship between capital and citizens….

(2) PRIX AURORA. Aurora Awards voting is now open for members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, who have until September 4 to complete their online ballots. See the list of nominees here.

(3) DRAGON AWARDS. And, of course, Dragon Awards voting has started and will continue until September 4. To vote, fans must first register on the Dragon Awards website: Register Here. Ballots are then emailed in batches every few days through August.

Fans have until Friday, September 3 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern, to register. Voting ends 24-hours later on Saturday, Septenber. 4 at 11:59 p.m., also Eastern.

Winners will be announced on Sept. 5 at Dragon Con

(4) ANIMATION HONOR. While researching an item today I discovered the Writers Guild has a page devoted to the award they gave Craig Miller last year: “Television Writer Craig Miller Named WGAW’s 2020 AWC Animation Writing Award Honoree”.

TV animation writer and WGAW Animation Writers Caucus Chair Craig Miller (The Smurfs, Curious George, Pocket Dragon Adventures) will receive the Writers Guild of America West’s 2020 Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award at November 24’s virtual AWC awards ceremony.

Comic book writer and Miller collaborator Marv Wolfman will present the Guild’s AWC career achievement award to Miller in recognition of his distinguished career and contributions to the animation field….

(5) TRADPUB AT IT’S FINEST. Literary Hub shares “A Legendary Publishing House’s Most Infamous Rejection Letters”Animal Farm? No thanks. Lord of the Flies – came damn close to being rejected. Paddington Bear? Well, who wants to read about a poor, rudely-treated bear? (A 2019 article.)

T. S. Eliot rejects George Orwell, againAnimal Farm

T. S. Eliot to George Orwell Esq., 13 July 1944:

“I know that you wanted a quick decision about Animal Farm; but the minimum is two directors’ opinions, and that can’t be done under a week. But for the importance of speed, I should have asked the Chairman to look at it as well. But the other director is in agreement with me on the main points. We agree that it is a distinguished piece of writing; that the fable is very skilfully handled, and that the narrative keeps one’s interest on its own plane – and that is something very few authors have achieved since Gulliver.

“On the other hand, we have no conviction (and I am sure none of the other directors would have) that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time.[. . .]

“I am very sorry, because whoever publishes this, will naturally have the opportunity of publishing your future work: and I have a regard for your work, because it is good writing of fundamental integrity.”

It is that last paragraph that particularly strikes me: in turning down Animal Farm—essentially because it was being rude about our Soviet allies—Eliot was also turning down the unwritten 1984.

(6) NICHELLE NICHOLS NEWS. Although only Los Angeles Times subscribers can read the article “Nichelle Nichols: Conservatorship battle of ‘Star Trek’ star”, this excerpt encompasses the current state of affairs.

A three-way fight over Nichols’ fate involves her only child, Kyle Johnson, who is also her conservator; her former manager Gilbert Bell; and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette.

In 2018, Johnson filed a petition for conservatorship, arguing that his mother’s dementia made her susceptible to exploitation. In 2019, Bell filed a lawsuit against Johnson, alleging attempts to remove him from Nichols’ guest home, where he has lived since 2010, and “aggressive and combative behavior.”

Bell says that while living in close proximity to Nichols, he helped to restore her career and financial well-being. According to Johnson, who filed a countersuit against Bell in 2020, Nichols’ home was the place where her former manager “exerted his undue influence and took control over Ms. Nichols’ assets and personal affairs,” misappropriating the star’s income as her health deteriorated and memory faded.

Fawcette, a producer and actress who met Nichols in 2012, entered the legal fight opposing Johnson’s conservatorship petition. Fawcette pushed for visitation rights to spend time with her friend, and she argued for Nichols to stay in Woodland Hills — a scenario that has looked increasingly improbable.

At 88, Nichols no longer occupies the house. Last year, Johnson moved her to New Mexico, where he and his wife live. Johnson declined The Times’ requests to speak with Nichols directly.

Against the backdrop of the #FreeBritney movement around Britney Spears raising public consciousness about conservatorships, Nichols’ former agent and friend have launched court battles to intervene, they said in interviews. Their fear: Nichols is being denied a chance to live out her remaining years as she wants….

(7) ACE DOUBLE IS A JOKER. At Galactic Journey Cora Buhlert reviews what’s on West German newsstands in August 1966, including a book she deems truly terrible, The Star Magicians by Lin Carter.  “[August 14, 1966] So Bad It’s Hilarious (The Star Magicians by Lin Carter/The Off-Worlders by John Baxter (Ace Double G-588))”.

(8) REDEEMING FEATURES. But Cora also sent this link, saying “Because Lin Carter was actually a good editor, even if he was a terrible writer, here is Filer Fraser Sherman’s appreciation for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series of the 1970s, which Carter edited” – “Lin Carter and the Ballantines Changed My Life” at Atomic Junk Shop.

…Thanks to Carter and the Ballantines, I could read George MacDonald’s allegorical Lilith. Clark Ashton Smith’s stylized dark fantasy short stories, collected in Poseidonis, Xiccarph, Hyperborea and more. James Branch Cabell’s cynical tales of less-than-noble knights, with a healthy serving of sex. New authors such as Evangeline Walton, with her retelling of the Welsh Mabinogion and Saunders Anne Laubenthal’s remarkable Alabama Grail quest, Excalibur (some of the covers are in this old post of mine).

It would be a satisfying ending if I could say reading these books shaped my own fantasy-writing style, but I don’t think they did. I did try to write some Dunsanian stories when I started out, but like most writers who imitate a distinctive stylist, the results were … not good (I’m not even going to mention my efforts at imitating Lovecraft — crap, I just did). They did, however, do a marvelous job broadening my taste beyond Conan and Frodo Baggins….

(9) ONWARD AND DURWARD. Adam Roberts analyzes how J.R.R. Tolkien was influenced by Sir Walter Scott in “Black Riders: a Note on Scott and Tolkien” at Sibilant Fricative. For example, Roberts finds significant parallels between Tolkien’s work and Scott’s Quentin Durward, such as —

…Schwarz Reiters, Black Riders. It seems to me likely that Tolkien, reading Scott’s adventure story, retained a memory of this episode and reworked it for Fellowship of the Ring: not just men riding black horses, but black men riding black horses, at the behest of a terrible malevolent master, pursuing our heroes across a spacious, late medieval landscape of field, stream and woodland. 

One of Scott’s footnotes makes plain that the Schwarz Reiters were historical; but that seems to me only to reinforce the aptitude of the Tolkienian appropriation….

(10) SCHLUESSEL Q&A. Tanya Tynjala launches a new interview series at Amazing Stories: “Meet Edmund Schluessel (Scriptor in Fabula Program)”. See the video at the link.

Months ago I decided to make a program about foreign writers living in Finland, and finally here it is. The name is Scriptor in Fabula and is a different kind of interview.

Three of the writers included are science fiction and fantasy ones, so I decided is a good idea to present them also here, at Amazing Stories.

The first one is Edmund Schluessel a PhD physicist with PGCE teaching qualification that also writes good science fiction. But there is more: An avid socialist activist, he helped organize Finland’s largest demonstration against Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in  Helsinki, Finland.

(11) UNA STUBBS (1937-2021). British actress Una Stubbs died August 12 at the age of 84. US viewers will mainly know her as Mrs. Hudson in Sherlock, but she had several genre roles as well. Here’s an obituary from The Guardian as well as a photo overview of her memorable roles.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1986 – Thirty-five years ago, the second version of The Fly premiered. This version was directed and co-written by David Cronenberg along with Charles Edward Pogue. It was based on “The Fly” by George Langelaan which first ran in the June 1957 issue of Playboy. The principal cast was Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz. Reception was universally positive for the film with the performance by Goldblum being singled out as the highlight of the film. It grossed over sixty million dollars at the box office against its nine million dollar budget becoming the largest commercial success of Cronenberg’s career. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rather excellent rating of eighty-three percent. It was nominated for a Hugo at Conspiracy ’87, the year Aliens won.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 15, 1917 John Joseph McGuire. Best remembered as a co-writer with H. Beam Piper of A Planet for TexansHunter PatrolCrisis in 2140 and The Return, all of which I’ve read and really liked. His solo fiction was a bare handful and I don’t think I’ve encountered it. The works with Piper are available from the usual digital suspects as is a novella of his called The Reason Prisoner. It’s listed as being public domain, so’s free there. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 15, 1932 Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 15, 1933 Bjo Trimble, 88. Her intro to fandom was TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon. She would be active in LASFS in the late 1950s onward and has been involved in more fanzines than I can comfortably list here. Of course, many of us know her from Trek especially the successful campaign for a third season. She’s responsible for the Star Trek Concordance, an amazing work even by today’s standards. And yes, I read it and loved it. She’s shows up (uncredited) as a crew member in the Recreation Deck scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bjo and her husband John Trimble were the Fan Guests of Honor at the 60th Worldcon, ConJose. She was nominated at Seacon for Best Fanzine for Shangri L’Affaires, and two years later at DisCon 1 for the same under the Best Amateur Magazine category. 
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 78. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. His first role was John in  A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent as it’s alternate history, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 15, 1952 Louise Marley, 69. Winner of two Endeavour Awards for The Glass Harmonica and The Child Goddess. Before becoming a writer, she was an opera singer with the Seattle Opera, and so her works often feature musical themes.
  • Born August 15, 1972 Matthew Wood, 49. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best known role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on 2013 Star Trek Into Darkness where he was the lead sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. If you’ve been watching The Mandalorian, he was Bib Fortuna in “The Rescue” episode. 
  • Born August 15, 1972 Ben Affleck, 49. Did you know his first genre role is in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? He’s a basketball player in it.  He’s Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. IMDB claims he shows up in a uncredited spot in Suicide Squad as well. He’s reprising his role as Batman in forthcoming Flash.  He’s Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Daredevil which I have seen. He’s actually in Field of Dreams too as a fan on the stands in Fenway though he’s not credited. Can I nominate Shakespeare in Love as genre? If so, he’s Ned Alleyn in it.

(14) BURTON’S BATMAN IS BACK. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt discusses Batman 89, a six-issue miniseries designed to recreate the world of the 1989 Tim Burton movie, written by Sam Hamm (who wrote Burton’s film) and designed to include storylines that weren’t in Burton’s movie (such as having a Black Robin, because Robin wasn’t in the Burton film). “Tim Burton never got to make more Batman movies. ‘Batman 89’ is the next best thing”.

…[Artist Joe] Quinones ended up suggesting something that now seems obvious: Why not just ask the person who wrote those Batman movies?Veteran Hollywood writer Sam Hamm is that person.And the result is “Batman 89,” a newsix-issue monthly miniseries featuring a Batman inspired by the performance of Michael Keaton — and a nostalgic joyride for the many hardcore fans of Burton’s two iconic trips to Gotham City.

Quinones sent Hamm a direct message on Twitter and was surprised not only to get a response but to find out Hamm is a fan of his artwork.

Hamm was hesitant about returning to super-heroic tales.He’d written two Batman films (the first with Warren Skaaren, and he was replac

ed on the second by Daniel Waters) along with the first movie script for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s legendary “Watchmen” comic. He’d even worked with Chris Columbus on a Fantastic Four movie that was never made.

“I had a long stretch where I just didn’t want to do comic book [stories]. I had been very much typed as the comic book guy,” Hamm said. Still, he added, “I thought about it for like a day, and I said, I think I can have some fun with this.”

Part of the fun for Hamm and Quinones would be exploring potential plotlines that were ripe for the taking but never used in the first two Batman films. Both agreed that classic Batman villain Two-Face should be this series’ main antagonist. Hamm had included Harvey Dent — played by Billy Dee Williams — in his “Batman” script with the intent of the character eventually transitioning into Two-Face. But Williams never returned to the role, and when Two-Face debuted in Schumacher’s “Batman Forever,” the character was played by Tommy Lee Jones….

(15) RECORD ATTEMPT. A few costumes shy of the Jurassic mark… “Mount Clemens event fails world record attempt for gathering of people dressed as dinosaurs” – see the news video at Flipboard.

A downtown Mount Clemens event Saturday sought to break the world record for the number of dinosaur costumes in one place. The record, which stands at 252, was too large to overcome. But that didn’t mean attendees didn’t have fun.

(16) CLIPPING SERVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from a humor piece by Hallie Cantor in the July 30, 2018 New Yorker in which Elon Musk is dealing wiith public relations executives.

MUSK:  “Guys, guys, guys, c’mon.  I’m a socialist in the manner of Iain Banks.”

P.R. EXECUTIVE 2:  “But Iain Banks was pro-union!”

(A large hole opens in the floor beneath Executive 2’s seat, and he disappears into a Hyperloop tube headed for O’Hare International Airport.”

(17) EAR CANDY. Cora Buhlert has a story called “We need to talk…” in episode 42 of the Simultaneous Times podcast presented by Space Cowboy Books.

(18) ON DC’S SHELF. GameSpot spins out the alternate Hollywood History that might have been: “9 Unmade DC Superhero Movies That We Never Got To See”.

…Unsurprisingly, there’s also a huge number of potential DC movies that have been announced or put into development that never made it to the screen. Some of these were new spins of the company’s biggest heroes, developed by big names like JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, and Tim Burton. Others were attempts to make movies based on lesser-known figures that for various reasons never got as far as production. Some were literally a few weeks away from shooting, while others never made it past the script stage.

We’ve picked some of the highest-profile and most interesting examples of these. It’s fascinating to think of how the course of DC’s cinematic journey would’ve been affected had they made it to the screen–Nicolas Cage might have forever been associated with the role of Superman, while we might never have seen Christian Bale and Chris Nolan’s take on Batman. So here’s 9 big DC films that we’ll never see….

9. Justice League Dark

In terms of DC movies that seem like a perfect match of subject and director, it’s hard to think of a better one than Gullermo Del Toro’s Justice League Dark. The Pacific Rim and Shape of Water director was attached to a movie version of the supernatural superhero team for several years and recently confirmed that he wrote a full screenplay for the potential movie. But he left the project in 2015, and although Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) was also briefly attached, it remains unmade.

However, while a full Justice League Dark movie doesn’t seem likely any time soon, that doesn’t mean we won’t see some of the characters. Last year it was reported that JJ Abrams is developing several Justice League Dark projects, with a John Constantine series and Zatanna movie both in the works.

(19) PETRI DISHES. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri says if Tucker Carlson enjoyed his trip to Hungary, he’s really looking forward to going to Mordor!” “Forget Hungary. Tucker Carlson is all about Mordor now”.

… I am honored to announce I will be speaking next week at the Mordor Summit in Barad-dur at the invitation of Dark Lord Sauron! This is the future of conservatism, and I’m excited to throw open the Overton Window and let in the nazguls.

It was wonderful to spend time in Hungary, a country Freedom House describes as “sliding into authoritarian rule” — but why stop there when I could be in a land Freedom House describes as “under authoritarian rule for two-and-a-half thousand years”? That’s two-and-a-half thousand times more aspirational! That’s 10 times longer than the United States has been a country at all, and hundreds of times longer than we’ve been deliberately sliding away from at least theoretically embracing representative democracy….

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

Pixel Scroll 8/10/21 The Scrolls Are Lovely, Dark And Deep, But I Have Pixels To Keep

(1) SANDBAGGING GOODREADS FOR RANSOM. TIME probes “Goodreads’ Problem With Extortion Scams and Review Bombing”.

A few months after posting a message on Goodreads about the imminent release of a new book, Indie author Beth Black woke up to an all-caps ransom email from an anonymous server, demanding that she either pay for good reviews or have her books inundated with negative ones: “EITHER YOU TAKE CARE OF OUR NEEDS AND REQUIREMENTS WITH YOUR WALLET OR WE’LL RUIN YOUR AUTHOR CAREER,” the email, shared with TIME, read. “PAY US OR DISAPPEAR FROM GOODREADS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.”

Black, who has self-published both a romance novel and a collection of short stories in the past year, didn’t pay the ransom. “I reported it to Goodreads and then a couple hours later, I started noticing the stars dropping on my books as I started getting all these 1-star reviews,” she says. “It was quite threatening.”

Scammers and cyberstalkers are increasingly using the Goodreads platform to extort authors with threats of “review bombing” their work–and they are frequently targeting authors from marginalized communities who have spoken out on topics ranging from controversies within the industry to larger social issues on social media.

… Goodreads remains one of the primary tools on the internet for book discovery, meaning lesser-known authors often have to rely on the site to get their work noticed. But at this point, some feel that Goodreads’ ratings and reviews system is causing more harm than good.

In a July 29 statement to TIME, a spokesperson for Goodreads said that the company is actively working to resolve many of these review bombing problems.

“We take swift action to remove users when we determine that they violate our guidelines, and are actively assessing all available options to take further action against the small number of bad actors who have attempted extortion scams,” the statement read. “We have clear guidelines for reviews and participation in our community, and we remove reviews and/or accounts that violate these guidelines… We also continue to invest in making technology improvements to prevent bad actor behavior and inauthentic reviews in order to better safeguard our community.”

Review bombing, ransom emails and extortion

As author Rin Chupeco told TIME, Goodreads is a “good idea that slowly became unmanageable over the years due to lack of adequate moderation and general indifference.”

One emerging issue is review bombing: when a coordinated group, or a few people with multiple accounts, intentionally tank a book’s aggregate rating with a flurry of one-star ratings and negative reviews….

.. But Black isn’t the only author to be targeted. There are many threads on Goodreads discussing similar issues, with posts from writers who’ve been targeted….

(2) MAKING RULES DIFFERENTLY. Eleanor Konik shows colleagues a way to expand their horizons in “Unusual Governments to Take Inspiration From” at the SFWA Blog.

Often, speculative fiction relies on common government types, like monarchies and republics, because they’re familiar to readers. History, however, offers other examples of sociopolitical systems. They can be a gold mine for worldbuilding ideas that stretch beyond the mainstream.

Cycling Governments

Age-sets are a sociopolitical system common in East Africa. Among Kenya’s Nandi people, each ibinda (age-set) corresponds to a stage of the life cycle. Boys and girls from each region would be initiated into their age-sets during a series of mass ceremonies.  As an analogy, consider a series of nearby communities gathering children into one centralized boarding school then transitioning them out of school and into the lifestage of young adults marrying and being busy with young children, after which they would return to the workforce before finally amassing the experience to lead the community as political figures. 

In the Ethiopian Highlands, this sort of cycling age-set system, known in some places as gadaa (for men) or siqqee (for women), led to the development of a republic with democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of power, which took roughly eight years to accomplish. It is not the “democratic republic” as described in ancient Greece. Men were bound to their neighbors by the bonds of shared experiences, handling infrastructure projects for the whole region. In some places, this led to peace. In others, expansion of the length of time men spent in the warrior stage meant an increase in raids and conquest. 

(3) SILVERBERG TO BE DISCON III VIRTUAL PARTICIPANT. Robert Silverberg revealed online today: “Apparently I will be at the DC worldcon after all, though only virtually.  Since I am unwilling to travel to the East Coast in wintertime, they have arranged for me to do a virtual conversation with Nancy Kress, with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro acting as moderator.  So my 67-year streak of worldcon attendance will remain intact, if only virtually.”

(4) ENTER THE DRAGONS. Camestros Felapton’s epic has now reached a key moment of 2016: “Debarkle Chapter 55: The Dragon Award Begins”.

…With the devastating final results of the 2015 Hugo Award, some Puppy supporters thought that the right response was to walk away from Worldcon and the Hugo Awards altogether. This was matched by some of the rhetoric from critics of the Puppies, who had suggested that the Puppy leadership should set up their own awards.

So it was both notable and not wholly a surprise when on March 31 2016 Dragon Con announced the first inaugural Dragon Awards with their own new website…

(5) DULCET TONES. Open Culture invites you to listen as “Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter of Advice to People Living in the Year 2088”.

A few years ago we posted Kurt Vonnegut’s letter of advice to humanity, written in 1988 but addressed, a century hence, to the year 2088. Whatever objections you may have felt to reading this missive more than 70 years prematurely, you might have overcome them to find that the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions single-mindedly importuned his fellow man of the late 21st century to protect the natural environment. He issues commandments to “reduce and stabilize your population” to “stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems,” and to “stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars,” among other potentially drastic-sounding measures.

Commandment number seven amounts to the highly Vonnegutian “And so on. Or else.” A fan can easily imagine these words spoken in the writer’s own voice, but with Vonnegut now gone for well over a decade, would you accept them spoken in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch instead?

(6) END TIMES. Netflix dropped this trailer for the final season of Lucifer today.

Lucifer scored the promotion, but does he really want the job? Plus, Chloe prepares to give up detective work, Amenadiel joins the LAPD, and more.

(7) SOUNDING OFF. The Guardian interviews actors who are better known for their voice than their face. One of them is Doug Jones of Star Trek: Discovery fame: “’They wanted my meerkat to sound like a Russian Alan Sugar’ – meet TV’s secret superstars” in The Guardian.

…[Doug Jones:] When you say yes to playing something that doesn’t look human, you’re saying yes to the entire process. I don’t get to shout: “Get this off me! It’s so hot and sticky.” I need the mindset of a performer, but also the endurance of an athlete, one who can take five or six hours of makeup application, then get through a long day of shooting.

Because of all the parts I’ve played, I often end up skipping the conventional casting process. People in creature effects just say: “It’s a tall skinny alien – we need Doug Jones.” I was playing the amphibian in the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water when Star Trek: Discovery approached me. I was actually thinking “I’m not sure how much more rubber and glue I want in my life,” but there was no way I could turn it down. For Saru, I wear a four-piece prosthetic over my head that comes down past my collarbones, with gloves to change my hands. It’s all been moulded to my shape and pre-painted so getting it all glued on is only a two-hour process. I wear a Starfleet uniform like everybody else, but I do have special hoofed boots that add five inches to my height. That makes me about 6ft 8ins!…

(8) TRAPPED IN AMBER. Irish/Dutch writer couple Angeline B. Adams and Remco van Straten talk about the future of the sword and sorcery genre — and if it has one: “Fled & Done: Sword & Sorcery” at Turnip Lanterns.

…Modern Sword & Sorcery writers face an uphill battle, if they want to emerge from the shadow of Conan (including, and in particular, his Marvel comics and Schwarzenegger film incarnations). And that indeed sums up our dilemma: is it worth trying to expand the genre, when the general audience’s idea of S&S has calcified in cliché? Especially when a large section of S&S fans (and authors) have very firm ideas of what S&S was, is and always will be?…

(9) INTERNATIONAL TOLKIEN FANDOM. Brazilian podcast Tolkien Talk did a video Q&A with acclaimed Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson. It’s the fifth in their series of major international interviews. Find the others at their Tolkien Talk YouTube channel.

Meet Douglas A. Anderson, creator of The Annotated Hobbit and one of the most important tolkienists of our time. All the way from his first contact with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work to unveiling misconceptions throughout the time, get an overview on Tolkien’s life and works from one that accessed them directly.

(10) CRIMINAL RECORD. Anthony Horowitz has reached a crime fiction award milestone: “Horowitz becomes Japan’s most-decorated foreign crime author” at The Bookseller.

Author Anthony Horowitz has won the Best Mystery of the Decade award by Honkaku Mystery Writers Club for his first Daniel Hawthorne novel, The Word is Murder, making him the most-decorated foreign crime author in Japanese history.

Horowitz is the first author in Japanese history to win 16 literary awards in total, according to his publisher…. 

(11) WHY THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR. “’I Am Legend’ screenwriter responds to conspiracy theory about vaccines and zombies”Yahoo! has the story.

There are a multitude of reasons why people are hesitant or refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine in the midst of a pandemic that’s killed over 600,000 people in the U.S. and millions worldwide, from distrust in science and medicine to wariness towards the government and also… zombies?

New York Times report last weekend about a Bronx-based eyewear company struggling to persuade its employees to get jabbed referenced one worker whose hesitancy was based off of the belief that the COVID vaccine is the shot that turned people into zombies in the 2007 post-apocalyptic film I Am Legend.

As the Times pointed out, the zombification portrayed in the box office hit starring Will Smith was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not the vaccine for it. But the bizarre claim has still flourished on the hotbed of vaccination misinformation that is social media.

On Monday, I Am Legend screenwriter Akiva Goldsman entered the chat.

“Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real,” Goldsman tweeted in response to journalist and comic book writer Marc Bernadin, who shared a screencap of the article with quote, “We. Are. All. Going. To. Die. Sooner. Than. We. Should.”…

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2013 – Eight years ago, Futurama ended its run. It had four seasons on FOX, and when cancelled there was revived by Comedy Central and ran another three seasons. In between, reruns aired on Adult Swim.  It was created by Matt Groening of Simpsons fame. Over its seven seasons, it would run for one hundred and seventy episodes. There would be four later films, Bender’s Big Score, The Beast with a Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder. It had a legendary voice cast of Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David Herman and Frank Welker. It was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Script for the “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” episode during the last season. It has a ninety-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. He won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form at Dublin 2019  for Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and was nominated for six more. ISFDB notes Donovan’s Brain was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available from the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon, and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents — four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World including “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine.“ (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 90. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that? And he won the Rotsler Award for fan art in 2006.  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read, so do tell me about them please. 
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 77. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her?
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 66. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell, written by Alan Moore, and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell.
  • Born August 10, 1960 Antonio Banderas, 61. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in the Puss in Boots and Shrek franchises, appearances in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and the New Mutants. He’s James Mangold in the forthcoming Indiana Jones film. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 56. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six episode series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) UP TO DATE. Entertainment Weekly says Robin is now bi. “Robin becomes a bisexual icon in new Batman comic”. Clearly it doesn’t cut it to keep visualizing Burt Ward/Robin as Adam West/Bruce Wayne’s teenage ward — I missed the part where Robin was dating at all.

The latest issue of Batman: Urban Legends, a monthly anthology series, revealed that the Caped Crusader’s longtime sidekick Robin, specifically the Tim Drake version of him, is bisexual. 

The moment came at the end of part 3 of the Sum of Our Parts story, from writer Meghan Fitzmartin, artist Belén Ortega, colorist Alejandro Sánchez, and letterer Pat Brosseau. 

(16) SUBSTACK GROWING. “Comic Book Writers and Artists Follow Other Creators to Substack” – the New York Times tells how it will work.

… Nick Spencer, a comic book writer best known for his work for Marvel Entertainment, was the liaison between Substack and a group of creators who, starting Monday, will publish new comic book stories, essays and how-to guides on the platform.

He said he approached Chris Best, a Substack founder, with the idea last year, when the pandemic was keeping many fans out of the comic book shops and the creators were looking for new ways to connect with readers.

The initial lineup includes comic-centric newsletters from Saladin AhmedJonathan HickmanMolly OstertagScott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with other writers and artists to be announced.

The creators will be paid by Substack while keeping ownership of their work. The company will take most of the subscription revenue in the first year; after that, it will take a 10 percent cut.

Mr. Tynion, who last month won an Eisner Award, the comic industry’s highest honor, for best writer, said he would break away from writing Batman for DC Entertainment to devote time to his creator-owned series and his Substack newsletter.

(17) KEEPING THE BOOKS. Lazy Rabbit has a set of humorous pictures of librarian jokes on Facebook.

(18) CATS FOR ADOPTION. Let’s signal boost the availability for adoption of a new litter of kittens in Los Angeles. The owner is a friend of Gideon Marcus of Galactic Journey. You can reach her by emailing digginginthewrongplace (at) gmail (dot) com.

The momma cat is approx two years old. We just had her spayed and she had a dental check too. She’s negative for all diseases/fleas/worms, and in great health.

Kitties are 9 weeks old. All in great health. Too young to be neutered yet.

Let me know if anyone’s interested!

(19) CANDLING THE EGGS. SYFY Wire got first dibs on this 90-second video: “Monsters at Work: Explore the Pixar show’s various Easter eggs”.

SYFY WIRE is excited to debut an exclusive featurette that breaks down a number of these subtle — and not-so-subtle — references in the Disney+ series. Series executive producer Bobs Gannaway tells us that all of the Easter eggs “happened naturally and came from anyone on the crew at any phase of production — be it a storyboard artist adding something in the board, or the art director dressing the set.” 

“We focused mostly on world expansion — using the graphics to suggest parts of the world we will never see: like the Laffeteria menu, or advertisements on the back of Roz’s newspaper,” he continues. “We also focused things more inward and on our characters. For example, Duncan’s nameplate changes every episode, and whenever he’s listening to his boom box, the ‘mixtape’ is labeled. You have to really zoom into the frames to see those. Other things aren’t so much Easter eggs as they are just having fun: like changing the theme music every time during the credits to reflect that episode’s story, and doing something different each time with the wind-up teeth in the Mike’s Comedy Class title card. Everyone has a good time adding the details to the world.”

(20) TRICK OR TRICK. “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ Halloween Special First Images Revealed” – see the pics at Halloween Daily News. Below is the trailer from May.

On today’s 52nd anniversary of the premiere of the Haunted Mansion dark ride at Disneyland, two first-look images from this October’s new Muppets Haunted Mansion Halloween special have been released, including Kermit and Miss Piggy in costume …as each other.

The special will feature the Muppets cast, along with celebrity cameos, new music, and fittingly seasonal fun for all ages.

Muppets Haunted Mansion will take place on Halloween Night, when Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in The Haunted Mansion.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers, The Legend of Zelda:  Skyward Sword”, Fandom Games says this is “the motion-control Zelda game no one asked for” where “every fight feels like doing a bunch of morphone before a high-school fencing match.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, BravoLimaPoppa, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Flaneur.]

Pixel Scroll 8/7/21 Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Scroll

(1) STAR POWER. Nicholas Whyte puts “Contact, film and book” in perspective at From the Heart of Europe.

Contact won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1997, beating four other films (the first time since 1992 that no TV episode was on the ballot, and only the second time since 1992 that a cinematic film won). The losers were, in order, Men in BlackGattacaThe Fifth Element and Starship Troopers. I have seen Men in Black and Starship Troopers, and I really like them both, but I actually think Contact is better. IMDB users are not as impressed, rating it 13th of the year’s films on one system and 19th on the other, with all the other Hugo finalists ahead of it on the latter ranking and all but one on the former. Top IMDB spot for the year goes, of course, to Oscar-winner Titanic, on both rankings….

(2) NEXT TOLKIEN SEMINAR. The Tolkien Society has announced a call for papers for its third online seminar of the year: “Autumn Seminar: Translating and Illustrating Tolkien” which will be held November 6. (Probably won’t get as much press as the second, “Tolkien and Diversity.”) The event will be free for all. See the full guidelines at the link.

Tolkien’s appeal has led to his fiction and non-fiction being translated into over fifty languages. The art of translation is immensely complex and when discussing the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien himself saw the task as “formidable”, offering his own supportive intervention to achieve a satisfactory result…..

Papers may consider, but are not limited to the following:

  • Translations/illustrations of Tolkien’s fiction/non-fiction
  • The role of the translator/illustrator
  • Translations/illustrations and their context
  • Translations’/illustrations’ reception

(3) PLAYING WITH YOUR HEADLINES. “Fake news video gives taste of what we’ll see in Season 3 of Amazon’s ‘The Boys’”SYFY Wire frames the picture:

Amazon gave us a tease today, however, of what we can expect for the Seven, Vought’s handpicked superheroes that help bolster their corporate image.

The five-minute clip is a newscast from Vought’s own channel, the Vought News Network (VNN for short). In a style that evokes Fox News, the “reporter” provides an update on its parent company’s Seven superheroes.

(4) READING OF THE WILL. Scholastic Corporation CEO M. Richard Robinson Jr., who died in June, had an unexpected heir: “Children’s book publishing tycoon wills $1.2B company to Toronto woman instead of his family” reports National Post.

The unexpected death of the head of the children’s book publishing giant behind Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Clifford the Big Red Dog, produced a surprise ending of his own: He left control of his $1.2 billion company and all his possessions to the company’s chief strategy officer, a Toronto woman he reportedly had a romance with.

That M. Richard (Dick) Robinson Jr. left everything to Iole Lucchese rather than to his former wife, two sons, or his four siblings is causing alarm, family drama and potential high-stakes legal action, which is more than enough for a sequel to any story, according to reporting in The Wall Street Journal.

(5) ORVILLE HAILS HULU. Deadline says the show has finally broken radio silence: “’The Orville’: Hulu Scripted Chief Jordan Helman Gives Update On Seth MacFarlane’s Sci-Fi Drama”.

Seth MacFarlane’s sci-fi drama, which moved from Fox to Hulu in 2019 for its third season, was hit by the pandemic disrupting production, meaning fans were in for a pretty long wait after the second season premiered in 2018.

However, Jordan Helman, head of scripted originals at Hulu, has provided an update on progress. He said that he’s seen cuts of the show coming in and is hopeful of a premiere sooner rather than later.

“The past year and a half has been complicated on a variety of levels as it pertains to production,” he told Deadline. “I can’t share a launch date, but we’re really excited about what we’ve seen thus far.”

MacFarlane and Jon Cassar are directing episodes of the third season. Filming initially began in October 2019 but was halted in March 2020 with the arrival of Covid-19 with around half of production completed. Production resumed in December 2020 but was suspended again in January 2021 due to a surge. Filming resumed in February….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1986 – Thirty-five years ago this weekend, Knight Rider ended its four-year, ninety-episode run on NBC. Arguably a more successful talking car series than My Mother the Car was in the Sixties which lasted but a single season, it had as its leads KITT the AI controlled car (voiced uncredited by William Daniels) and David Hasslehoff as Michael Knight. (You can decide which had a more vibrant personality.) This was his first genre role though he’d later play Nick Fury in Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., a rather awful version of that character I’d add. It was created by Gary Larson who also responsible for Battlestar GalacticaBattlestar Galactica 1980,  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Caprica,  AutomanMagnum, P.I (which some of you have argued here is genre) and Manimal. Yes, Manimal.  If you watched the series and had the jones for more fiction set in that universe, Larson and co-writer Roger Hill wrote five novels set there. The series somewhat inexplicably holds a ninety-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 7, 1918 Jane Adams. Actress who showed in the Forties Batman and Robin film as Vickie Vale, Girl Reporter. (That’s how she’s created at the time.) Other genre credits were House of DraculaTarzan’s Magic FountainMaster Minds (eat too much sugar and you can see the future) and the Adventures of Superman series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 7, 1933 Jerry Pournelle. I first encountered not his fiction but his BYTE column for computer users. That said, I did read a lot of his CoDominium Universe though I suspect the Suck Fairy might judge it harshly now. His best work certainly is the one he co-wrote with Larry Niven, The Mote in God’s Eye, which was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon One. Did you know he won a Astounding Award for Best New Writer? Well he did. And he and Niven were joint winners of the Robert A. Heinlein Award from the Baltimore SF Society. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 7, 1944 John Glover, 77. He’s got a wealth of genre roles, so I’m going to be highly selective. (Go ahead and complain.) he was Brice Cummings in the Bill Murray fronted Scrooged, he voiced a great Edward Nygma who was The Riddler in Batman: The Animated Series, in Brimstone, he was both The Devil and The Angel. 
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 64. First he is largely responsible for the existence  of Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated SeriesThe New Batman/Superman AdventuresBatman Beyond, and yes, Duck Dodgers and Tiny Toons as well. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cardigan, Harley Quinn: Mad Love. He’s responsible for the single best animated Batman film, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, as he wrote it.
  • Born August 7, 1960 David Duchovny, 61. Obviously Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now has he done any other genre? Well he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first person video game shooter.
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 61. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see that she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and four Lambda Awards, the first for Trouble and Her Friends, a second for Shadow Man, a third for Point of Dreams and a fourth for Death by Silver
  • Born August 7, 1979 Eric Johnson, 42. Scifi’s Flash Gordon on the series of that name that aired from  August 10, 2007 to February 8, 2008. Look I’m used to Flash Gordon series that are nearly a century old so I had no idea no one had been done recently. Anyone see this? I’ll be writing it up as the Anniversary in a few days.
  • Born August 7, 1957 —  Lis Carey, 64. A prolific reader whose reviews fill the shelves at Lis Carey’s Library. She is also a frequent Filer, contributor of numerous cat photos and even more book reviews. She is a longtime member of NESFA, and chaired Boskone 46 in 2009. (OGH)

(8) D&D GETS A MUSEUM. “Lake Geneva Dungeons & Dragons-themed museum officially open to the public” – Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva Regional News has the story.

Artifacts and memorabilia related to Dungeons & Dragons are now available for public viewing in the city where the popular roleplaying game was created.

The Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, 723 Williams St. in Lake Geneva, officially opened, July 21. The museum features books, games, figurines, magazines, artwork, gaming dice and merchandise related to Dungeons & Dragons.

Jeff Leason, curator, said many Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts have toured the museum since it has been open to the public.

“We had a newlywed couple on their honeymoon, and they said, ‘We can’t believe we walked by and you were open.’ They were so excited,” Leason said. “It’s been wonderful. There hasn’t been anything negative that I’ve heard.”

…Most of the items either were donated by museum staff or former Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) employees. The museum building was TSR’s first commercial location for Dungeons & Dragons.

Leason said one of the more rare items at the museum is a boxset of the original Dungeons & Dragons game, which is worth about $10,000. He said another notable item is a full set of “Strategic Review,” which was an early Dungeons & Dragons publication….

(9) EXPLICATE! EXPLICATE! On Twitter, @Dunemovie challenged people to “Explain Dune in one sentence.” About one-third of the responses took it seriously, for example –

And about two-thirds did not. An example of those —

(10) SELECTED LONG AND SHORT SUBJECTS. Todd Mason, curator of “A night at the movies…”, seeks an audience for his repaired 2014 post, full of (mostly somewhat macabre) cartoons and such wrapped around a double-feature of Night Of The Eagle and The City Of The Dead (and links to “alternate” features Castaway with Amanda Donohoe and Oliver Reed and Testament Of Orpheus), with Harlan Ellison in-joke references at the headnotes…

(11) A SWING AND A MISS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has announced that Perseverance’s first attempt to gather a rock sample apparently failed. The titanium sample tube was left empty. There are 42 more tubes available to try to find the ultimate answer. “NASA’s Perseverance Team Assessing First Mars Sampling Attempt”.

“While this is not the ‘hole-in-one’ we hoped for, there is always risk with breaking new ground,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “I’m confident we have the right team working this, and we will persevere toward a solution to ensure future success.”

Perseverance’s Sampling and Caching System uses a hollow coring bit and a percussive drill at the end of its 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm to extract samples. Telemetry from the rover indicates that during its first coring attempt, the drill and bit were engaged as planned, and post-coring the sample tube was processed as intended.

“The sampling process is autonomous from beginning to end,” said Jessica Samuels, the surface mission manager for Perseverance at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “One of the steps that occurs after placing a probe into the collection tube is to measure the volume of the sample. The probe did not encounter the expected resistance that would be there if a sample were inside the tube.”

(12) WE’RE NOTHING SPECIAL? MIT Press book offers an excerpt from Wade Roush’s new book Extraterrestrials in “Alien Dreams: The Surprisingly Long History of Speculation About Extraterrestrials”.

… Materialist interpretations of the cosmos eventually began to take the place of mythological ones. But the idea that there might be other beings in the sky has stayed with us, and it found its first protoscientific roots in Greece in the sixth century BCE.

Anaximander, a philosopher who lived in Miletus in modern-day Turkey, contributed one key idea. He was the first to propose that Earth is a body floating in an infinite void, held up by nothing. For someone who lived 2,200 years before Isaac Newton, this was a stunning insight. The philosopher Karl Popper called it “one of the boldest, most revolutionary, and most portentous ideas in the whole history of human thought.” Anaximander also thought Earth was a cylinder with the continents arrayed on one flat end, so he wasn’t right about everything. But he did invent the idea of space, a place with no absolute up or down. And just as important, Anaximander’s system was the first to leave open the possibility that there are other worlds like ours. (Though, to be clear, he may not have believed that these worlds existed elsewhere in space. He may have thought they preceded or would succeed Earth in time or perhaps coexisted in some parallel universe.)…

(13) SHARP POINTY TEETH. The second Venom: Let There Be Carnage trailer has dropped. In theaters this Fall.

Tom Hardy returns to the big screen as the lethal protector Venom, one of MARVEL’s greatest and most complex characters. Directed by Andy Serkis, the film also stars Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris and Woody Harrelson, in the role of the villain Cletus Kasady/Carnage.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, Jennifer Hawthorne, Todd Mason, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 8/4/21 I Think We’re A Scroll Now, There Doesn’t Seem To Be Any File Around

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The July 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is Justina Ireland’s “Collateral Damage”, about how an Army platoon responds when an experimental military robot is embedded with it.

…Unit 10003 interacted with assigned platoon during physical training and assisted in small tasks. Complete recordings are now available for download. Morale of assigned unit is high and no hostility was experienced. ENTRY COMPLETE…

Writer and military historian Andrew Liptak’s response essay asks “Will members of the military ever be willing to fight alongside autonomous robots?”

…The development of the Greek phalanx helped protect soldiers from cavalry, the deployment of English longbows helped stymie large formations of enemy soldiers, new construction methods changed the shape of fortifications, line infantry helped European formations take advantage of firearms, and anti-aircraft cannons helped protect against incoming enemy aircraft. The technological revolution of warfare has not stopped, and today, robotics on the battlefield—through the use of drones, automated turrets, or the remote-controlled Flir PackBot—have made appearances in the most recent conflicts….

(2) BOUCHERCON CANCELLED. The 2021 Bouchercon, a convention for mystery fans that was scheduled to be held this month in New Orleans, has been cancelled by the organizers. Members received an email explaining the decision (which has not yet been published). Writers commenting on Facebook pointed to Louisiana’s COVID spike, The con will be held in the city in 2025, instead. The Anthony Awards are still happening and details of the online/virtual awards ceremony will be coming soon.

(3) LONGYEAR ACCEPTANCE SPEECH. Barry B. Longyear invites Facebook readers to hear his Prometheus Award acceptance speech via Zoom on August 21, followed by a panel discussion “SF, Liberty, Alternative Publishing Trends and the Prometheus Awards” hosted by LFS and sponsored by Reason Magazine. The Zoom event will take place 3:00-4:30 PM EDT on August 21 and it is open to the public. This is the Zoom event link.

(4) FLASH FICTION ROUNDUP. Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA presents “An evening of Flash Science Fiction with stories by Christopher Ruocchio, Brent A. Harris and David Brin” on August 10 at 6:00 p.m Pacific. Register for the free Zoom event here.

(5) BLUE PLAQUE SPECIAL. Another commemorative plaque honoring Tolkien has been installed on a British building: “Blue plaque celebrates time Lord of the Rings author Tolkien spent near Withernsea a century ago” reports the Yorkshire Post.

A blue plaque has gone up in Withernsea to mark the time Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien and his wife spent there when he was a soldier during World War One.

The Lifeboat Café, where it has gone up, occupies the site of 76 Queen Street, where Tolkien’s wife Edith lodged in 1917, while he was stationed at nearby Thirtle Bridge Camp, three miles away, for a time as commander of the Humber Garrison, which was tasked with protecting the coast from invasion.

Tolkien, who was recovering from trench fever which he’d picked up in France, had not yet been published

…The plaque, funded by wellwishers, was organised by Phil Mathison, the author of Tolkien in East Yorkshire 1917-1918.

Two others have been installed at the Dennison Centre in Hull, which was Brooklands Hospital during the First World war, and in Hornsea, where his wife stayed at 1 Bank Terrace.

(6) KISWAHILI SF PRIZE. The Nyabola Prize for Science Fiction was announced earlier this year, inviting writers between the ages of 18 and 35 to submit sci-fi and speculative fiction in the Kiswahili language. Over 140 million people speak Kiswahili in Eastern and Southern Africa and it is the most widely spoken African language in the world. The deadline to enter was May 31. Read the March 24 announcement here. It offers $1,000 to the first place winner, and $500 and $250 to the second and third place winners. The top ten stories will be published in an anthology.

In a recent interview published in The Conversation, two of the prize’s principal administrators, Mukoma wa Ngugi and Lizzy Attree, commented on the impact of empowering writers to create sci-fi in African language literature. “New Kiswahili science fiction award charts a path for African languages”.

…Mokoma adds that fostering science fiction in African languages changes the narrative that African languages cannot accommodate scientific discourse:

“There is also the idea that African languages are social languages, emotive and cannot carry science. Most definitely not true. All languages can convey the most complex ideas but we have to let them. There is something beautiful about African languages carrying science, fictionalised of course, into imagined futures.”

(7) THERE WILL BE WAR. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] This was originally a thread on Twitter, but Cory Doctorow compiled and posted it to his blog. “Games Workshop declares war on its customers (again)”. It references Making Light, Warhammer 40K (extensively) and “Starship Troopers.” 

There’s a difference between a con-artist and a grifter. A con-artist is just a gabby mugger, and when they vanish with your money, you know you’ve been robbed.

A grifter, on the other hand, is someone who can work the law to declare your stuff to be their stuff, which makes you a lawless cur because your pockets are stuffed full of their money and merely handing it over is the least you can do to make up for your sin.

IP trolls are grifters, not con artists, and that’s by design, a feature of the construction of copyright and trademark law.

Progressives may rail at the term “IP” for its imprecision, but truly, it has a very precise meaning: “‘IP’ is any law that lets me control the conduct of my customers, competitors and critics, such that they must arrange their affairs to my benefit.”…

(8) TALKING ABOUT PIRANESI. Susanna Clarke will discuss her Hugo-nominated and Kitschie-winning book Piranesi with Neil Gaiman in a free (or pay-what-you-can) online event September 2 at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. Get tickets here.

Step into the extraordinary and mysterious world of Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author Susanna Clarke as she discusses her spectacular novel, Piranesi, with the one and only Neil Gaiman live and online exclusively for 5×15. Join us for what promises to be an unmissable conversation between two of our best loved, most powerfully imaginative writers.

(9) THE BOOK OF VAUGHN. Boing Boing reports there’s a “Vaughn Bode documentary in the works”. [Note: The line over the “e” in his name is not shown here because WordPress doesn’t support the character.]

Vaughn Bode was one of the coolest underground artists of the 1960s and 1970s, painting a joyous mix of sexuality, psychedelia and appropriated cartoon tropes. It would have been his 80th birthday this month, and director Nick Francis is preparing a documentary about his short life and long influence.

(10) THE FORCES OF EVIL DO NOT SLEEP. Cora Buhlert writes about the new Masters of the Universe: Revelation cartoon and the classic sword and sorcery influences on the Masters of the Universe franchise in general in “Eternia Revisited – Some Reflections on Master of the Universe: Revelation”. Includes spoilers.

…Those cartoons were basically 25-minute toy ads and I knew that even as a kid (especially since the commercial breaks helpfully ran ads for the very same toys). Nonetheless, I loved them. They also had a big influence on me – how big I wouldn’t realise until many years later. And I’m far from the only one. Look at how many reboots, reimaginationings, live action versions, etc… of 1980s kid cartoons there have been in recent years. For example, right now Snake Eyes, a pretty neat looking movie based on the ninja character from G.I. Joe, is in the theatres. They may only have been glorified toy commercials, but those cartoons influenced a whole generation and have outlasted many of the more serious and wholesome media of the same era. At any rate, I don’t see a big screen Löwenzahn reboot anywhere. As for wholesome and educational cartoons, how wholesome and educational does Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids look now, knowing what we know about Bill Cosby?…

(11) THREE COSTUMERS PASS AWAY. The International Costumers Guild has announced the deaths of three veteran masqueraders in recent days.

R.I.P. Robert “G. Bob” Moyer. He was a fixture at many East-Coast Costume-Cons, and always had good garb. He was also known for his middle-eastern dance skills and charming personality.

More sad news for our community, Leo d’Entremont passed away suddenly at home last night. [August 1] He will be missed at many events and our thoughts go out to his wife and family.

Dana MacDermott passed last night. [August 3] An inspiration and icon to many, she will be missed. Our thoughts go out to her husband, Bruce MacDermott, as well as her sons, family and many friends.

(12) J.W. RINZLER (1962-2021). Jonathan Rinzler, who wrote under the name J.W. Rinzler, died July 28 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 58.

Berkleyside has a detailed appreciation of his career: “Remembering Jonathan Rinzler, bestselling author of ‘Star Wars’ books”.

Rinzler had a prodigious career as a bestselling author of cinematic history books about Star WarsIndiana Jones, and other 20th century blockbuster films. He joined Lucasfilm in 2001 and became the executive editor of its publishing arm, Lucasbooks. Over 15 years, he authored an extensive body of Star Wars-related publications, including The Making of Star Wars (a New York Times bestseller), The Making of The Empire Strikes BackThe Making of Return of the JediStar Wars: The Blueprints, and The Sounds of Star Wars.

… In addition to his multiple books about the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, he wrote The Making of AliensThe Making of Planet of the ApesThe Making of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and Howard Kazanjian: A Producer’s Life.

…In addition to his nonfiction works, Rinzler wrote two novels, the No. 1 best-selling graphic novel The Star Wars, which he co-authored with artist Mike Mayhew, and his recent space history novel All Up…

Mary Robinette Kowal added this note to the announcement:

(13) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1972 – Forty-nine years ago at L.A.Con 1, Poul Anderson win the Best Novella Hugo for “The Queen of Air and Darkness”. (It was his fourth Hugo. All of his Hugo wins would be in the non-Novel categories.) Other nominated works “A Meeting with Medusa” by Arthur C. Clarke, “The Fourth Profession” by Larry Niven, “Dread Empire” by John Brunner and “A Special Kind of Morning” by Gardner R. Dozois. It would also win a Locus Award for Short Fiction and a Nebula Award for a Novelette. (One work, three different categories.)  It’s available, not surprisingly, in The Queen of Air and Darkness: Volume Two of the Short Fiction of Poul Anderson which is available from the usual suspects.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 4, 1923 Paul Schneider. He wrote scripts for the original Star TrekStar Trek: The Animated SeriesThe StarlostThe Six Million Dollar Man, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He’s best remembered for two episodes of the original Trek series: “Balance of Terror” and “The Squire of Gothos.” “Balance of Terror,” of course, introduced the Romulans. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1937 David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K. Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is “a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.” I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 4, 1942 Don S. Davis. He’s best-known for playing General Hammond on Stargate SG-1 and Major Garland Briggs on Twin Peaks. He had a small part in Beyond the Stars as Phil Clawson, and was in Hook as Dr. Fields. Neat factoid: on MacGyver for five years, he was the stunt double for Dana Elcar. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1944 Richard Belzer, 77. In the Third Rock from The Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-FilesThe InvadersHuman Target, and a recurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4, 1950 Steve Senn, 71. Here because of his Spacebread duology, Spacebread and Born of Flame. Spacebread being a large white cat known throughout the galaxy as an adventuress and a rogue. He’s also written the comic novels, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol and Loonie Louie Meets the Space FungusSpacebread is available at the usual suspects for a mere ninety cents as is Born of Flame: A Space Story!
  • Born August 4, 1968 Daniel Dae Kim, 53. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World tv film, the second Fantasy Island of three series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade series, Star Trek: VoyagerCharmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4, 1969 Fenella Woolgar, 52. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. She was series regular Min in the Jekyll series. Her only other genre work was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. 
  • Born August 4, 1981 Meghan, the former Duchess of Sussex, 40, Yes she’s done a genre performance or so. To be precise, she showed up on Fringe in the first two episodes of the second season (“A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects” as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup. She was also in the “First Knight” episode of Knight Rider as Annie Ortiz, and Natasha in “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” on Century City

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) FF@60. Fans will get to experience two of the Fantastic Four’s greatest adventures in a new way when Fantastic Four Anniversary Tribute #1 is published in November. In the tradition of Giant-Size X-Men: Tribute To Wein & Cockrum #1 and Captain America Anniversary Tribute #1, this giant-sized issue will present classic stories with new artwork by today’s leading artists.

 Sixty years ago, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made history and brought about the beginning of the Marvel Age of comics with the release of FANTASTIC FOUR #1. Now a bevy of Marvel’s finest creators will pay tribute to that monumental moment by reinterpreting, page by page, the story from that inaugural release as well as FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #3, the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm!

(17) HULL & POHL. Andrew Porter took these photos of Elizabeth Anne Hull and her husband Frederik Pohl in years gone by. Hull died this week, and Pohl in 2013.

(18) TRYING TO BE HELPFUL. Daniel Dern nominates these as the titles for Phillip Pullman Dark Materials sequels.

  • The Precient Wrench
  • His Uglee Mugge
  • The Ambitious Protractor
  • The Slye Pliers
  • The Open Source Aleitheometer
  • The Dust Buster
  • The Unworthy Hammer
  • The Book In The Stone
  • The Sword In The Scroll

(19) SOUL MAN. The dark year 2204, in a world that has seen 73 years of continuous war. A Shaman is sent on a mission to convert the soul of a giant battle colossus. “The Shaman” curated by DUST.

The dark year 2204, in a world that has seen 73 years of continuous war. Recently mankind re-discovered the arts of Shamanism. The Shaman’s school of thought believes that every person or object has a soul. During battle Shamans step over into the Netherworld to find and convert the souls of their enemies’ giant battle machines. This tactic enables a single man to overcome an invincibly seeming steel monster. This is the story of Joshua, a Shaman, who is sent on a mission to convert the soul of a giant battle colossus. He does not yet know that the soul is prepared for his coming and that the deadly psychological soul-to-soul confrontation in the Netherworld will be on eye level.

(20) A DIFFERENT SHIELD BEARER. “The Multiverse Blows Open With Captain Carter In New Clips From Marvel’s ‘What If…?’ Series On Disney+”SYFY Wire sets the frame:

The animated series, which arrives on Disney+ next week, takes Loki‘s introduction of the multiverse and runs with it, presenting alternate outcomes for our favorite MCU heroes and villains. Overseeing all of these parallel dimensions is Uatu the Watcher (voiced by Wright), an omnipotent celestial being whose job it is to watch over the Earth without interfering….

(21) THE DRINK OF DRAGON CON. Makes me wonder what the official beverage of the Worldcon would be named.

(22) AIR APPARENT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] What a difference a (longer) day makes: “’Totally New’ Idea Suggests Longer Days On Early Earth Set Stage For Complex Life” at Slashdot.

“A research team has proposed a novel link between how fast our planet spun on its axis, which defines the length of a day, and the ancient production of additional oxygen,” reports Science Magazine. “Their modeling of Earth’s early days, which incorporates evidence from microbial mats coating the bottom of a shallow, sunlit sinkhole in Lake Huron, produced a surprising conclusion: as Earth’s spin slowed, the resulting longer days could have triggered more photosynthesis from similar mats, allowing oxygen to build up in ancient seas and diffuse up into the atmosphere.”

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Retaliation,” the Screen Junkies say the first two G.I. Joe movies are “like Team America but without the jokes” that mixes “generic military dudes and hot military babes.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Jennifer Hawthorne, Joey Eschrich, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/28/21 So Put Another File In The Jukebox, Baby

(1) MORE’S HAPPENING THAN WHAT’S ON THE PAGE. Aigner Loren Wilson is “Exploring Nnedi Okorafor’s Africanfuturist Universe” at Tor.com.

…Though not all of the stories take place in Africa, they all speak to the same African future that Okorafor is creating and envisioning. Sometimes this future is at the nexus of American industrialism and the exploitation of Africans like in The Book of Phoenix, in which Okorafor shows the rage and anger of a child used and experimented on. Sometimes her stories show the aftermath of such greed. In Who Fears Death, Okorafor writes of the strife of Sudan and the resilience of its people through the story of Onyesonwu. Readers watch her grow from an infant to a powerful being with the ability to save and heal a whole people. Though the landscapes change, the heart of an Africanfuturist universe is being carved out within these books. Eventually in Binti, Africa reaches the stars by way of the character literally running away so she can be the first of her people to attend a top intergalactic school. Binti is the future of her people, carrying the weight of all the past struggles of them and herself—the histories both told and not….

(2) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. The Booker Prize 2021 longlist includes three books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • Second Place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)
  • A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)
  • Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber)

The shortlist will be announced September 14, and the winner on November 3.

(3) COMPLICATED Q&A. LeVar Burton was interviewed by David Marchese in the July 4 New York Times Magazine.  It’s mostly about his Jeopardy! stint, but he also discusses his 1997 sf novel Aftermath, which has recently been reprinted. “LeVar Burton’s Quest to Succeed Alex Trebek”

…Forgive me for making the subtext of these questions the text, but I’m trying to see if we can complicate the image of you as almost a secular pop-culture saint like Alex Trebek or Fred Rogers. And one of the things that I came across that maybe does complicate things is your novel, “Aftermath.”5

[5 Published in 1997, Burton’s only novel to date is a dystopian story about a United States recovering from a series of catastrophic events, including violent racial conflicts after the assassination of the nation’s first Black president-elect by a white extremist.]

 Wow. I love talking to people who have taken the time to read my book. I’m enormously proud of it. I just recorded a digital version of it with a new author’s note. I threw out the old author’s note about how I came to be a science-fiction fan and instead addressed the time in which we find ourselves now and some of the ways in which the events at the beginning of the novel are kind of prescient.

I don’t really know how well the book sold, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s obscure. Is it possible that the public wasn’t eager to accept the side of your sensibility that it represented? I was surprised by the violence, the allusions to sexual assault — just the darkness in it. 

I would venture to say, based on some encounters that I have had on Twitter, that there is a population of people who aren’t willing to see me displaying an aspect of my character that perhaps goes against their idea of who I am. They feel like they have the right to opine on who I should be, what I should and should not say. That’s an interesting part of this dynamic of fame. However, I spent a lot of time and energy discovering, defining, divining who I am and how I want to live my life. What you do with what I put out there is your business. What I put out there is my business….

(4) AFTER ACTION REPORT. At Green Book of the White Downs, Tim Bolton’s “Thoughts on the release of the Tolkien Society Summer Seminar videos and push-back against the online small-minded backlash around the event” includes links to “an outpouring of writing focused on the reception of Tolkien’s work and finding representation to identify with in Tolkien’s words” plus “numerous blog posts about LGBT+ and Tolkien.”

…A couple of weeks ago, as we headed towards what would be a fantastic and thoughtful Tolkien Society Summer Seminar, it came apparent that a part of the Tolkien fandom were quite vocally angry that diversity should be a topic associated with Tolkien. We saw a rival conference set up (as if other conferences have ever been a bad thing), we saw podcasts and YouTube rants. Social media saw the same people posting angrily about the affront that the Tolkien Society were holding a seminar – not sure where these lot have been, the Tolkien Society have hosted seminars every year for longer than some of them were born….    

This is the Tolkien Society seminar whose announced schedule was used by some bloggers as an excuse to act out – “Seminar’s Focus on Diversity in Tolkien Draws Conservatives’ Ire” – including pitching a dubious rival event: “Purported Event Will Counter-Program the Seminar on Diversity in Tolkien”.

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

…Here’s the thing. No matter how far back these cave trolls want to try and drag us, we (as a fandom and a society) are going to move forward. We are diverse, we are inclusive. Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But I will stand by groups that at their core hold values such empathy, kindness and being welcoming to all.

And at the centre of it all – our love of Tolkien’s works.

(5) DOG AT LARGE. Joseph Tuttle introduces readers to “’Roverandom:’ Tolkien’s little-known children’s story” at Voyage.

Roverandom is the endearing tale of a little dog’s adventures after being turned into a toy by a wizard. Tolkien originally told this story to his children after one of them had lost a toy dog on vacation. After searching for the lost toy unsuccessfully, Tolkien devised Roverandom to help explain what happened to the toy. Years later, he put the story into the book format we now have….

(6) LUMPY LOKI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Fiona Sturges interviews Richard E Grant about his role on Loki.

Grant hams it up terrifically as Classic Loki, one of several ‘variant’ Lokis marooned in a purgatory known as ‘The Void’ (other variants include Alligator Loki and Kid Loki.)  When he first saw his costume — scoffed-grubby-with clear sagging in the crotch area — he was a little crestfallen.  ‘My first question was, ‘Where are the muscles?’  If you look at Jack Kirby’s original drawings in the comic, the guy had muscles.  But the costume designer was very insistent that I was relying on Loki magic (for strength). So I didn’t get my way.  I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s a withered and old Classic Loki that they’re going to get!’

The role also required Grant to grapple with CGI and green screen technology.  He notes that in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, in which he played Allegiant General Pryde, ‘ all the doors were functional, all the lights on the consoles worked, and there were stormtroopers’  By contrast, in Loki, his alligator co-star was made of three cushions roughly sewn together. 

(7) METAVERSE MAVEN. The Verge says “Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the metaverse” – so I guess I’d better start figuring out what that’s supposed to be.

As June came to an end, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees about an ambitious new initiative. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse.

The company’s divisions focused on products for communities, creators, commerce, and virtual reality would increasingly work to realize this vision, he said in a remote address to employees. “What I think is most interesting is how these themes will come together into a bigger idea,” Zuckerberg said. “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

The metaverse is having a moment. Coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Earlier this month, The New York Times explored how companies and products including Epic Games’ FortniteRoblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons increasingly had metaverse-like elements. (Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been discussing his desire to contribute to a metaverse for many months now.)…

(8) SECOND BANANAS WITH MORE APPEAL. James Davis Nicoll points out “Five Supporting Characters Who Outshine the Protagonist” at Tor.com.

Sergeant Sam Anderson from Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein (1953)

Had runaway Max Jones never met Sam Anderson, late of the Imperial Marines, Max’s plans to follow his late uncle Chester into space would have come to nothing. Chester may have been a member in good standing of the Astrogators’ Guild, but he never signed the necessary paperwork nominating Max for membership. As far as the Guild is concerned, that is that.

Sam, on the other hand, has the ethical flexibility, experience, and connections needed to circumvent onerous regulation. Thanks to Sam’s experienced mentorship, Max acquires all the necessary papers needed to work in space and a position on board the Asgard. Max’s odd talents will prove invaluable when the Asgard is lost in space. Those talents would never have been there to help the Asgard without genially amoral Sam’s corrupting influence.

(9) HELP SOLVE A MYSTERY. Filer Jake says at the Something Awful forums someone has posted a Polaroid picture from 1989 in which a paperback book, believed to be SF, can be seen, and asked “What is that book?”

We’re seriously stumped, to the point where I’ve been trawling a copy of the ISFDB to get titles that might be of the same length as the one in the picture, and am also considering downloading their cover DB so as to do some heavy-duty image analysis.

I’m hoping that you’d be willing to add this as an item in a Pixel Scroll, as in the words of the original asker “Why should we be the only ones to be haunted by this?”

This is the picture. You can see why they’re having so much trouble figuring out the answer. But maybe the pattern of the cover will tickle something in your memory banks?

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 28, 2007 – On this date fourteen years ago, Jekyll, a British series produced as a sequel to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella, finishes airing on BBC One. Steven Moffat wrote all six episodes with Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey each directing three episodes. Elaine Cameron and Jeffrey Taylor were the producers. It starred James Nesbitt in the lead role with the rest of the cast being Gina Bellman, Paterson Joseph, Denis Lawson, Michelle Ryan, Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar. Critics loved it with James Jackson of The Times saying Nesbitt’s acting as Hyde was “entertainingly over the top as a dozen Doctor Who villains, with a palpable sense of menace to boot”.  A second season was written by Moffat but the BBC never picked up the option on it. Eight years later, ITV would air Jekyll and Hyde based off the same source material and it too would cancelled after one series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second-to-none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 93. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says.  I will note that Jay Kay was a published author of three stories, “Century of Progress”, “Mass Communication“ and  “On Conquered Earth”.  The first two in Analog, the latter in If. None of these have been republished since.  (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous LizardThe Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 66. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and  and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 55. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. (They were CoNZealand GoHs last year.) He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 53. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed up as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1972 Elizabeth Berkley, 49. Her best known role is Verhooven’s Showgirls which is decidedly not genre even if Kyle MacLachan is in it. She’s done some genre work including The Twilight ZonePerversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these Birthday notes. 

(12) SJW CREDENTIAL BUNDLE. StoryBundle’s 2021 Cattitude Bundle, curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is available for three more weeks. Get the full list of books and the rest of the deal at the link.

This bundle thrills me. Often, I curate StoryBundles filled with books I’ve read. Always, I curate with authors whose work I like. But as I curate them, I’m aware that I am a moody reader who rarely wants to read what’s prescribed. So, with the books I have only read parts of or haven’t read at all, I put them in a To-Be-Read pile to finish when the mood strikes.

With cat fiction, though, the mood always strikes me. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to read a cat story. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ll do whatever I’m doing, unless I’m petting one of my three cats.

Many of the books in this bundle combine cats and magic. It seems a proper combination. Cats can twist themselves into the strangest positions. They have an uncanny way of loving us or torturing us (depending on how they feel about us). They have a mysterious edge, even if they’re the friendliest cat on the planet.

(13) LOCKDOWN WAS GOOD BUSINESS FOR THEM. Game makers are getting an unexpected slice of the pie. The Guardian has the story: “Warhammer maker Games Workshop hands staff £5,000 bonus after lockdown sales surge”.

Warhammer retailer Games Workshop is handing its shop workers, model makers, designers and support staff a £5,000 bonus each after sales and profits benefited from tabletop gamers escaping lockdown by fighting bloodthirsty battles with orcs, elves and alien hordes.

The Nottingham-based company behind the popular fantasygaming equipment and Lord of the Rings figurines said its 2,600 ordinary workers would split a £10.6m special bonus on top of a £2.6m profit share.

Senior managers will share an extra £1.1m bonus pot, up from £300,000 the year before, after sales rose by just over a third to £361m and pretax profits soared almost 70% to £151m….

(14) WITCHER SPINOFF. This trailer for a Witcher anime spinoff dropped on Wednesday. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 on Netflix.

The world of The Witcher expands in this anime origin story: Before Geralt, there was his mentor Vesemir — a swashbuckling young witcher who escaped a life of poverty to slay monsters for coin. But when a strange new monster begins terrorizing a politically-fraught kingdom, Vesemir finds himself on a frightening adventure that forces him to confront the demons of his past.

(15) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Dr. Brian Keating, Co-Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, who also is a member of the Galileo Project’s Advisory Board, is joined by Harvard University Professor Avi Loeb to chat about the Galileo Project in “Extraterrestrial Technology: The Situation Has Changed!” on YouTube.

Huge news out of Harvard: In 2017, the world for the first time observed an interstellar object, called ‘Oumuamua, that was briefly visiting our Solar system. Based on astronomical observations, ‘Oumuamua turned out to have highly anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural explanations. We can only speculate whether ‘Oumuamua may be explained by never seen before natural explanations, or by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin light-sail or communication dish, which fits the astronomical data rather well.

After the release of the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community now needs the determination to systematically, scientifically & transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment. The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science & on our entire worldview would be enormous.

Given the recently discovered abundance of Earth-Sun systems, the Galileo Project is dedicated to the proposition that humans can no longer ignore the possible existence of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs), and that science should not dogmatically reject potential extraterrestrial explanations because of social stigma or cultural preferences, factors which are not conducive to the scientific method of unbiased, empirical inquiry. We now must look through new telescopes, both literally and figuratively. The Galileo Project aims to identify the nature of UAP and ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar objects using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments.

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

1. Obtain High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature: This goal will be accomplished by searching for UAP with a network of mid-sized, high-resolution telescopes and detector arrays with suitable cameras and computer systems, distributed in select locations. The data will be open to the public and the scientific analysis will be transparent.

We anticipate extensive Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) and algorithmic approaches to differentiate atmospheric phenomena from birds, balloons, commercial or consumer drones, and from potential technological objects of terrestrial or other origin surveying our planet, such as satellites. For the purpose of high contrast imaging, each telescope will be part of a detector array of orthogonal and complementary capabilities from radar, Doppler radar, and high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to high-resolution, large camera visible range and infrared band telescopes. If an ETC is discovered to be surveying Earth using UAP, then we have to assume that the ETC has mastered passive radar, optical and infrared technologies. In such a case, our systematic study of such detected UAP will be enhanced by means of high-performance, integrated and multi-wavelength detector arrays.

2. Search for and In-Depth Research on ‘Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects:  

The Galileo Project research group also will utilize existing and future astronomical surveys, such as the Rubin Observatory, to discover and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors to the Solar system. We will conceptualize and design, potentially in collaboration with interested space agencies or space ventures, a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects such as ‘Oumuamua by intercepting their trajectories on their approach to the Sun or by using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors.

3. Search for Potential ETC Satellites: Discovering potential 1 meter-scale or smaller satellites that may be exploring Earth, e.g., in polar orbits a few hundred km above Earth, may become feasible with VRO in 2023 and later, but if radar, optical and infrared technologies have been mastered by an ETC, then very sophisticated large telescopes on Earth might be required. We will design advanced algorithmic and AI/DL object recognition and fast filtering methods that the Galileo Project intends to deploy, initially on non-orbiting telescopes. 

(16) PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. The Expanse was a Jeopardy! clue. I can prove it. (Do we still call this a screenshot?)

(17) TRAILER FOR A PROMISED FAN FILM. Strap in for a fun Star Wars fan film from writer/director Anthony Ferraro, Forsaken Mandalorian and the Drunken Jedi Master. “The goal was to make a fan film driven by dramatic performances rather than winks and nods to the franchise. But not to worry, we do some winking and nodding,” Ferraro promises. The video launches August 6 on the Create Sci-Fi YouTube channel.

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

A forsaken Mandalorian hunts down a Hutt Courier to recover an asset that unexpectedly leads him to team up with an outcast drunken Jedi Master to fulfill his sworn duty.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, N., Jake, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15   Scanners (1981)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEMORY LANE.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/17/21 Part Pixel. Part Scroll. All File 770

(1) DRAGON AWARDS DEADLINE. Red Panda Fraction reminds everyone that July 19 the deadline to nominate for the Dragon Awards. The award has a unique eligibility period – the works must be released between 7/1/2020 and 6/30/2021 – and to help deal with it RPF has created an eligible works spreadsheet compiled by volunteers (inspired by Renay’s Hugo Awards spreadsheet) in a Google Doc located here. Dragon Awards nominations can be submitted here

(2) A TOMORROW WAR MAKEOVER. Camestros Felapton wasn’t content to “Review: The Tomorrow War (Amazon)” – now he’s come up with a plan for “Fixing The Tomorrow WarBEWARE SPOILERS as they say.

Sorry, it’s just that this daft film is bugging me. If you are going to have a time travel plot then do something with it. Terminator 1 and 2 managed to be exciting, daft movies and still have some interesting things to say about determinism and time travel. The Tomorrow War pulled one emotional beat out of the set-up but otherwise the time travel aspect just lead to an absurd situation in which Chris Pratt and only Chris Pratt could work out what to do in the past to help the future. It didn’t help that Pratt is not good at conveying the idea that his character is a particularly insightful thinker….

(3) BIG BUCKS. Somebody got paid: “‘Walking Dead’ Lawsuit Settled For $200M Between Frank Darabont, CAA & AMC” reports Deadline.

Less than a month before The Walking Dead kicks off its 11th and final season, the long and bitter legal war between former showrunner Frank DarabontCAA and AMC is over.

In the dictionary definition of a strategic whimper not a bang, the cabler just filed paperwork with the SEC declaring that they have paid out $200 million to the Shawshank Redemption director and the uberagency to end the dispute.

“The Settlement Agreement provides for a cash payment of $200 million (the “Settlement Payment”) to the plaintiffs and future revenue sharing related to certain future streaming exhibition of The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead,” says the understated filing (read it here).

“With regard to the Settlement Payment, the Company has taken a charge of approximately $143 million in the quarter ended June 30, 2021 in consideration for the extinguishment of Plaintiffs’ rights to any compensation in connection with The Walking Dead and any related programs and the dismissal of the actions with prejudice, which amount is net of
approximately $57 million of ordinary course accrued participations,” the 3-page document continues.

… All of which means almost 10 years since TWD‘s Halloween 2011 premiere under Darabont’s tutorage, this legal saga is done like a walker with a knife through the head.

(4) LEVAR BURTON READS HIS OWN BOOK. Entertainment Weekly invites everyone to “Hear LeVar Burton read his novel Aftermath for the first time”. Audio at the link.

Book aficionado, actor, director, and novelist LeVar Burton is doing something new with one of his old projects.

He’s taking Aftermath, his speculative fiction novel from 1997, and turning it into a new audiobook — and EW has your first listen.

When Burton released the book in the late ’90s, it was set in the future — 2019. It followed a group of people that just might be able to save humanity following catastrophic events, including a destructive earthquake, racial strife (the fictional Black president was assassinated in 2012), and war.

EW’s sneak peek from Aftermath is Burton’s new author’s note, where he comments on some of the themes and offers reflection on recent historical events. Looking back on his novel, Burton said he was “astonished by similarities between” his “timeline and unfolding events.” He also notes he wrote the book as “a cautionary tale.”…

(5) A DIM VIEW. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw critiques the cinematography of Marvel movies in “Why the MCU’s Lighting Sucks—Including ‘Loki’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame’” at Daily Dot.

Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fandom is a fount of strong opinions, some of which I find wholly understandable (Tilda Swinton’s role was a fiasco; Sebastian Stan is an underrated gem) while others are a little more… puzzling. In the latter category, it’s always bizarre to see people praise the MCU’s lighting. Unlike the artistic vigor of the comics, Disney’s Marvel franchise delivers film after film that can best be described as “murky.” And that includes the popular technique of just blasting a scene with a single color.

This week saw the release of Black Widow and the Loki finale, both involving a similarly lackluster lighting strategy. Black Widow‘s final sequence includes flashes of red to break up the grey undertones of a traditional Marvel battle, while Loki concludes in a purple castle—after fighting a purple CGI behemoth in episode 5. In both examples, the result is deceptively monotonous. While Loki‘s purple color scheme is initially eye-catching, the low-contrast lighting makes it hard to make out the characters’ facial expressions. The same goes for many other scenes in the show, as evidenced by this official promo image…

There’s nothing wrong with filming in monochrome, of course. The film industry did it for the first forty years of its existence. But Marvel’s “paint it all purple” (or brown, or red) technique ignores the shadows, reflections, and highlights utilized in traditional black-and-white films. So we’re neither benefiting from evocative lighting choices or from the vibrant color palette in blockbusters like Superman (1978). (For a classic superhero movie that probably would work in black and white, Tim Burton’s Batman is full of stark, noir-style contrasts.)…

(6) GOT TO BE HERE SOMEWHERE. Austin Gilkeson examines “The Fellowship of the Ring and the Memes of Middle-earth” at Tor.com, including a famous one that doesn’t come from Tolkien’s books.

The other day, I opened Facebook and saw a Boromir meme. You know the one. Fingers and thumb forming a circle, golden light about him, the words “One does not simply [something something]” embossed over the image. This one has the Center for Disease Control logo below that, with the PR announcement, “Fully vaccinated people may now simply walk into Mordor.” Below that, Boromir rubs his temple in frustration. Twenty years on from the debut of The Fellowship of the Ring, and that line from Sean Bean’s Boromir, and I think we can safely say that the “One does not simply” meme is, like the Eldar, immortal….

(7) JOE MCKINNEY (1968-2021). Author Joe McKinney, writer of 13 novels in many genres, including horror, ghost stories, virus thrillers, crime and science fiction, died July 13. He was an 8-time Bram Stoker Award nominee, winning twice, for his novel The Flesh Eaters (2012) and his young adult novel Dog Days (2014).

In addition, he was a sergeant with the San Antonio Police Department, Patrol Supervisor, and before that a homicide detective, disaster mitigation specialist, and he’d helped run the city’s 911 Dispatch Center.

The San Antonio Current paid tribute here, and quotes two writers connected with the Horror Writers Association who eulogized McKinney on Facebook.

“I am terribly saddened to hear that a good friend and great writer, Joe McKinney, has passed away suddenly,” horror author and HWA board member JG Faherty posted on Facebook Thursday. “I will miss the chats we used to have every few months. He was always there to help me when I needed some factual assistance with police procedure, or to just bullshit about things.”

On Thursday, horror author Lisa Morton, a six-time Bram Stoker Award winner, posted a Facebook remembrance of McKinney. She met the San Antonio author in 2006 after being asked to write a blurb for Dead City.

“I became both a fan of Joe’s work and a friend,” Morton wrote. “At some point we both wound up serving as HWA officers and trustees, and Joe was always a trusted voice of wisdom. Even after he left office (he served lastly as HWA’s secretary), we stayed in touch, talking about an amazing crime novel he wanted to write, based on some uncomfortable truths he’d learned while serving within the San Antonio Police Department.”

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1996 – Twenty-five years ago the Deadly Games series ended its run on UPN after just one season. So why am I bringing it to your attention? Because Leonard Nimoy was one of the executive producers (along with Jim Charleston, Christopher Hibler and Christian I. Nyby II), along with being a creative consultant and he directed the pilot for the series. He was not one of the creators as that was Paul Bernbaum, S.S. Schweitzer and Anthony Spinner. (Only the latter with work on The Invaders and The Man from U.N.C.LE. had any extensive genre work. Well, and he wrote for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.)  Its principal cast was James Calvert, Christopher Lloyd, Cynthia Gibb and Stephen T. Kay. The plot? Evil VR characters escape into reality. Really, would I kid you? The network contracted for an initial thirteen episodes and cancelled it before all of them even aired due to really poor ratings. There’s no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the aggregate critical rating there is fifty percent. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best remembered for the Perry Mason detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. It is not available from the usual digital suspects but Amazon has copies of the original hardcover edition at reasonable prices. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 67. Best known rather obviously for creating and writing most of  Babylon 5 and its all too short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for as well as the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the comics sides, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written SupermanWonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles. I wonder how his Dangerous Visions anthology project is coming along. 
  • Born July 17, 1956 Timothy D. Rose, 65. Puppeteer and actor. He was the Head Operator of Howard the Duck in that film, but also was in The Dark Crystal, Return to EwokReturn of The JediReturn to OzThe Muppet Christmas CarolThe Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He voiced Admiral Ackbar in the latter two and in The Return of The Jedi as well. 
  • Born July 17, 1965 Alex Winter, 56. Bill in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its sequels Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and Bill & Ted Face the Music. And though I didn’t realise it, he was Marko in The Lost Boys. He directed two Ben 10 films, Ben 10: Race Against Time and Ben 10: Alien Swarm. He also directed Quantum Is Calling, a short film that has cast members Keanu Reeves, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Paul Rudd. 
  • Born July 17, 1967 Kelly Robson, 54. She finally has a collection out, nearly five hundred pages of fiction, Alias Space and Other Stories. It’s available at the usual suspects for four dollars and ninety-nine cents. Bliss! It contains “A Human Stain” for which she won a Nebula, and two Aurora winners, “Waters of Versailles” and “Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach”. 
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 45. Wow. Author of  Ex Machina, Pride of Baghdad, Runaways, Saga (which has won a BFA and a Dragon), Y: The Last Man, and his newest undertaking, Paper Girls. And he’s won a Hugo Award at LoneStarCon 3 for Saga, Volume One. You could spend an entire summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of Lost during seasons three through five, and he was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series.
  • Born July 17, 1992 Billie Lourd, 29. Lourd is the only child of actress Carrie Fisher.  She appeared as Lieutenant Connix in the Star Wars sequel trilogy as Lieutenant Kaydel Ko Connix.  She also has been a regular cast member on American Horror Story for the five seasons. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Prickly City has the passive-aggressive UFO take on Earth people.
  • Lio’s lost pet poster leaves out one important fact.

(11) BIG PRICE TAGS. The New York Times includes photos of several of these unique items in “Toymakers Create Their Dream Projects (but Ask for Money Upfront)”.

… Other collectors are opening their wallets to buy exclusive products like a $575 Transformers action figure from Hasbro, a $350 Star Wars gunship from Lego, a $75 Magic 8 Ball from Mattel and a $250 Bear Walker skateboard from Pokémon.

The strategy is part of an effort by toy companies to form stronger bonds with fans by offering them once-in-a-lifetime toys. Many companies have beefed up their e-commerce presence to sell limited-edition items that are not found at Walmart or Target.

After slipping 4 percent in 2019, U.S. toy sales roared back last year, rising 16 percent to $25.1 billion, according to the NPD Group, a research firm. “2020 was an unprecedented year for the U.S. toy industry,” Juli Lennett, vice president and industry adviser for NPD’s U.S. toy division, said in a statement.

Much of the expansion was driven by pandemic-induced lockdowns that led consumers to shop online for entertainment options. In the first three quarters of 2020, overall online toy sales jumped 75 percent from a year earlier, NPD said.

Taking advantage of the online growth, executives at big toymakers like Hasbro and Mattel are ramping up their efforts to create dream projects. And digital strategies like crowdfunding allow smaller companies to bypass the hurdles of selling a concept to established retailers, which might balk at giving valuable shelf space to a large, expensive toy or an untested product.

(12) SCHMIGADOON. I don’t think I could actually stand to watch this show, but in small doses it’s morbidly fascinating. Consider the Carousel-esque “You Can’t Tame Me” clip. Which can’t be embedded here.

The six-part series follows a couple, played by Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who stumble on a magical town that lives in a 1940s musical. From there, the pair have to try and find true love.

(13) DON’T SPARE THE ROD.  “Submitted for your approval, the ten episodes that broke the bank…in the Twilight Zone.”The Richest calls these “The Ten Most Expensive Twilight Zone Episodes”.

8/10 Once Upon A Time, $67,250.76

The expensive budget behind this no-dialogue episode was in part due to the appearance of silent-film star Buster Keaton. The episode was written as an homage to some of Keaton’s most iconic performances and still retains the Twilight Zone’s iconic twist.

Centered around two men who are unhappy with their current existence, a time traveling helmet provides both a glimpse into how true satisfaction comes from acknowledging that the grass on the other side of the fence is not actually greener.

(14) WOMEN IN SPACE. “What does it take to do a spacewalk? Skill, courage, and being able to wear a men’s size medium” says The Conversation.

On June 25, astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet successfully completed an almost seven-hour EVA (extravehicular activity, or spacewalk) to install solar panels on the International Space Station. What does it take to don a spacesuit and venture out on such a technical and dangerous mission? Surprisingly, one of the main criteria (besides the years of astronaut training) is body size.

EVA capabilities blossomed during the era of NASA’s space shuttle. Astronauts rode robotic arms, floated tetherless through the void using jetpacks to steer, corralled satellites by hand, and built the International Space Station (ISS). They’ve done it all while wearing spacesuits based on the design first developed for the Apollo missions in the 1960s.

Each suit is a human-shaped spacecraft, featuring a backpack that houses a primary life support system; a layered, pressurised outer garment to protect astronauts from the space environment; and a “long john” undergarment that circulates chilled water via tubes over the body to stop the astronauts getting too hot inside their suit.

When designing these “next-gen” spacesuits in 1974, NASA opted for a modular “tuxedo” approach, in which the various components (upper torso, lower torso, helmet, arms and gloves) could be mixed and matched to fit individual astronauts. The suits came in five sizes, from extra small to extra large, and were based primarily on male body shapes — females were not eligible for NASA’s astronaut program until 1978….

… This means that to be selected for an ISS spacewalk, an astronaut must fit one of the two remaining available sizes: men’s medium, or men’s large. The first all-female EVA, planned for March 2019, had to be postponed because only one medium-sized suit was available. Another medium suit was eventually cobbled together from spares, and astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir successfully performed their groundbreaking spacewalk on October 18 2019.

(15) INCOMING. This dragon-killing movie is coming to Netflix next month: Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this video, the Royal Ocean Film Society celebrates the work of director Joe Johnston and his film The Rocketeer, and says Johnston’s films are “cheesy, but the best kind of cheese.”  He notes that Johnston’s films are small, efficient tributes to the American dream, and says that fans of Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger will like Johnston’s earlier film.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/16/21 All Scrollnanas Make A Pixel, And So Do Many More

(1) NEW PANEL FOR CORDWAINER SMITH REDISCOVERY AWARD. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Robert J. Sawyer and Barry Malzberg have retired as judges for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. A new panel has been created to select the honorees.  The new panel includes Rich Horton, Steven H Silver, and Grant Thiessen.  The new panel’s first selection will be announced at Readercon the weekend of August 13-15.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman declares “It’s pure pandemonium — peanut butter pandemonium! — with John Wiswell” in Episode 149 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Wiswell

Over the past year, you joined me as I’ve baked and shared homemade scones and pizza, or ordered takeout weiner schnitzel and sushi, my guests and I doing our best to seize those moments of community COVID-19 tried to steal from us. In this case, John Wiswell and I pretended we were sitting across the table from each other during the Nebula Awards weekend.

John Wiswell won a Nebula Award earlier this month for the short story “Open House on Haunted Hill,” which had been published last year by Diabolical Plots. He’s also appeared in NatureUncannyWeird TalesFiresideDaily Science FictionFlash Fiction OnlineCast of WondersPodcastle, and Pseudopod. In an astonishing show of prolificacy, he managed to posted fiction on his blog every day for six straight years, which I find astonishing. I found his Nebula acceptance speech astonishing as well; it was one of the best I’ve ever heard.

John and I were supposed to enjoy specialty hamburgers together this time around, only … something went wrong, as you shall hear. Why did I end up eating a chuck roast, brisket, and short rib burger while John only got to nibble on ice cream and carrots? For the answer to that question, well … you’ll have to listen.

We discussed his motivation for giving one of the greatest acceptance speeches ever, how he learned to build meaning out of strangeness, the way writing novels taught him to make his short stories better, his dual story generation modes of confrontation vs. escape, why what we think we know about the Marshmallow Test is wrong, the reason we’re both open online about our rejections, how the love of wallpaper led to him becoming a writer, why we’ve each destroyed our early writing from time to time, what he learned writing a story a day for six years, and much more.

(3) GARCIA APPEARANCES. Chris Garcia will be doing presentations at two Mystical Minds convention gatherings in the coming year.

Mystical Minds is a new Pagan, Paranormal, and Metaphysical convention created to expand our minds as well as our networks! 

Witches, Pagans, Paranormal investigators, psychics, mediums, metaphysical practitioners, UFO experts, cryptozoologists, mystics, and other free-thinking spiritual seekers will come together in person this fall and spring for two conventions in the beautiful Bay area of Northern California! 

For the Fall Gathering / Mystical Minds convention this October in Dublin, CA he’ll present:

History of Paranormal Research in the Bay Area

Before Ghost HuntersMost Haunted, or even Ghostbusters, San Francisco and the Bay has been home to research into the unknown. From occultists and de-bunkers in the early 20th century, to TV personalities in the 70s and 80s, to hard core particle physicists, research into the paranormal has happened here! Join Chris Garcia as he tells their stories! 

At the Spring Gathering / Mystical Minds convention next February in San Jose, CA he’ll speak about —

The Winchester House

An architectural marvel, containing a story of American eccentricity, and a debate over the potential paranormal aspects. We will look at the history of the House, the stories surrounding its building, the recounting of what people have experienced, and how development in the area may have something to do with all the fuss… both before and after Sarah Winchester showed up!  

(4) HARD DRIVES OF IF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the July 16 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses “interactive fiction” or IF, a genre between a video game and a novel.

After a few wilderness years (around 2000), IF re-emerged among a niche community of writers and intellectuals who organised around the annual Interactive Fiction Competition, founded in1995.  This renaissance as partially triggered by  progress in technology.  Writers developed methods for inactivity such as multiple choice as an alternative to the intimidating grammar rules of the text parser. New tools such as Twine, ChoiceScript and Inklewriter empowered those without coding skills to create their own games.  This contributed to a diversification of the creator pool, particularly encouraging queer writers who have broached provocative topics not tackled in the gaming mainstream, ranging from gender dysphoria to clinical depression to unconventional kinks…

…One of the most remarkable IF writers is Porpentine, author of the vivid story With Those We Love Alive.  On this tale of an artist enslaved by an insectoid empress, you roam an alien world of ‘glass flowers on iron stalks. Canopy of leafbone.  Statues sunk into the earth.’  Porpentine asks you to swap words out, wipe them away, and — most intimately — to draw symbols on your arm which represent emotional responses to the narrative.

(5) FREE DOWNLOAD FROM TAFF. Willis Discovers America and other fan fiction by Walt Willis is the latest addition to the selection of free ebook downloads at David Langford’s unofficial Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site, where they hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please. Here’s the download page.

An attempt to collect all Walt Willis’s short fan fiction, in the old sense of invented stories about real-life fans and fandom. This omits the long and much-reprinted The Enchanted Duplicator (1954 with Bob Shaw) and its sequel Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator… To the Enchanted Convention, both already in the TAFF ebook library.

The title piece is a wildly silly imagining of Walt’s first trip to the USA in 1952, written and serialized in multiple fanzines before he actually began the journey; the text used here is from the collected edition of 1955, which included a new preface and annotations explaining some of the more arcane in-jokes. Further items range from scripts for two recorded “taperas” or tape operas that had fans rolling in the aisles at 1950s conventions, to a 1987 recasting of The Enchanted Duplicator as a computer text-Adventure game. Most of this material has never before been collected.

Edited by David Langford, who has added a few more explanatory notes; research work by Rob Hansen and others; proofreading by Pat Charnock. Cover artwork by Bob Shaw, drawn on to stencil for the collected Willis Discovers America (1955). 45,000 words.

(6) YOU COULD LOOK IT UP. John Scalzi tweeted this response to an item screencapped here the other day:

(7) ELVISH. The On fairy-stories website interviews Elvish linguistic scholar Carl F. Hostetter, editor of The Nature of Middle-Earth, a new J.R.R. Tolkien book: “From Linguistics to Metaphysics”. The book proposal with many of the edited texts was seen and approved by Christopher Tolkien, who passed away last year.

In your opinion, why did Tolkien not develop completely the Elvish languages?

For much the same reason that he never completed The Silmarillion: at first, because things grew and changed in his imagination and their expression on paper, and then, after the intervention and completion of The Lord of the Rings, because he had to revise everything to make it consistent with the published book and the thousands of years of “new history” that the introduction of the Second and Third Ages required, a task he was never able to achieve. With the languages, this was because whenever he attempted to make “definitive” decision on some point of phonology or grammar, he would almost inevitably start revising the whole system, which makes sense since any language is a complexly intertwined system, such that a change in one feature or detail can and almost always does affect other aspects. Nor, I think, was it ever Tolkien’s intention to make the Elvish languages “complete” or “finished”: they were primarily an expression of his linguistic aesthetic, and its changes over time. Unlike, say, with Zamenhof and Esperanto, Tolkien had no utilitarian purpose in mind for his languages.

(8) THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the latest issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. Issue 7 features a piece on The Expanse by science, technology, and society scholar Damien P. Williams, and a piece on “Sultana’s Dream,” a 1905 Bengali feminist utopian speculative fiction story, by musicologist and media scholar Nilanjana Bhattacharjya.

One of the most engrossing things about the small-screen adaptation of The Expanse is how viscerally it examines the human costs of life in space. After being exposed to a massive dose of radiation, starship captain James Holden gets a permanent anticancer implant, like a far-future successor of a Port-A-Cath. And from the first episode, we’re made to understand that the Belters—descendants of humans who have worked, lived, and started societies on asteroids or the moons of other planets in our solar system—have different physiologies than the humans who still call Earth home. Gravity weighs heavier on Belters: it constricts their blood vessels, strains their hearts, and cracks their bones….

(9) HENDRIX INTERVIEW. See Kevin Kennel’s video interview of author Grady Hendrix on Facebook.

Author Grady Hendrix (‘Horrorstör’, ‘We Sold Our Souls’ and more!) graciously took time out of his busy schedule for an interview with our very own library staff member Kevin Kennel, to discuss his new book, ‘The Final Girl Support Group’ and his experiences as a writer and author. …Please note: this video contains adult content and is an interview about an adult horror novel.

(10) VISITING UTOPIA. Kim Stanley Robinson explains the usefulness of “The Novel Solutions of Utopian Fiction” in The Nation.

… But in this world, we are never going to get the chance to start over. This was one of the reasons Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels objected to 19th-century utopias like that of Charles Fourier, the French designer of small communes living in perfect harmony: They were fantasy solutions that served only to distract people from the real work of politics and revolution. They were also in competition with Marx and Engels’s own ideas, so there was the usual left infighting. But it was a legitimate complaint: If utopia isn’t a political program, then what is it for?

The answer should be obvious. Utopias exist to remind us that there could be a better social order than the one we are in. Our present system is the result of a centuries-old power struggle, and it is devastating people and the biosphere. We must change it—and fast. But to what?

Utopias are thought experiments. Imagine if things ran like this: Wouldn’t that be good? Well, maybe…let’s live in it fictionally for a while. What problems crop up in this system? Can we solve them? What if we tweak things this way, or that? Let’s tell this story and then that story, and see how plausible they feel after we spend some imaginative time in them….

(11) STEPHEN HICKMAN (1949-2021). Famed sff artist Stephen Hickman died July 16 reported his friend and colleague Ron Miller on Facebook: “Lost one of my best friends, Steve Hickman, this morning and the world lost one of its best artists and finest human beings.” Hickman had over 350 book and magazine covers to his credit. He won the 1994 Best Original Artwork Hugo for his Space Fantasy Commemorative Stamp Booklet. He was a six-time Chesley Award winner.

(12) JUDI B CASTRO OBIT. Judi Beth Castro died July 15 of a sudden illness. She was 58. Her husband, author Adam-Troy Castro, announced her passing on Facebook.

The love of my life, Judi Beth Castro, lost her fight for life at 10:50 PM Thursday night. The illness was sudden, and she was always in critical danger, but between Tuesday night and Wednesday evening her numbers were improving at such a steady rate that we thought there was hope. Alas, the decline began on Thursday morning and by afternoon there was no doubt….

Her genre credits include Atlanta Nights (2005; a parody which she contributed to with many other co-authors), and the short fiction “Unfamiliar Gods” co-authored with Adam-Troy Castro.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered as a black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures. It was originally going to be a syndicated television series. It was directed by Harry Keller, Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon as written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman. Its cast was Judd Holdren, Aline Towne, Gregory Gaye and Craig Kelly.  It would last but one season of twelve twenty-five minute episodes. And yes, it was syndicated to television on NBC in 1955. Some sources say Dave Steven based his Rocketeer character off of Commando Cody. And there’s a clone trooper named Commander Cody who serves under Jedi general Obi-Wan Kenobi, an homage that Lucas has openly acknowledged as he watched the series as a child. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his  short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel.  I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) being my favorite work by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the usual suspects. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 16, 1929 Sheri S. Tepper. Nominated for an Austounding Award way back when, she had a long career, so I’m going to single out BeautyThe Gate to Women’s CountrySix Moon Dance and The Companions as my favorites knowing very well that yours won’t be the same. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 70. She’s won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She won the 1994 Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, for lifetime contributions to science fiction, “both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late ‘Doc’ Smith well-loved by those who knew him,” presented by the New England Science Fiction Association. She’s well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born July 16, 1956 Jerry Doyle. Now this one is depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. Damn. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 58. Ok, so her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and  Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Yes, I’ll admit that they’re two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. Update: I’ve discovered since I last noted her Birthday that she was in Drop Dead Fred, a dark fantasy. She also stopped acting six years ago. 
  • Born July 16, 1965 Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, 56. Best remembered genre wise as Tommy Webber in the much beloved Galaxy Quest though his longest acting role was Patton Plame on the cancelled NCIS: New Orleans
  • Born July 16, 1966 Scott Derrickson, 55. Director and Writer of Doctor Strange who also had a hand in The Day the Earth Stood Still (as Director), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Director and Writer), Urban Legends: Final Cut (Director and Producer) and the forthcoming Labyrinth sequel (Director and Writer). 
  • Born July 16, 1967 Will Ferrell, 54. His last genre film was Holmes & Watson in which he played Holmes. It won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo and, my absolute favourite Award,  Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. Wow. He was also in Land of the Lost which, errrr, also got negative reviews. Elf however got a great response from viewers and critics alike. He also was in two of the Austin Powers films as well. Oh, and he voices Ted / The Man with the Yellow Hat, a tour guide at the Bloomsberry Museum in Curious George.

(15) BANNED FROM ARGO. Larry Correia told Monster Hunter Nation readers that he’s gotten his “7th or 8th” 30-day ban from Facebook. He posted screenshots from his appeal to FB’s Oversight Board in “Fun With The Oversight Board -Or- Better Sign Up For The Newsletter Before I Get Perma-Banned” [Internet Archive link].

…Facebook is a time suck garbage site that exists as the propaganda arm of the DNC/Corpo-Uni-Party, to spy on you to sell to advertisers, and to steal everyone’s personal information. After bamboozling all the content creators to go over there to build “community” they now hold them hostage because the content creators are scared to leave because they’ll take a financial hit (The Oatmeal’s got a great cartoon about it)….

(16) WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM. FOREVER. Hackaday memorializes the “End Of An Era: NTSC Finally Goes Dark In America”.

A significant event in the history of technology happened yesterday, and it passed so quietly that we almost missed it. The last few remaining NTSC transmitters in the USA finally came off air, marking the end of over seven decades of continuous 525-line American analogue TV broadcasts. We’ve previously reported on the output of these channels, largely the so-called “FrankenFM” stations left over after the 2009 digital switchover whose sound carrier lay at the bottom of the FM dial as radio stations, and noted their impending demise. We’ve even reported on some of the intricacies of the NTSC system, but we’ve never taken a look at what will replace these last few FrankenFM stations….

(17) SUSTAINABLE USE OF SPACE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Science:

Last month, at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom, the leading industrial nations addressed the sustainable and safe use of space, making space debris a priority and calling on other nations to follow suit. This is good news because space is becoming increasingly congested, and strong political will is needed for the international space community to start using space sustainably and preserve the orbital environment for the space activities of future generations.

There are more than 28,000 routinely tracked objects orbiting Earth. The vast majority (85%) are space debris that no longer serve a purpose. These debris objects are dominated by fragments from the approximately 560 known breakups, explosions, and collisions of satellites or rocket bodies. These have left behind an estimated 900,000 objects larger than 1 cm and a staggering 130 million objects larger than 1 mm in commercially and scientifically valuable Earth orbits.

(18) SUPERPRANKSTERS? Isaac Arthur’s video “Annoying Aliens” contends, “Fictional portrayals of alien invasion or reports of alien sightings and abductions often imply motives which on inspection make little sense… unless perhaps the true purpose was mischief.”

(19) DISCWORLD COMMENTARY. YouTuber Dominic Noble says he has finally overcome his “sense of loss and deep sadness at the tragically too early passing of the author [Terry Pratchett] due to Alzheimer’s disease” and  is planning to do videos on the Discworld books. He begins with this overview of Discworld and his appreciation for it and for Pratchett.

(20) POTTER IN PERSPECTIVE. YouTuber Eyebrow Cinema considers“Harry Potter – 10 Years Later”.

It’s been a decade since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two arrived in theaters and brought an end to JK Rowling’s saga of witches and wizards. Like most 90s kids, I too read all the books and saw all the movies as a kid and teenager but have completely left the series behind since. Ten years later, how does Harry Potter hold up? In this video essay, I try to get to the heart of Harry Potter as while as examine my own relationship to the series.

No official works cited for this video, though I imagine my criticisms of Rowling’s transphobia will draw some ire. I have no intention of arguing the ethics or legitimacy of Rowling’s claims….

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, Chris M. Barkley, Jennifer Hawthorne, Steven H Silver, StephenfromOttawa, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Daniel Dern, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]