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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question is, why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) MEMORY LANE.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(13) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/15/21 Mjolnir Moment: Buy Grabthar’s Hammer – 35% Off Today

(1) BANKS WITHDRAWAL. Orbit Books is significantly expanding its Iain M. Banks project, and as a result the original publication date is off: “An update regarding THE CULTURE: NOTES AND DRAWINGS by Iain M. Banks and Ken MacLeod”.

We are pleased to share an exciting publication update with everyone who has been looking forward to the release of The Culture: Notes and Drawings by Iain M. Banks and Ken MacLeod.

As fans of Iain M. Banks’ vastly popular Culture series will be aware, Iain painstakingly designed every element of the Culture’s universe long before the novels were first published. From ships to weapons, language to nomenclature, flora to fauna, the whole of the Culture existed in the form of intricate sketches, notes, tables and charts, many years ahead of its appearance in fiction.

This archival material provides a fascinating insight into Iain’s extraordinary mind. It was originally due to be published as a single volume, accompanied by text from the award-winning Ken MacLeod, who was a close friend of Iain’s. However, to ensure that Iain’s exceptionally detailed drawings can be appreciated in their original format and scale, we are delighted to announce that the material will now be published as two separate editions.

The first release will be a beautiful, full-colour, large-format landscape artbook called The Culture: The Drawings, which will present Iain’s drawings exactly as he intended them to be seen.

Following this, we will publish a Culture companion book that celebrates the world of the Culture through Iain’s own writing. With accompanying text from Ken MacLeod, it will include an extensive selection of Iain’s notes, tables and charts relating to the Culture universe, as well as extracts from the novels.

Given these changes in our publication plans, we are now cancelling the single edition entitled The Culture: Notes and Drawings that was scheduled for 14th October 2021. We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who had pre-ordered this single edition, and we’ll soon be announcing the release dates for the two new publications mentioned above

(2) HANG UP NOW. In the Washington Post, Mark Buchanan says we should stop making attempts to contact aliens through SETI or similar programs because of the strong possibility that the aliens will overpower us through their superior technology. “Contacting aliens could end all life on earth. Let’s stop trying.”

…The search for aliens has reached a stage of technological sophistication and associated risk that it needs strict regulation at national and international levels. Without oversight, even one person — with access to powerful transmitting technology — could take actions affecting the future of the entire planet.

That’s because any aliens we ultimately encounter will likely be far more technologically advanced than we are, for a simple reason: Most stars in our galaxy are much older than the sun. If civilizations arise fairly frequently on some planets, then there ought to be many civilizations in our galaxy millions of years more advanced than our own. Many of these would likely have taken significant steps to begin exploring and possibly colonizing the galaxy….

(3) PKD. Walker Caplan asks “Is Elon Musk a Philip K. Dick fan?” at Literary Hub.

One of the perks of the digital age is that we have unprecedented access to the thoughts of incredibly powerful people. Never before have we been able to intimately experience the president’s thoughts on Coke or Cher’s thoughts on . . . Coke. Even Chrissy Teigen can’t leave Twitter for more than a few weeks; there’s a sense we might be equal-opportunity addicted. This is fun, sometimes, but also often leads to a powerful person tweeting out something that makes very little sense and then everyone else analyzing it. (Just look at the last four years.) I am part of the problem, because one of Elon Musk’s recent tweets raises a lot of questions I can’t stop myself from asking.

At 4:13 AM yesterday, Musk tweeted this:

(4) ANOTHER OPENING OF ANOTHER SHOW. In the LA area, “Mt. Wilson Observatory Is Reopening To Public After ‘Near-Death Experience’ With Bobcat Fire”.

It’s been a rough year for the Mount Wilson Observatory.

First, the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to shut its doors to the public last spring.

Then, in September, flames from the massive Bobcat Fire came within just a few feet of the station, and threatened to destroy its historic array of telescopes and other astronomy equipment. A crowdfunding campaign was later launched to help repair damage.

Next Tuesday, the legendary observatory, which was founded in 1904, is making a comeback — and will reopen its gates to the public.

Sam Hale, chairman of the observatory’s board of trustees, said volunteers have been working tirelessly to maintain the station and its trove of sensitive instruments, despite the challenges of the past year.

“It has been very difficult for us,” Hale said. “First, the pandemic, then the Bobcat Fire — all in one year — was a real near-death experience. But people are feeling absolutely exhilarated.”

The gates will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the summer, according to the observatory’s website. Stargazers will also have an opportunity to book reservations to use the observatory’s 60- and 100-inch telescopes in the evening.

(5) NEWEST TAFF EBOOK. David Langford’s latest addition to the selection of free ebook downloads at the unofficial Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site is a volume of Forties fan fiction, The Road to Fame by D.R. (Donald Raymond) Smith (25,000 words). Dave explains – “This is an interesting curio rather than one of those huge and newly researched compilations that I like to brag about, and as noted on the page there have been three previous print editions, but it has a certain weird mash-up charm.”

This early example of UK fan fiction – in the modern sense of stories that make free with other authors’ characters – was written in the 1940s and first published as a collected edition in 1953. There have been multiple reprints but no previous ebook.

The expedition team led by cranky Professor Challenger in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World here joins assorted characters from other fantastic fiction – including the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars and Tarzan), John W. Campbell, E.E. “Doc” Smith (the Skylark and Lensman series), H.G. Wells and several others – on a quest for literary immortality. The perils en route are reminiscent of the much earlier The Pilgrim’s Progress and the somewhat later The Enchanted Duplicator:

“On the journey you will have to face such obstacles as the Impassable Precipice of Public Ridicule, the high passes of the Mountains of Contempt through which howls the High Wind of Carping Criticism, the Bog of Apathy in the lowlands beyond, and the vast waterless Plain of Mediocrity where hunt the Wild Wolves of Fierce Competition.”

(6) MICHELLE ZELLICH OBIT. Conrunner and member of the Archon board Michelle Zellich died June 9. The Archon team shared the sad news on Facebook:

Archon is incredibly saddened to say one of our longest serving Board and Committee members, Michelle Zellich, passed away Wednesday, June 9th. On behalf of the Board of Directors, Archon Convention Committee, Staff, and Volunteers, and the greater St. Louis (and national) fandom family, I wish to express our deepest condolences to Rich Zellich and the rest of their families on this devastating loss.

Michelle has been on the Archon Board of Directors since at least 1993 and has been an Archon icon for much longer. She ran the masquerade at Archon 10 (1986), 11, and 13, ran programming for Archon 15-18, and was Pro Liaison for Archon 19 & 20. She was co-chair for Archon 13, and was chair for Archon 12 and 21-30. Michelle was also the co-chair for Archon 31/TuckerCon which was the 9th NASFiC.

Michelle and Rich were Fan Guests of Honor for Archon 32 as a celebration of their efforts, but she wasn’t yet done with us. After a well-deserved year off, Michelle ran the Art Show for Archon 33-42 before her health forced her to step back from running a department.

It was fun at Archon 32 to watch Michelle walk around not knowing what to do with her “free time” and without her binder full of convention information. She was not used to not having to handle something, answer a question, or talk to the Gateway Center about an issue.

We will miss Michelle, her warm smile, her genuine affection for all of you who loved Archon, and her love of all things Donald Duck. I’m sure Wilson “Bob” Tucker was waiting for Michelle and had a shot ready. Smooth!

Goodbye Michelle and thanks for everything you did for Archon, the St. Louis area fandom, and the greater science fiction and fantasy world.

(7) DAMARIS HAYMAN (1929-2021). Damaris Hayman, noted for her many comedy performances, died June 3 at the age of 91. The Guardian’s tribute spotlighted this bit of genre fame:

…Her best television role came in the 1971 Doctor Who serial The Daemons, one of the most fondly remembered adventures featuring the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. As Miss Hawthorne, the white witch of the village of Devil’s End (in reality Aldbourne, Wiltshire) she gamely stands up to Roger Delgado’s villainous Master and whacks a homicidal Morris dancer on the head with her handbag (rendering him unconscious due to her always carrying a crystal ball around in it). The character was popular enough for her to recreate the role in a 2017 direct-to-DVD sequel series from Reeltime Pictures, The White Witch of Devil’s End….

(8) BEN ROBERTS (1950-2021). Actor Ben Roberts, best known for his role on The Bill, died June 7 reports The Guardian, which also noted his genre work: .

…He was also seen as a villain in Tales of Sherwood (1989), but frequently had to convince Doctor Who fans that he was not the Ben Roberts who reportedly appeared uncredited as a Dalek trooper in the 1984 story Resurrection of the Daleks.

His later screen appearances [included] working with the director Tim Burton on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)….

(9) BANES OBIT. Actress Lisa Banes, whose many movie and TV appearances included The Orville, died June 14 at the age of 65 ten days after being hit by a motor scooter in a New York crosswalk.  

“I am deeply saddened at the news of Lisa Banes’ passing,” wrote Seth MacFarlane. “We had the good fortune to work with her on The Orville this past year. Her stage presence, magnetism, skill and talent were matched only by her unwavering kindness and graciousness toward all of us. A tremendous loss…”

(10) MOSES GINSBERG (1935-2021). Called an “unconventional filmmaker” by the New York Times, Moses Ginsberg died May 23. His two notable films involved “the meltdown of a psychiatrist”and “a press aide in a Nixon-like administration who becomes a murderous werewolf.”  

…He followed “Coming Apart” in 1973 with another low-budget film: “The Werewolf of Washington,” a campy political parody inspired by the classic horror film “The Wolf Man” (1941), which terrified Mr. Ginsberg as a boy, and by President Richard M. Nixon, who terrified him as a man.

In Mr. Ginsberg’s film, released more than a year into the Watergate scandal, Dean Stockwell plays an assistant White House press secretary who turns into a werewolf at inopportune moments and murders characters based on Katharine Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, and Martha Mitchell, the outspoken wife of Attorney General John N. Mitchell….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

June 1991 – On this month in 1991, Ian MacDonald’s King of Morning, Queen of Day  was first published. It would win the the Philip K. Dick Award  for best original science fiction paperback published in the U.S. in 1992, and it would win the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Award for its French translation in the same year. It had but one physical printing in English in paperback but was printed in French and German hardcopy editions. It’s currently available at all the usual digital suspects. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 15, 1910 — Harold Lawlor. April 1942 saw “The Eternal Priestess” published in Fantastic Adventures, his first sale. His first story for Weird Tales was “Specter in the Steel”, May 1943. Over the next decade, twenty-nine stories by him would appear in Weird Tales. “Mayaya’s Little Green Men” in Weird Tales, November 1946 is of interest as it’s considered the earliest genre appearance of that  phrase. Alas, I don’t believe his stories were ever collected and published. (Died 1992.)
  • Born June 15, 1939 — Brian Jacques. British author who surprisingly is not on the ISFDB list today. Writer of the exceedingly popular Redwall series of novels and also of the Castaways of the Flying Dutchman series. He also wrote two collections of Alan Garner style fiction, Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales and The Ribbajack & Other Curious Yarns. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 15, 1941 — Neal Adams, 80. Comic book artist who worked for both DC and Marvel. Among his achievements was the creation with writer Dennis O’Neil of Ra’s al Ghul. I’m a DC fan so I can’t speak for his work on Marvel but he did amazing work on DeadmanBatmanGreen Lantern and Green Arrow. All of this work is now available on the DC Universe app.  It should be noted he was instrumental in the efforts that resulted in Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster receiving long overdue credit and  financial remuneration from DC. 
  • Born June 15, 1942 — Sondra Marshak, 79. Author of multiple Trek novels including The Price of the Phoenix and The Fate of the Phoenix, both co-written with Myrna Culbreath. She also wrote, again with Myrna Culbreath, Shatner: Where No Man…: The Authorized Biography of William Shatner which of course naturally lists Shatner as the third co-author. She also wrote the fandom reference book Star Trek Lives! which was co-written with Jacqueline Lichtenberg, and television producer Joan Winston. She was an important early promoter of Star Trek fan culture, and a publisher of fan fiction.
  • Born June 15, 1947 — David S Garnett, 74. Not to be confused with the David Garnett without an S. Author of the Bikini Planet novels (StargonautsBikini Planet and Space Wasters) which should be taken as seriously as the names suggests. Revived with the blessing of Michael Moorcock a new version of New Worlds as an anthology this time. Last work was writing Warhammer novels.
  • Born June 15, 1960 — Sabrina Vourvoulias, 61. Thai-born author, an American citizen from birth brought up in Guatemala, but here since her teens. Her novel, Ink, deals with immigrants who are tattooed with biometric implants that are used to keep track of them no matter where they are. I’m assuming that the “Skin in the Game” story which appeared first on Tor.com is set in the future. Fair guess that “The Ways of Walls and Words” which also appeared on Tor.com is also set there. The Readercon 25 panel she was on, “East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction” is available from  the usual suspects, as is all of her fiction. 
  • Born June 15, 1963 — Mark Morris, 58. English author known for his horror novels, although he has also written several novels based on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Given his horror background, these tend to be darker than many similar novels are, I recommend Forever Autumn and Bay of the Dead if you like a good chill. 
  • Born June 15, 1973 — Neil Patrick Harris, 48. His first genre role was not Carl Jenkins in Starships Troopers, but rather Billy Johnson in Purple People Eater, an SF comedy best forgotten I suspect. Post-Starship Troopers, I’ve got him voicing Barry Allen / The Flash in Justice League: The New Frontier and Dick Grayson / Nightwing in Batman: Under the Red Hood. He also voiced Peter Parker and her superhero alias in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. Finally he’s Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events which he also produces. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The D&D player’s in Jason’s game (at FoxTrot) are almost cautious enough.

(14) NINETIES COLLECTIBLES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Toy Zone’s article “The ‘90s Toys That Are Now Worth a Fortune” includes an interactive table of valuable toys.  I’m sure it’s unnecessary to tell you that market fluctuations and condition of the item will make the large majority of toys worth far less than the prices quoted herein.

Key Findings

  • The most expensive 1990s toy sold is a Rainbow The Chameleon Beanie Baby from 1997 ($50,000).
  • Nine of the top 10 most valuable ‘90s toys are Beanie Babies.
  • The only top 10 toy not to be a Beanie Baby is a copy of Goldeneye 007 for Nintendo 64 ($14,999).
  • The most expensive action figure is Scratch from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Playmates ($5,850).

(15) INDY FIVE. Location shooting for the fifth Indiana Jones movie has drawn the attention of the Scottish press: “Pictures show motorbikes speeding down Highland road for scene in new Indiana Jones film”.

… The plot of the new ‘Indiana Jones 5’ has been kept tightly under wraps.

But these photos of stunt actors racing on motorbikes through the village of Glencoe, western Scotland, give a first insight into the secret plot of the new film.

Two stunt workers can be seen racing each other on motorbikes which appear to be from the World War Two era, behind a vehicle with a large camera rig.

A third, unidentified rider, can then be seen joining the two, riding what looks like a Harley Davidson motorbike, appearing to give the actors directions.

…There were no sightings of star of the franchise Harrison Ford, who has been seen in several locations across the UK in his classic Indiana Jones attire.

(16) INDY ONE. And looking back at the original, the New York Times tells “Four Secrets About ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’”.

1. Spielberg’s commitment to practical effects was anything but practical.

Black-and-white serials like “Tarzan” and “Jungle Jim” couldn’t electrify their thrills with C.G.I. Neither would “Raiders.” The film’s set pieces, from locations to traps, are temples of old Hollywood craftsmanship. Indy’s seaplane departure, the snowbound Nepalese saloon and the plummeting cliffs of Cairo were all handmade matte paintings. On average, a matte painting has only a few seconds before the audience catches on to the trick. Yet, the sprawling warehouse in the film’s final shot had to command the screen for nearly half a minute and took the artist Michael Pangrazio three months to complete. For the opening boulder chase, Spielberg commissioned a 12-foot fiberglass and plaster rock mounted at the top of a 40-yard track. Even at a mere 300 pounds — mere, that is, relative to 80 tons of genuine granite — the fake behemoth shattered the prop stalagmites in its path and they had to be replaced between each take. And the boulder might have crushed the star Harrison Ford if he hadn’t outrun it all 10 times. “He was lucky,” Spielberg said in American Cinematographer magazine, “and I was an idiot for letting him try it.”

(17) THE DAYS OF YOUR PULP LIFE. Simon & Schuster will bring out “The Sci-Fi Art of Virgil Finlay Wall Calendar 2022” in August.

Virgil Finlay was an American pulp fantasy, science fiction and horror illustrator. While he worked in a range of media, from gouache to oils, Finlay specialized in detailed pen-and-ink drawings accomplished with abundant stippling, cross-hatching, and scratchboard techniques. This calendar showcases 12 such intricate and atmospheric line pen and ink drawings in all their glory. Informative text accompanies each work and the datepad features previous and next month’s views.

(18) JUST STEPPED OUT. “Hawking’s office acquired for the nation” announced Science Museum Group.

… A treasure trove of archive papers and personal objects belonging to the late Professor Stephen Hawking – from personalised wheelchairs and scientific bets signed with Hawking’s thumbprint to his seminal papers on theoretical physics and his scripts from The Simpsons – have been acquired by the Science Museum Group and Cambridge University Library….

Selected highlights from Hawking’s office will go on public view for the first time in a new display at the Science Museum in early 2022. Later next year, global audiences will be able to explore hundreds of remarkable items from Hawking’s working life when this significant acquisition is catalogued, photographed and published to the Science Museum Group’s popular online collection.

(19) FLY BY JOVE. “Mushballs and a Great Blue Spot: What Lies Beneath Jupiter’s Pretty Clouds” – the New York Times discusses an array of photos taken by NASA’s Juno probe.

For something that was to have been done and thrown away three years ago, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has a busy schedule ahead exploring Jupiter and its big moons.

The spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016, and has survived bombardment from intense radiation at the largest of the solar system’s planets. It is now finishing its primary mission, but NASA has granted it a four-year extension and 42 more orbits. Last week, it zipped past Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon.

“Basically, we designed and built an armored tank,” said Scott J. Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, who is the mission’s principal investigator. “And it’s worked.”

Jupiter is essentially a big ball of mostly hydrogen, but it has turned out to be a pretty complicated ball. The mission’s discoveries include lightning higher up than thought possible, rings of stable storms at the north and south poles, and winds extending so deep into the interior that they might push around the planet’s magnetic fields.

“I think this has been a revelation,” said David J. Stevenson, a professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology and a co-investigator on the mission.

Juno’s highly elliptical path, pitched up at almost a 90-degree angle to the orbits of Jupiter’s moons, passes over the planet’s north and south poles. On each orbit, Juno swoops in, reaching a top speed of 130,000 miles per hour as it passes within a few thousand miles of Jupiter’s clouds….

Juno also has or will visit Jovian moons Ganymede, Io and Europa.

…At Europa, JunoCam will be pointed at the dividing line between day and night. In recent years, observations by the Hubble Space Telescope have indicated eruptions of water vapor from the ocean breaking through the icy surface. The hope is that JunoCam might fortuitously capture a water plume, backlit by sunlight…

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Cruella” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that Cruella is in the mode of “quasi-redemptive villain origin stories” similar to the prequels for Darth Vader, Norman Bates, the Joker, the Wizard of Oz, the apes from the Planet of the Apes, and the Minions, but Cruella is a “vil-quil” that is “the world’s first reimagined satirical coming-of-age revenge heist comedy drama” that’s basically “an excuse for two fashionistas to dress-fight one another.”  But how does Cruella manage to have a chase scene in 1970s London with a car with a right-hand drive?

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/20 Continued
On Next Orc

(1) DIGITAL DIAGNOSIS. N. K. Jemisin tries to work out what the symptoms of social media indicate. Thread starts here.

(2) OF THE GALAXY? “U.S. Space Force unveils name of space professionals” – and that name is: Guardians.

Today, after a yearlong process that produced hundreds of submissions and research involving space professionals and members of the general public, we can finally share with you the name by which we will be known: Guardians.

The opportunity to name a force is a momentous responsibility. Guardians is a name with a long history in space operations, tracing back to the original command motto of Air Force Space Command in 1983, “Guardians of the High Frontier.”

The name Guardians connects our proud heritage and culture to the important mission we execute 24/7, protecting the people and interest of the U.S. and its allies.

Guardians. Semper Supra!

(3) OBAMA’S READS. Former President Barack Obama tweeted a list of his favorite books from this year. Kim Stanley Robinson’s book seems to be the only genre work. Emily St. John Mandel is also here, a name well-known to fans, but not here for a sff novel.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners tobinge brownies with William F. Wu in Episode 134 of Eating the Fantastic podcast.

William F. Wu

William F. Wu attended the Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University in the summer of 1974 — the same year I would have gone had I not been turned down. (But don’t worry — I was accepted in 1979). I first became aware of Bill not from his fiction, but from the letters he wrote to Marvel commenting on the depiction of Asians in the company’s Master of Kung Fu comic book. He made his first professional sale in 1975, and since then has published more than 70 short stories and more than a dozen novels. He’s been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards twice each, as well as a World Fantasy Award. He wrote all six novels in Isaac Asimov’s Robots in Time series, two entries in the Isaac Asimov’s Robot City series, and is one of the writers in George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards anthology series.

We discussed how the two of us almost ended up at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop together (and why we didn’t), the reason he wasn’t terrified when he got the chance to play in Issac Asimov’s robot universe, how an assignment from Harlan Ellison gave birth to one of his more famous short stories (which was later adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone, what he found easy about writing in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe, how you might never have read his science fiction if crime editors had been kinder to him, what Kate Wilhelm told him which helped fix a story problem, why Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu comic books attracted him (and how he’d have written the book if given the chance), how he manages to collaborate with other writers without killing them, and much more.

(5) WHY IT BULGES. Galactic Journey brings you a Battle of the Bulge game review, movie call-out, and F&SF issue review all in one fully-packed post! “[December 18, 1965] (January 1966 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

Sitzkrieg

If The Battle of the Bulge represents the essence of the blitzkrieg, this month’s Fantasy and Science Fiction is a recreation of World War 1 — overlong, with little movement, ultimately pointless.  Such a sad contrast to last month’s issue, which was the best in years.  Ah, such are the vicissitudes of war.  Come slog along with me, would you? …

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty five years ago, Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt was published by Harcourt Brace in a wonderful edition profusely illustrated by the late Francisco Xavier Mora. This tale of two boys and a most unusual cat battling the Horned God at the Winter Solstice is most excellent reading. Harper Jo Morrison who reviewed at Green Man says “Buy the book, bring it home, and luxuriate in something fresh and different. Read it aloud to your child, your cousin, your special someone; anyone who can appreciate a sense of magic in a real world.” 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 —  Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps  for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It?  He’s decently stocked at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1916 – Walt Daugherty.  Co-founded the National Fantasy Fan Federation.  Published a Directory of Fandom in 1942.  Invented Westercon, chaired Westercon 2, Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 50.  Recorded (by phonograph!) Denvention I the 2nd Worldcon, so we have all of Heinlein’s GoH speech; chaired Pacificon I the 4th; Fan GoH at Baycon the 26th; Special Committee Award from L.A.con III the 54th (chaired by Our Gracious Host).  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Also Gene Lucas Award from the Int’l Betta Congress (betta are the “Siamese fighting fish”), world champion in NY “Harvest Moon” contest (ballroom dancing), prize-winner with parakeet “King Tut” (archaeology another hobby), quick-draw demonstration in the X Olympiad (1932; 22/100 second).  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1936 – Dave Hulan, age 84.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 1, Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 50.  Active in various apas e.g. APANAGEFAPAGestaltSAPSSFPA.  Served a term as editor of Tightbeam.  Rebel Award.  Mythopoeic Society.  Lived in Los Angeles awhile and made friends there too.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1937 – Fran Skene, age 83.  Chaired Westercon 30; VCON VI, 9, 14; co-chaired Rain Cinq, chaired Rain Finale.  Served a term as editor of BCSFAzine (British Columbia SF Ass’n).  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 35, MileHiCon 10, Ad Astra 8, Keycon 5.  Fanzines Love Makes the World Go AwryWhat Do You Know of Love?  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1939 – Michael Moorcock, age 81.  Six dozen novels, fifteen dozen shorter stories, a dozen poems, a score of anthologies.  Editor of New Worlds and Vector.  Guest of Honor at LoneStarCon II the 55th Worldcon.  One Nebula.  World Fantasy Award and another for life achievement.  Campbell Memorial Award.  Five British Fantasy Awards.  Prix Utopia and Bram Stoker Awards for life achievement.  SFWA Grand Master (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  SF Hall of Fame.  Musician with the Deep Fix, Hawkwind, Blue Öyster Cult, Spirits Burning.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Hartison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. His only award is a Phoenix Award which is a lifetime achievement award for a SF professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, quite a honor indeed. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 74. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such genre work followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,  Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok so the quality of the last film was terrible…  He’d repeated that amazing feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t.  The BFG is simply wonderful. (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 66. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think of it as being an exemplary genre cred? Well I do. On a much sillier note, he’s in two Muppet films, Muppets from Space and Muppets Most Wanted. (CE)
  • Born December 18, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 66. Yes, I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on TrekStar Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work for hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here. (CE)
  • Born December 18, 1958 – Steve Davidson, age 62.  Fan, editor, publisher, often seen here.  Four reviews in Ray Gun Revival.  Interviewed in StarShipSofa.  Among his Amazing adventures, he’s currently the publisher; with Jean Marie Stine, half a dozen Best of “Amazing” anthologies 1926-1943.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1962 – Maiya Williams, age 58.  First black editor of the Harvard Lampoon.  Three novels for us.  Television writer and producer, e.g. FuturamaThe Haunted Hathaways.  Loves forests, especially old-growth redwoods.  Website quotes “A book is a device to ignite the imagination” (A. Bennett, The Uncommon Reader p. 34, 2007; fictionally attr. to Queen Elizabeth II).  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 52. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film  Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films!   He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt in Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really Casper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin In Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has a horrible math pun. So I naturally recommend it.

(9) LIGHTS IN THE SKY. NASA advises everyone how to watch “The ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn” on December 21.

Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Dec. 21.

In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. In that same year, Galileo also discovered a strange oval surrounding Saturn, which later observations determined to be its rings. These discoveries changed how people understood the far reaches of our solar system.

Thirteen years later, in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”  

“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium,” said Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

The planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system, with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years.

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”..

(10) MALFUNCTION JUNCTION.  [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Allegra Frank, in the Vox story “Cyberpunk 2077, the year’s most controversial video game featuring Keanu Reeves, explained”, says that Cyberpunk 2077, years in development, has been roundly attacked for numerous glitches, including male and female wardrobe malfunctions and strobe effects that caused seizures in epileptics.

…When the game’s first reviews came out just before its December 10 release, they were mostly positive. It turned out, however, that this was because reviewers were only given early access to the Windows PC version, the one best optimized and representative of the expansive, graphically intensive game’s potential. Once the game was released on consoles as well (for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, versions that also work — much better — on the companies’ newer consoles), players discovered a litany of technical issues.

Characters’ faces were obscured, some environments were unsightly. The game would make consoles crash repeatedly, sometimes sacrificing players’ progress. One glitch even exposed characters’ detailed penises and breasts, which would poke out of their clothes. The memes and mockery were relentless and swift….

(11) BIG DEALS. If you wondered “Why Is the Star Wars Universe Full of Megafauna?” then James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post is what you’ve been waiting for.

Whilst watching an episode of The Mandalorian, I noticed something in the  background that was odd enough that I should have taken note of it ages ago: the Star Wars universe sure has a lot of large apex predators for a setting that has been civilized for tens of thousands of years.

This is not the case on present-day Earth. Biodiversity has taken a sharp nosedive in the last 20,000 years. Pretty much any large species that looks tasty, which might have a taste for humans, or lives on land for which we have other purposes in mind has vanished or been greatly reduced in numbers. Because human lifespans are so short, we take the Earth’s depleted state as normal, so are spared angst over all the cool beasts no longer extant.

In the Star Wars universe, the story is very different. When visiting a world in that setting, one should always have a contingency plan for attacks from the local whale-sized predators. What the heck is going on?

(12) YOU’VE GOT YOUR CHOCOLATE IN MY PEPSI. Mashed assures us “Pepsi is planning to release a strange new soda flavor”. Another source headlines it as a “Chocolate Marshmallow ‘Cocoa’ Cola.” (Will it go well with your McRib sandwich?)

…While seasonal sodas don’t get the love that holiday-themed coffee drinks and even cocktails do, they’re still a kind-of-sort-of thing, at least for two soda brands: Mountain Dew and Pepsi. Mountain Dew’s got their Merry Mash-Up, a surprisingly divisive cranberry/pomegranate flavor, and next year they plan to drop a gingerbread-flavored Dew. Pepsi’s gotten in the game in past years with the not-so-successful Holiday Spice flavor, while this year saw Pepsi Apple Pie just in time for Thanksgiving. Sadly this newest flavor was only available if you won a social media contest related to baking fails — it seems their version of apple pie in a bottle was maybe meant as a substitute for those unable to master the art of baking their own pies.

…The newest Pepsi flavor is meant to evoke everybody’s (well, over 40 percent of people’s) favorite wintertime beverage, hot chocolate. Sounds a bit weird? Not really — if you’ve ever had a soda fountain black cow, you already know that cola and chocolate play nicely together, and marshmallow flavor only adds more sugar.

(13) A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING. Shelf Awareness points viewers to a video of the “’First Annual Lighting of the Leg Lamp’ at Page 158 Books.”

Fans of the holiday classic movie A Christmas Story will find seasonal joy and laughs in the “first annual lighting of the leg lamp” Facebook video from Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, N.C.

(14) KNOCK-OFFS. Ranker had readers decide which are the worst among “47 Hilarious Bootleg Toys That Are Obvious Knock Offs”. Second on the list is this improbable superteam:

2. Worst. Avengers. Ever.

(15) VIDEO OF THE SEASON. “We’re Despicable–Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” on YouTube is a song written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill for a Mr. Magoo special broadcast by NBC in 1962.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/3/20 Scrolls Are Seldom What They Seemeth, Mithril Masquerades As Scrith

(1) DISCON III ASKS QUESTIONS. Should DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, move its date, should it emphasize virtual or in-person participation? The committee has launched a survey to find what fans think:  

We’re working hard to figure out the best path forward for our Worldcon next year and we need to hear from you! Please take this brief 2-question poll which seeks your preference between shifting DC III to December 15-19, 2021, with a high probability to be an in-person Worldcon, or keeping with our existing August 25-29, 2021, which would be mostly virtual with the potential for limited in-person activities.

Anyone is welcome to take the DisCon III Date Survey – you don’t have to be a member.

(2) STOKERCON CONTINGENCY PLAN. For now, the Horror Writers Association is planning on StokerCon 2021 being an in-person event next May in Denver – but what if that changes?

…As of now, we intend to hold the convention as scheduled. At the same time, we are working on contingency plans should that not be possible. We are discussing the issue on an ongoing basis with The Curtis, who are sensitive to the situation and the needs and concerns of our attendees. 

If for some reason we cannot hold the convention as planned, any change will be announced more than sixty days before May 20th so that those who wish to change their plans may still obtain a refund for their registration fee and change or cancel hotel reservations and alter travel plans. We recommend those planning long distance travel who wish to purchase airfare or other tickets in advance look into refundable options and travel insurance. 

If for some reason we cannot hold StokerCon™ 2021 in person, we will look into the possibility of a virtual convention and have begun investigating options. This contingency is too far into the future to make concrete plans, though we will work to ensure a complete and enjoyable convention….

(3) EREWHON BOOKS: THE PUBLISHER ANSWERS QUESTIONS. Glitchy Pancakes episode 119 interviews Liz Gorinsky, Hugo-winning editor who’s now publisher of Erewhon Books.

[GLITCHY PANCAKES] Why don’t we start out and talk about your most recent venture Erewhon Books. This is really interesting because what i was personally curious about is after so many years working as an editor what made you want to take the leap and like hang out your own shingle and go into like the full scale publishing?

[LIZ GORINSKY] So yeah it was a tour of basically my entire adult career before that I did one internship in the industry which is DC Comics and then a long time at Tor, and it was great but I guess it was a combination — Publishing is intensely cyclical we had a three season schedule so just imagine doing the same thing three times a year for 15 years and like even if it’s doing a thing like working on books that you love, it is, you know, kind of repetitive in some ways. And i think it was also, you know, many great things were going on but I think that like around the time that i was working there there was like I guess a drive towards becoming a little bit more professional and a little bit more corporate and, I think, ultimately to the benefit of the company, but I felt like sort of cowboy territory when I started that we were just like a bunch of science fiction weirdos, and they still are to be sure, but there was also kind of a like let’s fit a little bit more into the greater Macmillan culture. So I was basically at the point where I could consider kind of working independently for a little while. So i was attempting to leave and go freelance and try to do some freelance editing for a while to focus on some other things that I was interested in exploring, just not do the same thing over and over again for a little while. Then some folks found me and they said would you like to start a new speculative fiction company that will be funded and you can do whatever you want, basically. I spent a little while wrestling with imposter syndrome about that and then, basically, like, you know, enough people said some variations on how can you not do that that. I kind of figured that i had to do that and that’s where we started…

(4) CONDENSED CREAM OF CONZEALAND. Morgan Hazelwood has completed a series of reports on some of the panels at CoNZealand, the 2020 Worldcon.

Here’s the list of panels I managed to squeeze in:

  • Cultures and Their Myths
  • Accessible Magic
  • World-Building: Economics
  • What’s In A Name? Characters in Fiction
  • Stranger in a Strange Head: Imposter Syndrome
  • Spirits Abroad and At Home
  • Fairy Tale Contract Law
  • Constructed Languages
  • Writing SFF From The Margins
  • What Fanfiction Can Teach Genre Writers
  • Writing For Young Adults
  • and last, but certainly not least!
  • In Space No One Can See You Hide The Evidence: Crimes in Space

(5) THICK AS A BRICK: David Langford has added his vast compilation of a decade’s worth of Ansible (2011-2020) to the TAFF ebooks library. It’s a free download, however, if you feel moved to donate to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund that would be a good thing.

Issues 282 to 401 of the infamous Hugo-winning SF/fan newsletter. First published from January 2021 to December 2020 and archived online here. Compiled into an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 3 December 2020, with cover logo (compressed second-series version) by Dan Steffan and artwork by Atom. 429,000 words.

(6) LETTERS FROM VONNEGUT. In “Satirist to the Galaxy” in The American Scholar, Anne Matthews reviews Love, Kurt, a collection of 226 letters Kurt Vonnegut wrote during World War II to the woman he would marry, which give new insights into Vonnegut’s views about war.

…At SS gunpoint, Vonnegut dug Dresden’s dead from the rubble, an extreme tutorial in entropy and decay for the Cornell biochemistry major. He was only 22, raised in a prosperous German-speaking family proud of its Old World ties. The funeral pyres of Dresden became the core of his moral vision and the engine of his later literary fame, but the price of witnessing was nearly unbearable, and everyone who tried to love him paid it, too.

Two women kept him sane. His big sister Alice was his muse, a spiritual twin. His future wife, Jane Cox, a friend since kindergarten days, also a would-be writer, became his literary umpire. “One peculiar feature of our relationship is that you are the one person in this world to whom I like to write,” he told her in 1943. “If ever I do write anything of length—good or bad—it will be written with you in mind. … And let’s have seven children xxxxxxx.” Two weeks after V-J Day, they married and raised, yes, seven children, three of their own plus four young nephews, orphaned after their father’s commuter train fell into Newark Bay two days before Alice died of cancer….

(7) FLING CAUTION TO THE WINDS. James Davis Nicoll finds “Five Stories Driven by a Disregard for Basic Safety” for Tor.com readers.

Nothing delivers unrequested adventures quite like normalization of deviance. It works like this:

Suppose one has a safety protocol. Suppose one decides that this protocol is onerous for some reason: it consumes extra time, it requires extra effort, or worst of all, it costs money. So, one shaves a step here and a precaution there. And nothing happens! Clearly, the whole shebang was not necessary in the first place. Clearly the thing to do here is to keep skipping steps until circumstances line up wrong and you’re looking at a trip to the emergency room or a burning pile of expensive rubble.

The end results of normalization of deviance are undesirable in reality. But…the process is oh-so-irresistible for authors looking for ways to drop their characters neck-deep in a pig lagoon. Take these five examples…

(8) TRAILER TIME. Wetware will be released December 11.

WETWARE is set in a near future where there are tough and tedious jobs no one wants to do – and people down on their luck who volunteer for genetic modifications to make them right for this work — in slaughterhouses, infectious disease wards, landfill and other hard jobs. With business booming, programmers at Galapagos Wetware up the stakes by producing high-end prototypes, Jack (Bret Lada) and Kay, for more sensitive jobs like space travel, deep cover espionage or boots on the ground for climate or resource conflicts.Galapagos genetic programmer Hal Briggs (Cameron Scoggins) improvises as he goes on what qualities to include or delete in his gene splicing for Jack and, especially, Kay, to whom he develops a dangerous attachment. Then word gets out that Jack and Kay have escaped, before Briggs has completed his work. As Briggs scrambles to track his fugitive prototypes, he makes a provocative discovery that changes everything.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 3, 1965 — Fifty five years ago this evening, The Wild Wild West’s “The Night of the Human Trigger” was first aired on CBS. It starred Robert Conrad as Jim West and Ross Martin as Artemus Gordon with Burgess Meredith as the guest star this episode. He’s a mad scientist named Professor Orkney Cadwallader that’s using nitroglycerin to set off the earthquakes of horrendous size. The episode uses a number of genre tropes including Chekhov’s gun, mad scientist, deus ex machina and soft glass.  You can legally see it here, though oddly enough it’s not up on the CBS All Access app.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 3, 1922 – Donald H. Tuck. From his home in Tasmania with help from fans round the world he built a great card index, published A Handbook of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Special Committee Award, Chicon III the 20th Worldcon), then The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Best Nonfiction Book, L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon – Australia’s first Hugo).  Guest of Honor at Aussiecon One the 33rd Worldcon, though he could not attend.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1937 – Morgan Llywelyn, age 83.  A score of novels, three dozen shorter stories for us; much other work in historical fiction and nonfiction.  Exceptional Celtic Woman of the Year award.  Nat’l League of American Penwomen Novel of the Year award, Irish-American Heritage Committee (she then still lived in the U.S.) Woman of the Year award.  Two Bisto awards, Reading Ass’n of Ireland award.  A horsewoman; missed the U.S. Olympics team in dressage by .05 per cent.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1949 – Malcolm Edwards, age 71.  Fanzine, Quicksilver.  Edited FoundationInterzoneVector.  A hundred fifty essays, letters, reviews there and in The Alien CriticNY Rev of SFSF CommentarySF Monthly, Bleiler’s SF WritersSpeculation.  Guest of Honour at Loncon 3 the 72nd Worldcon.  Chair of SF at Gollancz (retired 2019), edited its SF Masterworks.  Not his fault that Peter Weston knowing no better wrote earlier as “Malcolm Edwards”, which we eventually sorted out.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1953 – Doug Beason, Ph.D., age 67.  Eight novels with Kevin Anderson, one with Ben Bova, two more, a score of shorter stories, for us; five novels, two nonfiction books, on next-door topics.  Science columns in Analog and SF Age.  Retired Air Force colonel.  Fellow of Amer. Physical Society.  Nat’l Defense Univ. President’s Strategic Vision award.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1955 Stephen Culp, 65. His first genre appearance was in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday followed by being in the much different James and the Giant Peach. His next role is as Commander Martin Madden in the extended version of Star Trek: Nemesis, before showing up in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Congressman Wenham. He also had a recurring role on Enterprise as Major Hayes. (CE) 
  • Born December 3, 1958 Terri Windling, 62. Author of The Wood Wife, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Novel of the Year, she has deservedly won has won nine World Fantasy Awards, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and The Armless Maiden collection was on the short-list for the then named James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Along with Ellen Datlow, Windling edited sixteen volumes of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror  from 1986–2003. (Yes, the first volume is actually called Year’s Best Fantasy. I do have a full set here so I know that.) She is one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early Eighties through her work as an  editor for the Ace and Tor Books fantasy lines, and they also edited a number of anthologies such as the superb Snow White, Blood Red series which collected the very best in contemporary fantasy. I’m very fond of her work with Illustrator Wendy Froud, wife of Brian Froud, on the Old Oak Wood series about faeries living in the Old Oak Wood.  She interviewed one of them, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, for Green Man here. (CE)
  • Born December 3, 1959 – Shawn Lamb, age 61.  From her Allon Books, a dozen novels for us; also historical fiction; television screenwriting.  Family Review Center Editors’ Choice and Gold Award for The Great Battle.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1960 Daryl Hannah, 60. She made her genre debut in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, though she’s better known as Pris in Blade Runner. And she was the mermaid Madison in Splash. In a decidedly unfashionable role, she was Ayala in The Clan of The Cave Bear before being Mary Plunkett Brogan in High Spirits where she was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Was she really that bad in it?  Last genre role I think was in the Sense8 series as Angelica Turing. (CE)
  • Born December 3, 1965 Andrew Stanton, 55. Director, screenwriter, producer and voice actor, all at Pixar. His work there includes co-writing A Bug’s Life (as co-director), Finding Nemo and its sequel Finding DoryWALL-E (Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Anticipation) and over at Disney, he directed John Carter. He also co-wrote all four Toy Story films and Monsters, Inc. (CE) 
  • Born December 3, 1968 Brendan Fraser, 52. The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are enough to get him Birthday Honors. Though he’s been in Monkeybone based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark TownSinbad: Beyond the Veil of MistsLooney Tunes: Back in ActionJourney to the Center of the EarthG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and being Robotman on the Titans series that now airs on HBO. (CE)
  • Born December 3, 1981 – Alyson Noël, age 39.  Sixteen novels, two shorter stories for us; half a dozen more novels; nine NY Times Best-Sellers, eight million copies in print.  Has been a flight attendant and a T-shirt painter; has kept pet turtles and tarantulas. Learned to read with Horton Hatches the Egg; favorite maybe The Catcher in the Rye.  Motto, Don’t believe everything you think.  [JH
  • Born December 3, 1985 Amanda Seyfried, 35. She plays Ed Zoe, the lead Megan’s best friend in Solstice, a horror film. Another horror film, Jennifer’s Body, shortly thereafter, finds her playing Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. Red Riding Hood, yes, another horror film, had her cast has as Valerie. She plays Sylvia Weis, a role within In Time in a dystopian SF film next and voices Mary Katherine, Professor Bomba’s 17-year-old daughter in Epic which is at genre adjacent. She’s Mary in an animated Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan which sounds delightful. Lastly, she has a recurring role as Becky Burnett on Twin Peaks. And did we decide Veronica Mars was at least genre adjacent? If so, she has a recurring role as Mary on it. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

As Lise Andreasen translates this Politiken cartoon:

Elon Musk is building a star ship.

“Thank God we got away.”

(12) THEY’RE BACK. Another monolith, this one in California. “Mystery Obelisk Appears on Pine Mountain”. The Atascadero News says it’s not the identical to the one found in Utah.  

In late November, a mysterious 9-foot obelisk appeared in Utah, sparking world-wide awe as many made a pilgrimage to see it in San Juan County.

The Utah obelisk was illegally installed without cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management.

On Black Friday, it disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared, leaving a triangular divot in the ground.

On Wednesday morning, a similar monument appeared at the top of Atascadero’s Pine Mountain, and sparked similar patronage. Dozens of local hikers made the trek to the top of Pine Mountain to view the object. (The object has since been removed)

The three-sided obelisk appeared to be made of stainless steel, 10-feet tall and 18 inches wide. The object was welded together at each corner, with rivets attaching the side panels to a likely steel frame inside. The top of the monument did not show any weld marks, and it appears to be hollow at the top, and possibly bottom.

Unlike its Utah sibling, the Atascadero obelisk was not installed into the ground (however it was attached with rebar), and could be knocked over with a firm push. The Atascadero News estimates it weighs about 200 pounds.

(13) BYO POPCORN. You won’t have to leave the house for these move debuts if you’re subscribed to HBO Max — “Warner Bros. Announces ‘Matrix 4,’ ‘Dune,’ and All Its 2021 Movies Will Debut on HBO Max and in Theaters”. Includes Dune (October 1, 2021) and The Matrix 4 (December 22, 2021). Could it spell the end of movie theaters? (If COVID-19 hasn’t done that already?)

In a move that some may have suspected was on the horizon while most will consider it quite the shock, Warner Bros. has announced plans for its entire 2021 roster to debut simultaneously on the HBO Max streaming platform and in theaters.

Per a press release shared on Thursday, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group CEO Ann Sarnoff is calling this approach a “unique one-year plan,” which points to the possibility of it indeed being a single-time rollout strategy inspired solely by the difficulties facing theaters across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances,” Sarnoff said.

(14) LIBRARY ON A ROLL. Here’s something for booklovers: “Round Top Yano Design Washi Tape – Debut Series Natural – Bookshelf”.

This cute roll of washi tape is die-cut to highlight the shape of its bookshelf print.

Washi tape is a Japanese craft masking tape that comes in many colors and patterns and has tons of creative uses. Use it to add whimsical, creative accents to scrapbooks and cards, or stick it on your wall calendars and personal planners to mark important dates. The tape is removable, which means that you can easily stick it on, unpeel it, and move it to a different spot—this is especially convenient when marking ever-changing schedules. It can be cut with scissors to create a clean edge or torn by hand to create a more textured look.

(15) MORE HOLIDAY IDEAS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Projections from Hingston & Olsen Publishing is an original anthology edited by Rebecca Romney in which the 12 stories are individual pamphlets in a collectible box.

They also have an “Advent calendar” of short stories that includes Sofia Samatar but I don’t know how many of these stories are sf or fantasy.

For the past five years, the Short Story Advent Calendar has lit up libraries and living rooms around the world with shimmering smorgasbords of bite-sized literary fiction. But all good things must come to an end. So grab the emergency schnapps from the back of the liquor cabinet, and join us for one last holiday hurrah.

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers around.

(16) PASSING FANCIES. “Jupiter and Saturn will look like a double planet just in time for Christmas” – CNN tells us when to look.

The two largest planets in our solar system are coming closer together than they have been since the Middle Ages, and it’s happening just in time for Christmas.

So, there are some things to look forward to in the final month of 2020.

On the night of December 21, the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will appear so closely aligned in our sky that they will look like a double planet. This close approach is called a conjunction.

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” said Rice University astronomer and professor of physics and astronomy Patrick Hartigan in a statement.

“You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

(17) WILDCATS ARE BIGGER, OF COURSE. Did you know? At Literary Hub, John Gray says “House Cats and Wild Cats Aren’t Actually That Different”.

…Unless they are kept indoors, the behavior of house cats is not much different from that of wild cats. Though the cat may regard more than one house as home, the house is the base where it feeds, sleeps and gives birth. There are clear territorial boundaries, larger for male cats than for females, which will be defended against other cats when necessary. The brains of house cats have diminished in size compared with their wild counterparts, but that does not make house cats less intelligent or adaptable. Since it is the part of the brain that includes the fight-or-flight response that has shrunk, house cats have become able to tolerate situations that would be stressful in the wild, such as encountering humans and unrelated cats….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Mad Max:  Fury Road Behind The Scenes Documentary” on YouTube is a 2017 film, directed by Cory Watson, originally titled Going Mad:  The Battle Of Fury Road, which is a behind the scenes look at the 2015 Mad Max:  Fury Road.  The documentary reveals this film had an extremely long gestation, as George Miller originally had the idea for the film in the late 1990s,  Production was shut down in 2002 in Namibia because the US dollar tanked in the wake of 9/11, wiping out a quarter of the film’s budget, and halted a second time in Australia in 2010 because of floods shortly before shooting which turned the desert set into a lush flowery landscape. The documentary includes interviews with stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron and many behind-the scenes looks at the mixture of feminism, car crashes, and gratuitous consumption of fossil fuels that led to six Oscars in 2016.

My favorite behind the scenes bit:  dozens of bald-headed extras preparing for their day of being weirdoes by singing “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/20/20 Trapped In A Pixel He Never Scrolled

(1) “THE FUTURE WAS SO BAD.” “HOW BAD WAS IT?” The Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Blog introduces “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Dystopian Worlds”.

Why is it that some of us love dystopian novels, the kind of fiction that takes a dim, bleak view of the future? Is it because writers of this genre show us how bad things can become if we aren’t careful? Or that we can feel better about the current state of affairs because they aren’t nearly as bad as the book’s scenario?

The “Dystopian Worlds” conversation at the 2020 National Book Festival featured Dark Star trilogy novelist Marlon James, who spoke with sci-fi/fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer. James’s most recent novel is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (Riverhead), and VanderMeer’s is “A Peculiar Peril” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Everdeen Mason, senior audience editor of The Washington Post, moderated and, in her words, is an “occasional book critic.”

(2) BLOOM’S FINAL LE GUIN APPRECIATION. “The Strange Friendships of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’” in The New Yorker is an essay was drawn from The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread by Harold Bloom (d. 2019), out this month.

…Though I have written about “The Left Hand of Darkness” before, in 1987 and again in 2000, I have forgotten what I said and do not want to consult it now, but, rather, make a fresh start on this marvellous romance. In one of her letters, Ursula remarked that writing “The Dispossessed” was liberating for her, and she seemed to prefer it to “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Rereading both, I find myself torn between the two. The protagonist, Shevek, in “The Dispossessed,” is far more interesting than anyone in the earlier book, and yet he and his story manifest something of the ambivalence of Le Guin’s subtitle: “An Ambiguous Utopia.”

In a fierce introduction to “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Le Guin charmingly remarks, “A novelist’s business is lying.” She adumbrates:

“I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.

“The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”

Always in Le Guin we hear reverberations of Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching,” which she translated, with J. P. Seaton, as “A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way” (1997). We corresponded about her understanding of the Tao, yet I had to confess my permanent difficulty in absorbing this way that is not a way. I myself always keep to hand a copy of “The Bhagavad-Gita” as rendered by Barbara Stoler Miller, which I purchased in the autumn of 1986, the year of its publication. After hundreds of readings, I think I know what Krishna means by “dark inertia,” “passion,” and “lucidity,” but a dozen readings of the Le Guin-Seaton “Tao Te Ching” have left me muttering that I do not apprehend the water and stone of the Way. Is it that I am not enough open to my own female component? That seems not right. I am more my late mother than my late father. What moves me most in Ursula is the serenity. I lack it utterly….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to loaf around with A.C. Wise in Episode 132 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast as they nibble — she on chocolate zucchini bread and he on cherry pecan bread.

A.C. Wise

Wise is a two-time finalist for the Nebula Award, two-time finalist for the Sunburst Award, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Plus she’s won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fiction has appeared in UncannyTor.comShimmer, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies. Her work can also be found in two collections, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, both published with Lethe Press. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, will be out from Titan Books in June 2021, and a new short story collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow Books next August.

We discussed how her first professionally published fiction ended up printed on a coffee can, the 24-hour challenge which led to the creation of her Lambda Award-nominated collection, which comic book character obsesses her the most, how individual stories can act as commentary on all stories, why she enjoys wielding the power of ambiguity, how workshopping with other writers can help make stories better, what The Queen’s Gambit can teach us about dealing with reader expectations, the unexpected way a flash fiction piece turned into her first novel, and much more

(4) SLF WANTS ENTRIES FOR ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. The Speculative Literature Foundation is making an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustrationof the Year or Artwork) for 2021.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats.

The winning artist will receive $500.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s second international open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fourth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Criteria: Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) artwork for consideration. The artwork may be created digitally or by hand (no photography). The subject matter must combine fantasy and science fiction elements as well as incorporate SLF’s literary focus. All artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats. Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1500 points wide, and 400-500 points high. Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi. Files are limited to 10MB.

Submit artwork to development@speculativeliterature.org, including your name, email address, phone number and short bio.

(5) DON’T INVITEMS. LitHub’s Chris Gosden explains “Why Harry Houdini DID NOT Like Arthur Conan Doyle”.

… Later in 1924 Houdini wrote a book exposing mediums and their activities at séances—A Magician among the Spirits.

Houdini’s position was complex and interesting. The greatest illusionist of the last century became the great debunker of illusions. Conversely, Houdini was keen to stress the physical skill and strength that formed the basis for his act and to reveal the tricks employed by others, many of whom claimed not to be tricksters. Houdini himself became the subject of myth-making, seen by some as having shamanistic powers; and Conan Doyle was not alone in considering Houdini to be a magician, a view expressed in his book The Edge of the Unknown (1930).

Conan Doyle’s two-volume work The History of Spiritualism (1926) was an argument for the veracity and validity of the spiritualist movement, citing, among many other cases, the Davenport brothers and the Spirit Cabinet as an instance when people were able to summon spirits.

Important issues were contained in the disagreements between Houdini and Doyle that resonated elsewhere. First was the issue of evidence and how different people were either convinced by, or skeptical of, exactly the same set of events, such as the activities within the Davenports’ Spirit Cabinet. The creator of the arch-empiricist and logician, Sherlock Holmes, was famously credulous. Houdini took a lot to be convinced of other-worldly phenomena.

Deeper issues were also involved, concerning the nature of the person and of reality more broadly. Were people divided into body and spirit, with the latter surviving the death of the body? As skepticism concerning religious belief grew, so did doubts about life after death, which in turn threw notions of the composition of the person into doubt—perhaps people did not have souls or some form of immaterial reality?…

(6) THE G.O.A.T. In “An Oral History of ‘Marge vs The Monorail’, the Episode That Changed ‘The Simpsons'” on Vice, Sean Cole interviews the people involved in “Marge vs. The Monorail,” which many think is the greatest episode of The Simpsons.  The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, directed by Rich Moore (who won an Oscar for Zootopia) and had guest spots by Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy.

Jeff Martin: Mindless groupthink is a recurrent theme on The Simpsons, and I think the monorail episode is the best – and certainly my favourite – example of Springfield mob mentality. Watching the episode, I decided to go ahead and time it. From Lanley whistling in the back of the auditorium to the entire town marching on the town hall steps singing “Monorail!” is a little less than two minutes. I think it took Harold Hill at least four minutes to whip up River City.

Rich Moore: That musical number was almost harder to pull off than the whole third act climax. I’d done “A Streetcar Named Marge” before. That was a big musical spectacular, so it felt like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to pull off what we did on that episode.’ That’s hard to do when you’re not working under the same roof as the animators. We would send a very complete blueprint, with all the key posing and animation timing, to Korea [where the bulk of animation is done by a studio called AKOM], but there was a bit of crossing your fingers and hoping, since you’re not there in the room to direct them. Everything is being communicated through instructions on exposure sheets, which have been translated from English to Korean.

Jeff Martin: Every single word of the monorail song was unchanged from Conan’s first draft, which is impressive. My niche on the show in those days was to actually write the tunes to the songs. I wrote a bunch of songs, so I was assigned to set the monorail song to music. It’s sort of like, “Bum, bum, bum, bum. I think I’m done!” It’s barely a song. It’s just sort of a rhythm and “Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!” The notion that Conan and I co-wrote that song is laughable. I’ve told Conan over the years that he had his part in that song. Elton John, meaning me, needs Bernie Taupin, meaning him.

(7) VOSS OBIT. Actor Philip Voss has died of COVID-19 at the age of 84. The Guardian ran anoverview of his career.

…His television career had begun in the first (1963) season of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, as Acomat, the leader of Mongolian bandits, in the Marco Polo story, and as a young Dulcian, Wahed, a humanoid pacifist killed by Quarks, a few years later, with Patrick Troughton as the second doctor. His last television role was as Ian McKellen’s acid-tongued brother, Mason, in the sitcom Vicious (2013-16).

In the late 1970s he was also a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company, working with the directors Jane Morgan and Celia De Wolff, in subsequent years, on The Lord of the Rings (he was Lord of the Nazgûl)… On film, he popped up in Octopussy (1983) with Roger Moore as James Bond, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane (1986), Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon (1990) and as Laura’s father in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, Roger Zelazny would win the Balrog Award for “The Last Defenders of Camelot”. It was originally published in Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine, Summer 1979. The Balrog Award were a set of awards given annually from 1979 to 1985 for the best works and achievements of genre fiction in the previous year. You knew what they were named after. The awards were originally announced by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979. Bacon says that they were not to considered serious awards. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 20, 1964 The First Men in the Moon premiered. It’s an adaptation by screenwriter Nigel Kneale of H. G. Wells novel of the same name. It was produced by Charles H. Schneer, and directed by Nathan Juran. It  starred Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries. Ray Harryhausen of course did the special effects with sculptor Bryan Kneale constructing the Selenites from Harryhausen’s designs. With the exception of the grinch critic at the New York Times, critics loved it, though it was a box-office bomb which Harryhausen thought was the fault of too much comedy in the script. It holds a respectable sixty-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 20, 1858 – Selma Lagerlöf.  Nine novels, a score of shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field.  First woman to win Nobel Prize in Literature; given “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 25.  Forry Award (for life contribution to SF; given to pros and fans, some people are both).  With wife June, Fan GoH at Loscon 8; TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, publishing The Moffatt House Abroad; Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to L.A. Science Fantasy Society); fanzine Moonshine; L & J and I published Button-Tack (memorial zine for Rick Sneary – rhymes with “sherry”); L & J posthumously in First Fandom Hall of Fame.  My appreciation of Len here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 91. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, StarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1936 – Don DeLillo, 84.  A dozen novels, half as many shorter stories, for us; four other novels, a score of other shorter stories, plays, a screenplay.  Nat’l Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), PEN / Saul Bellow Award, Lib’y of Congress Award.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 76. She received the Otherwise Award for her Wild Life novel, and nominated for another one for The Dazzle of Day novel.  Much of her excellent short stories are collected in the recently released Unforeseen which along with her two genre novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1950 – Donita Paul, 70.  A dozen novels.  Romances and juveniles under another name.  Why shouldn’t a Christian author write of dragons – what about St. George? [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 64. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 61. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1972 – Cerece Rennie Murphy, 48.  Seven novels, one shorter story.  Ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alexander Pope from an early age.  A 2nd Grade teacher applauds a CRM book for children, “I have struggled to find books with African-American characters who are not stereotyped or set in a time period of racial struggle.”  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1980 – Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, 40.  Illustrator and conceptual artist.  Here is Beneath Ceaseless Skies 101.  Here is The Fall of Io.  Here is Welcome.  Here is an astronaut.  Here is a robot bartender.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says this Rhymes With Orange reminded him of Howard Waldrop’s first sale (to Analog! Possibly even to Campbell!) — “Lunchbox”.

(12) GREAT DAYS OF ANIMATION. Join legendary animator Glen Keane, director of Over The Moon, for a virtual retrospective conversation with filmmaker and animator Sergio Pablos. Free event on Saturday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

A 38-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Glen Keane trained under Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Keane went on to create many beloved Disney characters such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Beast, Tarzan, and Rapunzel. In 2012, Keane departed Disney to begin Glen Keane Productions as a way to further his artistic explorations in animation, design, and film. He has since gone on to collaborate with Google, the Paris Ballet, and Kobe Bryant. In 2017, he animated and directed the Academy Award-winning animated film “Dear Basketball” in collaboration with legends Kobe Bryant and John Williams. Most recently, he directed OVER THE MOON, now available on Netflix.

(13) A STARCHY PARABLE. [Item by rcade.] The AmITheAsshole subreddit is a place for people to find out whether they’ve done something to someone else that makes them an asshole.

A woman asked: “AITA for “ruining” the rice that my boyfriend cooks with by consolidating the multiple bags of rice which he claims are “different” into a single container?”

Here’s where it becomes fodder for File 770. Commenter SelectNetwork1 has responded in the form of a fairy tale in this thread. [There are now over 4K comments, and it took OGH 10 minutes to find it again, so we’re just going to quote it in full.]

Once there was a princess who always wanted things her way. There were three bags of rice in the kitchen and every day she asked, why can’t all the rice be in the same bag? They are all the same.” And every day her boyfriend replied, “They look the same to you because you only look at them from a distance, but they are not the same. They won’t cook right if they’re mixed together.”

One day, the princess’s boyfriend went away for the weekend, leaving the princess home alone. The three bags of rice sitting were all she could think about. They are the same! she thought, over and over. Why are they not in the same bag together! At last she could stand it no more. She went to the kitchen, found a single, big container, and dumped all three bags of rice into it. Then she shook it very hard so the grains would mix. There, now all the rice is together, she thought. At last, she was at peace.

A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. The princess went to answer it, and on the front step was a mysterious woman. “Did you mix three bags of rice all together?” asked the mysterious woman. “They were all the same, they belonged in one bag,” said the princess. The mysterious woman seemed to grow to a hundred feet tall! The princess cowered, and let out a squeak. She covered her eyes with her hands, and realized her hands were paws! She had been turned into a mouse.

The mysterious woman picked her up and put the mouse princess on her shoulder. The mouse princess clung to her shirt as the mysterious woman went into the house and walked straight to the kitchen. She took the big bag of rice and dumped it out on the kitchen table, then gently lifted the mouse princess off her shoulder and set her down beside the rice, which towered above her mouse head like a mountain. “Do you wish to become a human princess again?” the mysterious woman asked, and the mouse princess nodded and squeaked. “Then you must separate these grains of rice that you have mixed together. Only then will you return to your true form.”

The mouse princess stared up at the mountain of rice: it was too large to contemplate, and the rice was all the same! It seemed like an impossible task. She turned back to the mysterious woman, but she had vanished: the kitchen was empty.

For a while, the mouse princess sulked. Eventually, she got bored, and picked up a grain of rice between her paws. “It’s just rice, it’s all the same,” she tried to say, but it came out as “squeak.” She put it aside, and picked up another grain of rice. “See, just rice?” she tried to say, but that, too, came out as “squeak.” This grain was heavier than the first one, and she looked more closely at it. The first grain was long and thin, and this one was a little shorter, and fatter at the middle. She pawed through the pile and came up with another: this grain was shorter and fatter still. “They are not the same!” she tried to exclaim, but it came out as “Squeak!”

The mouse princess contemplated the mountain of rice, and for the first time since she had been turned into a mouse by the mysterious stranger, she felt a little hope. She took the three grains of rice and set them down in three corners of the table, then went back to the mountain of rice and began to take it apart, one grain at a time.

The longer she worked, the easier it became. After a while, she didn’t have to examine the grains to tell them apart, she could see the difference as soon as she as much as glanced at them. She worked until she was exhausted, then she fell asleep on a pile of rice, and woke up again a few hours later to begin working again. She worked and slept, worked and slept, and worked again.

After three days and three nights, the mouse princess was finished. As soon as she pushed the last grain of rice into its pile, she felt as if the room were shrinking around her! She leapt off the table before she could spill the rice, and landed on the floor on her human feet.

Just as she was getting her bearings, she heard the front door open. Her boyfriend was home! She swiftly found the original bags and swept the three piles of rice into their three separate containers. Just as she set the last bag of rice on the table, her boyfriend walked into the room. When he saw the bags of rice, he sighed. “I’ve told you before, they are not the same just because they look the same to you,” he said. The princess smiled. “I know,” she said. “All the rice looked the same to me when I looked at them only from a distance; now I have looked closer, and I understand that each rice is unique.”

The human princess’s boyfriend looked surprised, but happy. “I’ll start making dinner,” he said. “What kind of rice would you like to eat?”

“The medium-length one,” the princess said. “But rinse it carefully… I think I saw a mouse around here somewhere.”

(14) STAY FROSTY. Variety peeks behind the curtain as “George Clooney Navigates Two Worlds in Sci-Fi Drama ‘The Midnight Sky’”.

Netflix’s sci-fi drama “The Midnight Sky,” set for release next month, will see George Clooney as a scientist in the Arctic trying to protect a little girl, and prevent a group of astronauts from coming back home after a global catastrophe.

“It’s two different worlds; we were basically saying we were going to shoot ‘The Revenant’ and stop, and then shoot ‘Gravity,’” said Clooney about his seventh feature as a director during an online seminar at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival dedicated to “The Midnight Sky,” an adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” He was accompanied by the film’s cinematographer Martin Ruhe.

“Usually, when space movies are shot, up is up and down is down, and that’s not exactly how it works. In ‘Gravity,’ the camera was constantly rotating. We wanted to keep the idea of the horizon being different, without making everyone throw up along the way. But our first conversation was: ‘How do we shoot winter’?,” said Clooney, mentioning that while two-thirds of Earthbound sequences were shot in Iceland, one-third was completed on the sound stage, “which was as cold as Iceland for some reason!,” he said.

(15) A LITTLE GAFFE. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Has Its Own Game of Thrones Coffee Cup Blunder” in “Chapter 12: The Seige.”

…For the second time on The Mandalorian, an on-set mistake has been noticed, reminding fans of the infamous coffee cup on Game of Thrones. Photo at the link.

Without giving too much away, this episode sees Mando and Baby Yoda return to Nevarro, where Din Djarrin reunites with Greef Carga and Cara Dune to shut down an old Imperial base on the planet. While they’re working through the base, getting into a shootout with a few stormtroopers, a pretty obvious mistake can be noticed in the background….

In the back-left corner of the frame, a man can be seen that clearly isn’t a part of the Star Wars universe. He’s wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans, and a watch. You can only see the left side of his body, and his head is thankfully out of the frame, but it’s still very noticeable.

(16) LAST LIGHTNING. People reports “The CW’s Black Lightning to End with Season 4”.

Black Lightning is coming to an end, the CW announced Friday.

The superhero drama will conclude with its upcoming fourth season, set to premiere in February 2021. Though the network did not give a reason for the series’ end, showrunner Salim Akil released a statement thanking the cast, crew and fans.

“When we first started the Black Lighting journey, I knew that Jefferson Pierce and his family of powerful Black women would be a unique addition to the superhero genre,” the statement said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

He continued, “The love that Blerds and all comic book fans around the globe have shown this series over the past three seasons proved what we imagined: Black people want to see themselves in all their complexities.”

(17) NIGHT OF THE GAS GIANTS, Mental Floss urges everyone, “Don’t Miss Saturn And Jupiter’s Great Conjunction on the Winter Solstice” on December 21.

In 2020, skygazers were treated to meteor showers, a new comet, and a Halloween blue moon. One of the last major astronomical events of the year is set to fall on the night of the winter solstice. On December 21, look up to catch Saturn in conjunction with Jupiter.

WHAT IS THE CONJUNCTION OF SATURN AND JUPITER?

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when two planets appear exceptionally close in the night sky. Two of our solar system’s gas giants will share a celestial “kiss” on the longest night of the year. The rare meeting of Saturn and Jupiter is known as the “great conjunction” by astronomers.

(18) A MODEST DESIGN PROPOSAL. The election coverage is winding down, so here’s what Fox News has moved on to: “Grow-your-own human steaks meal kit is not ‘technically’ cannibalism, makers say”.

…A “DIY meal kit” for growing steaks made from human cells was recently nominated for “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum.

Named the Ouroboros Steak after the circular symbol of a snake eating itself tail-first, the hypothetical kit would come with everything one needs to use their own cells to grow miniature human meat steaks.

“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” Grace Knight, one of the designers, told Dezeen magazine.

(19) THAT’S NO MOON! The Planetary Society pointed readers to NASA’s story “Earth May Have Captured a 1960s-Era Rocket Booster”. This one’s not a conjunction – it’s just regular junk.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were puzzled over Earth’s newest moon: an object in orbit around the Earth, temporarily captured by our planet’s gravity. Tracing the object’s trajectory back through time, they discovered it came from Earth itself in 1966, when NASA launched Surveyor 2 to the Moon. The object is likely the rocket’s upper stage.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/18/20 You Scrollious Scatterbrained Primitive Phile of Pixelated Pistons

(1) DC “TRANSFORMS” ITS DIGITAL COMIC PLATFORM/OFFERING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “DC UNIVERSE Transforms Into DC UNIVERSE INFINITE!” I’ve been a happy-enough subscriber to DC Universe since its launch a year or so ago. My main motivation was the live action Doom Patrol (which I’ve loved) and to a lesser extent, l-a Titans (medium well done, though often fuzzy which plotlines were in motion, and canon-quirky, but they got Krypto, even), and for streamed comics, though not as satisfying a selection or as well organized as Marvel’s offering. But definitely worth the modest price. “New release comics are now available 6 months after they hit stores” — that’s sooner, for DC, although Marvel has already been doing this (for some issues/titles).

It looks like the price is staying the same for now, $7.99 a month or $74.99 a year.

io9’s post “The Excellent DC Universe Is Dead, and a Comics-Only Service Is Taking Its Place” helps clarify that the video content is jumping over to HBO Max.

Today DC Entertainment announced that as of January 21, 2021 DC Universe will “evolve” into DC Universe Infinite, a comics only service. It’s a shame, because DC Universe has lowkey been one of the best streaming services you could drop cash on every month—if you’re a giant nerd like myself.

The combination of old superhero TV shows, endless reams of comics, and solid original monthly programming like Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn made it a good deal…

(2) WHAT’S THAT SOUND. Cory Doctorow, in “We Need to Talk About Audible” at Publishers Weekly, is making a move against the dominant audiobook seller.

…A few months after its move in the music business, Amazon completed its acquisition of a scrappy upstart audiobook company called Audible. At the time of the acquistion, Amazon publicly announced it would remove Audible’s DRM. After all, why would a company with a self-proclaimed “relentless customer focus” impose such restrictions on audiobook users?

Fast-forward 12 years, and Audible has accomplished remarkable things. The company has helped grow the audiobook market to the point where it is a vital revenue stream for publishers. And Audible commands a huge share of the digital audiobook market—as much 90% of the market in some verticals.

But, they never removed the DRM.

…Last week, I launched a Kickstarter for presales of the audiobook. Because I am set up to act as an e-book retailer for my publishers (including both Tor and Attack Surface UK publisher, Head of Zeus) I was able to list both the series backlist and the Attack Surface audiobook on the crowdfunding campaign. As of this writing, we have raised more than $207,000.

Look, $207,000 is a lot of money. And my family’s finances have taken a severe beating since the Covid-19 crisis hit—I’m sure you can sympathize. We need this. Thank you.

But I’m not doing this for the money. Rather, my not-so-secret plan is to fundamentally shift how publishers relate to authors who are willing to stand up against Audible’s exclusive non-negotiable DRM-enforced exclusive market strategy. Giving authors leverage over Audible isn’t just about getting it to back down on its DRM policy. It also empowers us work with libraries, against whom Audible maintains a total blackout, refusing to license any of its exclusive audio content at all, forcing America’s library users to buy subscriptions through Amazon’s data-hungry, monopoly-reinforcing app.

My belief is that once more authors and publishers find they can succeed outside of the Audible funnel, Amazon will have to give Audible customers and the authors and publishers who supply the content the technical means and legal right to take their business elsewhere if they choose. And once that happens, publishers and authors will finally regain some of the leverage needed to negotiate fair deals from Audible.

I recognize that not every author can do what I’ve done with Attack Surface. That said, there are plenty of writers with platforms who can—I mean, if I can do it they can do it too….

(3) CELEBRATE AVRAM DAVIDSON. In the premiere episode of the “The Avram Davidson Universe” podcast, which debuted September 16, Seth Davis sits down with Ethan Davidson, to discuss growing up with Avram Davidson as his father and to listen to a reading of “Or All The Seas With Oysters.”

In each episode of the podcast and video series, they will perform a reading, and discuss Davidson’s works with a special guest. Podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.

(4) SECOND AGE. Someone blabbed about Amazon’s production where Bleeding Cool could overhear them: “The Lord of the Rings: Morfydd Clark Talks “Massive” Prequel Series”.

… Writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay are developing the series and serving as showrunner, with Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) serving as a consultant. Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is set to direct the first two episodes. Amazon Studios produces, in conjunction with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema. The prequel series stars Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Daniel Weyman, and Maxim Baldry.

The new stories will take place prior to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” and look to focus on the “Second Age” – a time when the Rings of Power were first revealed. “J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team. I can’t wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story,” explained Bayona at the time the news was announced.

(5) SPACE, THE FINAL AUDITION. A new reality show wants to send one of you to the International Space Station in 2023. Assuming “you” means the kind of person who can win in the cutthroat world of reality TV. Deadline reports “Space Travel Reality Show Set To Send Contestant To ISS In 2023; Space Hero Company & Propagate Producing”.

Following the success of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon mission, which marked the return of the U.S.’ capability for manned flights and the first private company to get people into orbit, a reality series wants to send a civilian into space.

Space Hero Inc., a U.S.-based production company founded by Thomas Reemer and Deborah Sass and led by former News Corp Europe chief Marty Pompadur, has secured a seat on a 2023 mission to the International Space Station. It will go to a contestant chosen through an unscripted show titled Space Hero. Produced by Ben Silverman and Howard Owens’ Propagate, the series will launch a global search for everyday people from any background who share a deep love for space exploration. They will be vying for the biggest prize ever awarded on TV.

The selected group of contestants will undergo extensive training and face challenges testing their physical, mental and emotional strength, qualities that are essential for an astronaut in space. I hear the idea is for the culmination of the competition to be in a an episode broadcast live around the world where viewers from different countries can vote for the contestant they want to see going to space. 

(6) DUNE PREQUEL? ScreenRant’s “Dune Will Be Different Than Any Other Book Adaptation” on YouTube suggests that the indications are that the new movie will be faithful to Frank Herbert’s novel and reveals that a prequel series, with Denis Villeneuve directing the first episode, is in development at HBO Max.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2005 Snake Agent,  the first of Liz Williams’  Detective Inspector Chen novels, was published on the now defunct Night Shade Books. Set in the near future city of Singapore Three where Heaven and Hell were very real and far too close, the series would reach six novels and two short stories before concluding for now according to the author with Morningstar.  Jon Foster provided the cover art for the first four which are all on Night Shade. The first five novels are available from the usual digital suspects. Do read them in order as they do have a story that develops with each novel. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 18, 1824 – Richard Doyle.  His cover for Punch 6 was used for the P masthead nearly a hundred years.  Master illustrator of elves and fairies as Victorians imagined them; see herehere (“The Elf-King Asleep”), hereherehere.  Here is his cover for Jack and the Giants.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1937 – Ed Cagle.  Fanwriter until his early death (age 43).  His fanzines were Kwalhioqua and (with Dave Locke) Shambles.  Eric Mayer said, “Kwalhioqua was such an amazing zine I even remember how to spell it.  No one before or since has written like Ed.  His humor was outrageous, warped, rude, but never cruel.  He found weird perspectives on things.”  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1948 – Joan Johnston, 72.  Lawyer with a master’s degree in theater; became a best-selling author, forty contemporary and historical romances.   Five Romantic Times awards.  Well into her Hawk’s Way series of Westerns she wrote a prequel with a Texas Ranger pulling a 19th Century woman into the 20th Century (A Little Time in Texas), expectable (by us) issues for the author, reactions from readers – some applauding, I hasten to add.  Success resumed; 15 million books in print; no blame from me.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 72. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (whom she was married to for awhile) the quite superb Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (Now complete in twelve volumes.) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her latter work, so y’all will need to tell me how it is. Most of the Thieves’ World Series is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 18, 1952 Dee Dee Ramone. Yes, the Ramones drummer. He penned Chelsea Horror Hotel, a novel in which he and his wife move into New York City’s Hotel Chelsea where the story goes that they are staying in the same room where Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Many predictable ghosts visit them. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born September 18, 1953 – Michael Nelson, 67.  Local club, WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n).  Chaired Disclave 41, Capclave 2002 (successor to Disclaves).  Helpful and reliable at other tasks too, e.g. Hugo co-administrator (with K. Bloom) at Torcon 3 the 61st Worldcon.  Currently Publications Division head for DisCon III the 79th Worldcon scheduled for August 2021.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1961 – Chris O’Halloran, 59.  Fan Guest of Honor (with husband John) at Baycon 2013.  Often found working in the Masquerade (onstage costume competition at SF cons); e.g. at the 77th Worldcon (Dublin) chief of the running crew we for some reason call ninja (instead of the existing Kabukiterm kuroko); sometimes competes, e.g. speaking of Torcon 3 she was part of the Best in Show “Trumps of Amber from Zelazny’s books.  She helped an outreach program bring six thousand free books to the 18th WonderCon.  Master’s degree in Library Science.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1980 – Kristine Ong Muslim, 40.  Fifty short stories, two hundred twenty poems; recent collection, The Drone Outside; recent introduction, The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature.  Co-editor Lontar 1-10 (journal of SE Asian SF; 2013-2018); Lightspeed special issue “People of Colo(u)r Destroy SF”.  Translator, particularly of Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 36. Wiki say she’s best known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels which I’d not heard of before this, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s also writing the current Witchblade series at Image Comics, and she wrote the excellent Coffin Hill series for Vertigo. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has the sequel EB never finished.
  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider is “Against Despair.”

(10) MOVIE FANS REMAIN AWOL. “Movie Theaters Returned. Audiences Didn’t. Now What?” asks the New York Times.

“Tenet” was supposed to mark the return of the movie theater business in the United States. Instead, it has shown just how much trouble the industry is in.

After five months of pandemic-forced closure, the big movie theater chains reopened in roughly 68 percent of the United States by Labor Day weekend, in large part so they could show the $200 million film, which Warner Bros. promoted as “a global tent pole of jaw-dropping size, scope and scale.” But “Tenet,” directed by the box office heavyweight Christopher Nolan, instead arrived with a whimper: It collected $9.4 million in its first weekend in North America and just $29.5 million over its first two weeks.

Theaters remain closed in New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest markets in the United States and the center of Mr. Nolan’s fan base. In the areas where “Tenet” did play, audience concern about safety — even with theater capacity limited to 50 percent or less in most locations — likely hurt ticket sales. Box office analysts also noted that “Tenet” is a complicated, cerebral movie with little star power; a frothier, more escapist offering may have had an easier time coaxing people back to cinemas….

(11) THE WRITER’S EDGE. Brad Parks, in “How Will Crime Fiction Authors Hold Up In The Coming Zombie Apocalypse?” on CrimeReads, asks several crime writers what they would do if faced with a horde of ravenously hungry zombies. Tagline: “Crime fiction writers will survive the zombie apocalypse, but only the women.”

.. “Of course crime writers will survive. You may think it’s because we have done the exhaustive research on anti-zombie weapons in addition to mastering techniques for martial arts and amazing feats of self-defense in the face of a rising zombie population. Alas, the true reason for our survival will stem from our keen ability to avoid public places and hide in dark corners for months at a time.” —Danielle Girard, USA Today and Amazon bestselling author of White Out

(12) DEJA FIVE. James Davis Nicoll remembers “Five Unforgettable Books Involving Amnesia” at Tor.com. First on the list:

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny (1970)

Carl Corey wakes in Greenwood, an unfamiliar hospital. He has no idea how he got there. Indeed, thanks to his amnesia, he has only the staff’s word that he is “Carl Corey” and not, to pick a name entirely at random, Corwin of Amber. Some applied violence later and the curiously untrusting Carl Corey learns the name of the benefactor paying for his stay at the hospital: his sister, Evelyn Flaumel.

Escaping the hospital, he confronts the woman in question, who turns out to be no more Evelyn Flaumel than he is Carl Corey. She is, however, his sister. In fact, Corwin has a number of siblings, a Machiavellian litter imbued with powers unknown on the Earth on which Corwin woke, many of whom are rivals for the otherworldly Crown of Amber and some of whom might, if they knew he had escaped Greenwood’s comfortable oubliette, simply kill him.

(13) SHATNER RARITY. Available for bid through September 24 at Nate D. Sanders Auctions — “William Shatner Shares His Memories of Growing Up Jewish — Signed ‘Happy Chanukah William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew'”. Image at the link.

William Shatner autograph essay signed ”William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew”, with Shatner describing his happy memories of growing up Jewish. Composed on his personal embossed stationery, Shatner writes about ”Some Hanukkah Memories”, in full, ”First of all I’d like to say I recently released a Holiday album – I was going to call it ‘Dreidel Dreidel’ but then I thought better of it. Maybe I should have – maybe.

I was born in the Notre Dame de Grace neighborhood of Montreal Quebec Canada to a Conservative Jewish family – my Paternal Grandfather ‘Wolfe Schattner’ anglicized his family name to Shatner. All four of my grandparents were immigrants – they came from the Austria-Hungary and Russian Empires – location of present day Ukraine and Lithuania.

Third – during my childhood – the menorah stood somewhere on the mantelpiece – it was silver and black from use no matter how often it was polished – it stood there until used and then it was used with great reverence.

Fourth, my mother standing over the frying pan, pouring in a mixture of potatoes – ground-up potatoes into the sizzling fat – the oil – and frying up potato pancakes. The memory of those potato pancakes with applesauce and the family crowding around eating the pancakes is a memory that is indelible. / Happy Chanukah William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.5”. Near fine condition.

(14) BY JOVE. “Hubble Captures Crisp New Portrait of Jupiter’s Storms” — NASA has shared the images.

Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the famous Great Red Spot region gearing up to change color – again.

(15) BOGUS LEGOS. NPR interviews “Lego Fans Tricked By Counterfeit Kits”.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Legos are more than a toy. They’re an investment. The company that makes those little plastic building blocks pulled in more than $5.5 billion in sales last year. They often sell Legos in special kits, sometimes depicting famous movie scenes. And they retire those kits after a while, making them collector’s items for fans and upping their value. But where there’s money to be made, there are also scams. Let’s go into the world of counterfeit Lego sets with Stacey Vanek Smith and Sally Herships from the podcast The Indicator at Planet Money.

SALLY HERSHIPS, BYLINE: Tom Glascoe (ph) lives in Dayton, Ohio. He has three kids, and they all love Lego, which is how he got into trouble. He’d been looking for a Lego X-Wing Resistance Fighter for his son.

TOM GLASCOE: And so perusing Facebook one day, I saw an ad for it for what seemed to be a low but maybe not too low of a price.

HERSHIPS: The X-Wing was half price – just 30 bucks.

GLASCOE: The pieces weren’t the same quality, and they didn’t go together quite as nicely as regular Legos.

(16) PETA CALLS FOR PEEPS PURITY. “PETA Demands That Just Born Make Vegan Peeps Because ‘The World Is In Turmoil’”Delish covers both sides.

Peeps, as it turns out, can’t seem to catch a break. The brand’s production is under fire again this week, albeit for an entirely different reason. Actor James Cromwell sent a letter to the CEO of Just Born demanding that the recipe for Peeps go vegan, because “the world is in turmoil.” ICYMI: One key ingredient in peeps is gelatin, which can be obtained from pork skin and bones.

“We use pork derived gelatin in our Peeps marshmallow to achieve a light, soft texture,” Peeps explains on its website: “Gelatin allows us to incorporate small finely divided bubbles allowing you to bite through the marshmallow cleanly with a creamy mouth feel.”

The demand is oddly-timed because the manufacturer has already said their will be no Halloween or holiday Peeps at all due to the pandemic.

(17) BUTTERFLY EFFECT. In the alternate timeline I now occupy, an author called Chuck Tingle plugs his Hugo nominations on the cover of his recent novel.

In this thrilling tale of The Tingleverse, you decide which path to take. With multiple endings to discover and several consequences to face, the reader is the star of the show as you fight to see your name in lights!

Will you and a punk rock unicorn take over the fine art scene after a battle with giant rats in Venna Beach?

Will you encounter The Valley Girls, a roving band of desert-dwelling barbarians in diesel-powered war machines, and live to tell the tale?

Will you find yourself house-sitting for dinosaur superstar Bob Downer, Jr. in the Tinglewood Hills, only to discover things are not exactly as they seem?

The decision is yours!

(18) WOOKIEE WEAR. Yahoo! News is there when “Adidas and Star Wars Launch Fur-Covered Chewbacca Sneaker”.

Adidas has teamed up with Star Wars once again, this time paying tribute to one of the series’ most iconic characters with an eye-catching sneaker collaboration.

The duo revealed their Rivalry Hi Chewbacca, a fur-covered high-top inspired by the beloved wookiee warrior, earlier this week. It features a neutral-toned color palette to represent the sci-fi desert landscape and hardware embossed with the words “STAR” and “WARS” on each shoelace.

Adidas and Star Wars also gave a nod to the belt Chewbacca wore during Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by adding a strap on the tongue of the show, and an image of the of the big-hearted wookie covers the soles.

Adidas RIVALRY HI STAR WARS SHOES Ode to Chewbacca https://www.adidas.co.uk/rivalry-hi-star-wars-shoes/FX9290.html CR: Adidas Originals

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Jurassic Park for 8 Cellos” on YouTube, Samara Ginsberg accompanies herself seven times playing the theme from Jurassic Park while cosplaying in a furry green dino costume!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll,  JJ, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/20 If You Can’t Be With The Scroll You Pixel, Pixel The Scroll You’re With

(1) STAR TREK DAY. io9’s James Whitbrook tells how “Star Trek: Discovery’s New Trailer Brings the Fight for the Federation to the Far Future”.

The crew of the Discovery made a terrible sacrifice at the end of season two, leaving their lives as they knew them behind and flinging the ship 930 years into the future, where the Federation is in some dire straits of its own (again). Now it seems it’s up to Michael and her friends to remind them of what the Federation has fought hard to stand for.

Star Trek’s all-encompassing Star Trek Day livestream event just kicked off with the latest look at the third season of Discovery, our first since that major glimpse at New York Comic-Con last year.

(2) KLINGON GOES POSTAL. Robert J. Sawyer celebrated Star Trek Day on Facebook with this observation:

If you’d told Canadian actor John Collicos that his country would honour him with a stamp 50-odd years later for the four or five days of work he did as one of countless guest-starring roles over his career, he’d have thought you were out of your mind.

It’s part of this 2016 set:

(3) POD TREK. Tawny Newsome, of the Star Trek: Lower Decks voice cast, announced an upcoming podcast, Star Trek: The Pod Directive, which she will co-host with actor-comedian Paul F. Tompkins (BoJack Horseman).

Guests will include actor Ben Stiller, author Reza Aslan, “Star Trek: Picard” star Michelle Hurd, “Lower Decks” executive producer Mike McMahan, politician Stacey Abrams, comedian and “Discovery” costar Tig Notaro, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, and “Picard” and “Short Treks” composer Jeff Russo.

Newsome also debuted a preview for the show, which runs weekly Sept. 14 through Nov. 9.

(4) MULAN. Jeannette Ng’s article “‘Mulan’ Has a Message: Serve China and Forget About the Uighurs” at Foreign Policy challenges the terms under which the film was made, then sharply criticizes the film itself.

All art is political. Strangely, Disney’s live-action Mulan is more obviously so than most.

Mulan makes the current nationalist mythology of a Han-dominated China the foundation of its story. That would be bad enough. But parts of it were also filmed at the location of current and ongoing mass human rights abuses, including cultural genocide, against ethnic minorities.

The credits of Mulan specifically thank the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Committee, as well as the Public Security Bureau in the city of Turpan and other state entities there. The Public Security Bureau is one of the main forces administering the internment camps, enforcing the surveillance and interrogation of even nominally “free” Uighurs, forcing people into slave labor, demanding that Uighurs host Han guests employed by the government to spy on them, and sterilizing Uighur women. The Publicity Department—a term that used to be more honestly translated as the Propaganda Department—justifies these atrocities. Most of these policies were well in place—and some of them known in the West—by the time the film was shot, partly in Xinjiang, in 2018.

That should be the only thing that needs to be written. But there’s more.

Even before the film—which was not previously known to have been filmed  in Xinjiang—arrived, it had blundered right into politics. Two of the film’s stars, Liu Yifei (Mulan) and Donnie Yen (Commander Tung), have voiced their support of the Hong Kong police against the city’s pro-democracy protests, thus sparking an online movement to boycott the film…. 

(5) DISNEY AMBITIONS. In a Washington Post opinion piece, “Why Disney’s new ‘Mulan’ is a scandal”, Isaac Stone Fish says that Disney credits “four Chinese Communist party propaganda departments in the region of Xinjiang and the Public Security Bureau of the city of Turpan in the same region–organizations that are facilitating crimes against humanity.”  He says we need to know the extent to which Disney cooperated with instruments of Chinese repression against the Uighurs and that by filming in Xinjiang the 2020 version of Mulan is “Disney’s most problematic movie” since the racist Song Of The South. Fish also adds perspectives about Disney’s historic efforts to do business in China.

…Disney executives had thought that the original “Mulan” would please both the Chinese government and Chinese filmgoers. But because Disney had distributed “Kundun” (1997), a film glorifying the Dalai Lama, Beijing restricted the studio’s ability to work in China. Disney spent the next several years trying to get back into the party’s good graces. “We made a stupid mistake in releasing ‘Kundun,’” the then-CEO of Disney Michael Eisner told Premier Zhu Rongji in October 1998. “Here I want to apologize, and in the future we should prevent this sort of thing, which insults our friends, from happening.”

Since then, Disney has endeavored to please Beijing. The rewards have been immense, culminating in the successful opening of Shanghai Disneyland in June 2016. This park, Disney’s Executive Chairman Bob Iger said, is the “greatest opportunity the company has had since Walt Disney himself bought land in Central Florida.” Partnering with Xinjiang is another step that binds Disney closer to the party.

(6) HARD SF. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual compilation — “Outstanding Hard Science Fiction of 2019” — with 19 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained by changing the Highlight from Free Online to Podcasts, changing the table View by Publication and Author, and Filtering the table by awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(7) SLEEPING IN THE FACTORY. In “How Speculative Fiction Becomes Reality” on CrimeReads, Rob Hart says his 2018 novel The Warehouse has “an outside world so hostile people are forced indoors” and “an online retail merchant dominating the economy while the small business landscape is wiped out,” but that when he wrote his novel he thought the future he foresaw would happen a decade from now, not in 2020.

…Instead of the slow march of climate change and the steady drip of private interest trumping public good, it was a pandemic that ground the economy to a halt in a matter of weeks. We may not be housed in giant, city-sized live-work facilities, but most of us are now living at our jobs.

And hasn’t that been the whole point of the 21st century economy? Forcing you to come in sick, making you accept unpaid overtime and check your e-mail on the weekends—it was all about making it so you were always working. Even better if you barely left the office. Now you don’t.

Not to say there’s any fun in being right. Not with so much suffering and loss. Not with so many monumental failures in leadership. Not when facing the realization of just how fragile the system is, and how many holes there are in the safety net.

(8) THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY. Andrew Liptak has an interview with Matt Ruff at Reading List: “Lovecraft Country: making the best of the horror icon”.

Your book came out in 2016 on the heels of a larger movement and reckoning within fandom about the role of authors of color and from marginalized communities. How does that longer history of marginalization and exclusion play into your view with the book or the world you’ve set up?

I knew that stuff was going on while I was writing, but history of dissatisfaction of fans of color goes back a lot further. In my research for the novel, I would be reading back issues of the Chicago Defender (the historic black newspaper in Chicago in the 1950s) to get a sense of what the issues of the day were in the black community at that time, and I would read the reviews section for movies and books and the things coming out then. A lot of it was very familiar in terms of the complaints that the reviewers had: we’ve got money, we want to buy movie tickets, we want to buy books, please make stuff that recognizes that we exist and that plays to us too.

The problem was that back then was that you could complain all you want it, but the only folks reading the Black press were Black folks who did not get to make decisions in Hollywood. So this dissatisfaction has always been there. It was expressed by friends of mine growing up, and there’s a woman named Pam Noles, who wrote an essay called Shame that was very influential when I was thinking about Lovecraft Country, which sort of talks about her evolution as a young Black nerd. One of the things she talks about that’s heartbreaking is experience going to see Star Wars for the first time and which for her as for me, was like a quasi-religious experience. But for her, it was also the moment where she finally understood what her parents had been trying to tell her about: this genre that you like doesn’t really appreciate you the way you seem to think it does.

(9) BUTCHER PREVIEW. The book trailer for Jim Butcher’s Battle Ground debuted at Virtual Dragon Con. The trailer was filmed back in December, concurrently with the trailer for Peace Talks, directed by Priscilla Spencer. Dragon Con also hosted a virtual cast and crew panel for both trailers: “The Dresden Files: Peace Talks Trailer Cast and Crew Panel” with Jim Butcher, Spencer, and the rest. 

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered on NBC. Featuring the voice work of the original cast with the exception of Walter Koenig which was apparently due to budget constraints. Most other voices were done by the cast but Sarek, Cyrano Jones and Harry Mudd were performed by the original actors. It would air for two seasons and twenty two episodes winning an Emmy for Outstanding Entertainment in a Children’s Series for its second season. David Gerrold, Chuck Menville, D.C. Fontana and Larry Niven would write scripts as would Walter Koenig. Roddenberry decided it wasn’t canon after it ended which didn’t stop scriptwriters from referring to it down the years in inventive ways, i.e. Elim Garak on DS9 mentions Edosian orchids, a reference to the character Arex here who’s an Edosian. (CE)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 8, 1925 Peter Sellers. Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films which are surely genre, aren’t they? Of course, he had the tour de force acting experience of being Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Amusingly he was involved in another of folk tale production over various mediums (film, radio, stage) including Cinderella, Tom ThumbMother Goose and Jack and The Beanstalk. (Died 1980.) (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1932 – John Boardman, Ph.D., 88.  Physicist, fanziner, filker.  Master of Diplomacy i.e. the board game.  Treasurer of Nycon 3 (25th Worldcon).  Life Member of the Lunarians, Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Perdita) at Lunacon 41.  Officer of the Puddleby-on-the-Marsh Irregulars.  Co-founder of the Beaker People’s Libation Front.  “Science for Science Fiction” in Ares.  Active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, served as Mural Herald of the East Kingdom.  To be seen in AmraAsimov’sLocusRiverside QuarterlySF ReviewTrumpetXero.  “Because you are not John Boardman, is why.”  [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1936 – Don Punchatz.  Ninety covers, two hundred interiors for us; more outside our field.   Here are FoundationFoundation and EmpireSecond Foundation.  Here is Nightwings.  Here is Night of the Cooters.  Artbook Don Punchatz, a retrospective.  Spectrum Grandmaster.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1945 Willard Huyck, 75. He’s got a long relationship with Lucas first writing American Graffiti and being the script doctor on Star Wars before writing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, andbefore being the writer and director on Howard the Duck which, yes, is a Lucasfilm. It’s the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatoes Lucasfilm production ever at 15% followed by Radioland Murders, the last script he’d write for Lucasfilm which would be a still dismal 24%.  (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1947 – Bill Burns, 73.  Attended every Eastercon (Unted Kingdom nat’l con) since 1965.  Doc Weir Award (U.K. service award).  Best known for founding and maintaining eFanzines.com.  Fan Guest of Honour (with wife Mary) at Eastercon LX; at 77th Worldcon.  A dozen FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards. [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1952 – Linda Addison, 68.  For us, two dozen stories, ninety poems, in ApexAsimov’sDark MatterTales of the UnanticipatedTomorrow, three hundred fifty all told.  Poetry editor of Space & Time, “Word Ninja” there.  B.S. (mathematics) from Carnegie-Mellon.  2002 Rhysling anthology.  First black Stoker winner; won four more.  Horror Writers’ Lifetime Achievement award.  [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1954 Mark Lindsay Chapman, 66. Sorry DCU but the best Swamp Thing series was done nearly thirty years ago and starred the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and this actor as his chief antagonist, Dr. Anton Arcane. Short on CGI, but the scripts were brilliant. Chapman has also shown up in Poltergeist: The LegacyThe New Adventures of Superman, The Langoliers and Max Headroom to name a few of his genre appearances. (CE)
  • Born September 8, 1958 – Danny Flynn, 62.  Hundreds of covers, computer-game illustrations, in and out of our field; biology, detective fiction, golf.  Here is the May 94 Interzone.  Here is I Will Fear No Evil (surely one of our best book titles).  Here is Wild Seed.  Artbook Only Visiting This Planet.  [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1965 Matt Ruff, 54. I think that his second book Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is his best work to date though I do like Fool on The Hill a lot. Any others of his I should think about reading? And, of course, there the adaptation of Lovecraft Country which I’ve not see as I don’t have HBO. (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1966 Gordon Van Gelder, 54. From 1997 until 2014, he was editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, (and later publisher, which he remains), for which he has awarded twice, and quite well deserved they were, the Hugo for Best Editor Short Form at Nippon 2007 and at Denvention 3.  He was also a managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction from 1988 to 1993, for which he was nominated for the Hugo a number of times. (CE)
  • Born September 8, 1975 C. Robert Cargill, 45. He, along with Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts, worked on the script for Doctor Strange. More intriguingly they’re writing the script for The Outer Limits, a movie based on the television show. The film, produced by MGM, will be adapted from just the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode begging the question of what they’re writing for a script given that Ellison did write the Writers Guild of America Awards  winning Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology script. (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1979 – Bianca Turetsky, 41.  Three novels, four shorter stories with Courtney Sheinmel.  In the novels, illustrated by Sandra Suy, Louise Lambert buying dresses on sale from strange folk finds they take her back in time, pleasing KirkusSeventeen, and the Historical Novel Society.  [JH]

(12) WEARING THE HORNS. Added to the fanhistory site THEN, Ken Cheslin’s 1989 piece “SADO and the 1960s Brum Group – a memoir”. Curator Rob Hansen says, “This might interest a few people, if only for how much Ken Cheslin’s Viking character Olaf coincidentally resembles the later ‘Hagar the Horrible’.”

(13) WINNING NAME. L. Jagi Lamplighter has decided her new column at Superversive SF will be called “Slice of Light”, and follows the title announcement with a heartwarming preview of coming attractions. Even you heathens might enjoy this one.

(14) HALO OVER JUPITER.

(15) TEARS OF A CLOWN.  “Ted Cruz, longtime fan of ‘The Princess Bride,’ swipes at cast members’ plans to reunite to raise money for Democrats”The Hill has the story.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a longtime fan of “The Princess Bride,” took aim at cast members of the cult classic over the weekend after reports emerged of their plans to reunite for a fundraiser supporting Democrats in Wisconsin.

Cast members from the film will be taking part in a virtual table read for the fundraiser — which a site for the event said will feature actors Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin and Billy Crystal. 

In a tweet reacting to the news on Saturday, Cruz referred to lines from Inigo Montoya, a character portrayed by Patinkin in the 1987 film.

“Do you hear that Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when the six-fingered man killed my father,” he wrote in the tweet.

“Every Princess Bride fan who wants to see that perfect movie preserved from Hollywood politics makes it now,” Cruz, who has been vocal in the past about his feelings for the film and acted out a scene from the flick when he was running for president in 2015, added….

(16) LOST AND FOUND. “Roanoke’s ‘Lost Colony’ Was Never Lost, New Book Says” – the New York Times sifts the scholarship.

…Historians and archaeologists not involved in the recent research on Hatteras were more skeptical, saying that the evidence was inconclusive and that they wanted to see peer-reviewed work. They also said the argument was not new: The idea that the Croatoans, as the Native people on Hatteras were called, adopted at least some of the settlers has long been considered plausible.

“Sure, it’s possible — why wouldn’t it be?” said Malinda Maynor Lowery, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “People don’t get lost. They get murdered, they get stolen, they get taken in. They live and die as members of other communities.”

Dr. Maynor Lowery presented a similar possibility in her 2018 book on the history of the Lumbee people, the descendants of dozens of tribes in a wide region including eastern North Carolina. Despite violence by the English against Croatoan villagers, she wrote, the settlers probably took refuge with them.

“The Indians of Roanoke, Croatoan, Secotan and other villages had no reason to make enemies of the colonists,” she wrote. “Instead, they probably made them kin.”

The English landed into a complicated fray of conflict and shifting alliances, said Lauren McMillan, a professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.

“They’re all interfighting, and these different groups are trying to use the English against one another,” she said. “The Croatoans perhaps saw the English as a powerful ally and sources of valuable new things.”

Dr. Maynor Lowery, who is Lumbee, added that the “lost colony” story is itself based on the incorrect premise “that Native people also disappeared, which we didn’t.”

The story, she said, was like “a monument that has to come down,” adding that “it’s harder to dismantle an origin story than a statue.”

(17) ESSENCE OF WONDER. “AI and Ethics: Professionals Speak” on the next Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron.

Not Mute in the Winter…
In the first part of the show, we’ll be discussing the potential of AI to be useful to society in general, but we’ll be taking a greater look at where there are possibilities for AI to be misused or even abused if not properly handled.  Our primary questions in this part of the show will be to ask where AI can be biased, how bias is introduced into AI systems, examples of attacks on AI and how these then manifest in the world. We’ll be looking at the social implications of using AI in situations where previously only human judgement has been deployed and how this is spreading to encompass more decision-making processes.

Turing Test Failed, They Suspect Nothing…
Our show corner will be looking at theoretical examples of how a number of simple and sensible decisions could give rise to AI that can go from beneficial to nefarious.

Terminating Skynet…
In the second part of the show, we’ll be looking will be how to ensure an ethical approach to the development and control of Artificial Intelligence.  How we should go about securing AI systems and the methods of embedding ethics throughout the lifecycle of AI and its usages. We will also delve into the social vs institutional approaches to Ethical AI.

The panelists include:

  • Steve Orrin – Federal CTO, Intel Corp
  • Dr. Jim Short – Research Director, Lead Scientist and co-founder of the Center for Large Scale Data Systems (CLDS) at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
  • Chloe Autio – AI Policy Lead for Intel Corp
  • Dr. Andrew Harding – Senior Technology and Policy Adviser at Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation for the UK Government
  • Tamara Zubatiy – CEO of VeriCrypt

(18) AI SPEAKS BACK. On Onion Public Radio, “Robots Inform Artificial Intelligence Researchers That They’ll Take It From Here”.

The A.I. research team at MIT is hailing it as a breakthrough in their field that will finally allow them to kick back and relax a little bit. We have the latest on what the now-sentient robotic life forms have planned next.

(19) THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. “Realistic False Arm Dinosaur Puppet” – several different versions are available. Here’s one of them.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Batman:  Mask of the Phantasm” on Youtube, the Screen Junkies take on the fine film that entertained a “generation of latch-key kids” in the 1990s.

[Thanks to John King Tarpnian, N., JJ, Alan Baumler, Eric Wong, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/20 A Logic
Named Mjølnir

(1) ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Newsweek is “Talking Murderbot With ‘Network Effect’ Author Martha Wells”.

The series is from Murderbot’s perspective, who doesn’t care much about the wider galaxy (outside of its favorite media), but I assume there’s a lot of worldbuilding you have to juggle. We learn a bit about regions of space like the Corporation Rim, but would you tell me a little more about the state of the larger galaxy?

The Corporation Rim does control a lot of territory, but there are a lot of independent worlds and places outside it and also a lot of unexplored space, basically. In my head, what I see is that there was a whole society—pre-Corporation Rim—that went out and explored and colonized and developed terraformed worlds and all these different places. The Corporation Rim then grew and took over a large section of that. There was a disruption when that happened and so a lot of the pre-Corporation Rim colonies were either destroyed or have been lost. There are a lot of unknown territories out there. I like to do that in my books, I don’t like to define rigidly what the world is, or what the boundaries of the world are. When I’m reading books where that’s done I feel like that limits the reader’s imagination.

I’m kind of a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t plan out a lot ahead of time. I also like to explore the world along with the reader, so I don’t talk about how the world works in general, partly because I want to get the reader concentrated in the plot, but also because I don’t want to set up things so that, later, when I come up with a different idea for the next book, I have to contradict myself or come up with a way around it. I’m just exploring the world. I tend to develop a lot of stuff I need for each story in particular, and then for the next story I realize, “Oh, well, there’s places to go from there. I need to explore this idea.” So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, though I do have ideas about how the world came to be and what caused the society to develop this way, but I don’t usually get into those, because it’s not important for the story that’s being told in that moment (but it might be important later).

(2) FOR THOSE BARD FROM THE CLASSROOM. UK’s Standard says help is on the way — “David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig to offer Shakespeare homework help to children during lockdown”.

Schoolchildren struggling to understand Shakespeare during the lockdown are to get tips and insights from leading actors to perform in his plays.

David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig are among the big names joining the Homework Help initiative being run by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Students with questions can email them to homeworkhelp@rsc.org.uk or share them using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by Sunday.

The first round of answers will be released from Monday in the form of videos and recorded messages from actors.

(3) CLOSER LOOK NEEDED? Someone on Reddit posted this link today to a site that contains links to the text of most of the Hugo-Award-winning short stories — http://scifi-hugo.herokuapp.com/.

Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank, who sent the item, says “I spot checked them, and at least some of them are unimpeachable—i.e. they link to the author’s own web site—but for others I’m unsure whether the sites hosting them really have permission from the copyright owners to do so. It might be a public service to call attention to the site so anyone who cares can track the links and authors.”

(4) THE TOP OF THE POP. Alasdair Stuart has posted The Full Lid for 8th May 2020:

This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the state of the Star Wars universe and find it richer, more interesting and wider than it often seems to be. I also strap in for the magnificent pulpy roller coaster of Netflix’s Into the Night and review Carlos Hernandez’s fantastic Sal and Gabi Fix The Universe. This week’s interstitial pieces are isolation fight scenes, proving that every now and then these violent delights have hilarious ends.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

The Clone Wars finished and Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus this week with the exact combination of joy for the former and ‘oh… hi…’ for the latter you’d expect. Rise is far more the traditional Star Wars movie than Rian Johnson’s defiantly, flamboyantly good space noir predecessor. In some ways — nearly all of them in the last twenty minutes — that’s good. In other ways — in all of which Kelly Marie Tran is reduced to an extra — that borders on unforgivable. It’s Star Wars playing Hotel California and honestly it coasts on the charm of the conceit. Despite that, the emotional beats were solid – I laughed and cried in all the intended spots. It’s a good time, for most. But Star Wars, now more than ever, is bigger than the Skywalker Saga….

(5) IN THE BADLANDS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where they can find “Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets”.

…I must admit that not every science fiction author adopts this buoyant stance. Some of them have taken a contrary point of view, in fact, positing that there are some circumstances that will defeat humans, no matter how smart and persevering they are. Circumstances like alien worlds that cannot be terraformed into human-friendly resort planets. Here are five worlds that steadfastly resist meddling…

(6) VIRTUALLY AMAZING. Steve Davidson’s “AmazingCon UpDates” adds details about his event to be hosted on Zoom from June 12 thru June 14, 2020. Registration required—free or make a donation as you choose. Details at the link.

Over forty authors will present readings from their current and up-coming works, including several soon-to-be-released novels. His current lineup of “Guest Stars” is —

Mike Alexander Anderson, Adam-Troy Castro, Marie Bilodeau, Ricky L Brown, James Cambias, Patty Carvacho, Noah Chinn, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Clink, David L Clink, Dave Creek, Jennifer Crow, Julie Czerneda, Steve Davidson, Vincent Di Fate, Steve Fahnestalk, Sally McBride, Jen Frankel, JM Frey, JF Garrard, David Gerrold, Sean Grigsby, Jerri Hardesty, Chip Houser, G. Scott Huggins, Elizabeth Hirst, Rebecca Inch-Partridge, MD Jackson, Paula Johanson, H Kauderer, Daniel M Kimmel, Kathy Kitts, Judy Mccrosky, Jack McDevitt, Ron Miller, Petrea Mitchell, MJ Moores, Will Murray, Ira Nayman, Wendy Nikel, Julie Novakova, Paul Levinson, Loyd Penney, Brad Preslar, Dan Ritter, David Ritter, Rhea Rose, Amber Royer, Russ Scarola, Veronica Scott, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Dan Simon, Rosemary Claire Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Hugh Spencer, Richard Dean Starr, Allen Steele, SP Somtow, Kimberly Unger, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Leslie Wicke, Erin Wilcox, Matt Wolfendon, Kermit Woodall, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu

(7) HERD IMMUNITY. At McSweeney’s, an executive reassures us, “Sure, The Velociraptors Are Still On The Loose, But That’s No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park” in Carlos Greaves satirical article.

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

(8) THE MOUSE HOUSE. Because it’s not like these guys aren’t thinking about it. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik reports that while Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the Shanghai DIsney Resort will reopen soon, he can not make a similar commitment for American parks, in part because it’s not clear that people would want to come to Disney World or Disneyland, even if attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity, while the coronavirus rages. “Disney is about to reopen its Shanghai theme park. It could be a lot longer before that happens in the U.S.”

…Disney parks are so crucial to California’s economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Disney “a nation-state,” to some controversy, when he exempted it from closure requirements at the start of the pandemic.

Theme parks are also vital to Disney’s bottom line. The parks division (it also includes hotels and cruise ships) generated $6.76 billion in profit for Disney last year, three times what its film studio did.

All of this makes reopening a no-brainer.

If only….

(9) SOME LIKE IT BOT. ReedPop is exercising its option to take a couple of its major events to Facebook: “BookExpo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month”.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22–26, conference organizer Reedpop subsequently canceled both events. Today, Reedpop has announced the events will be replaced by new virtual events taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26-29, and BookCon Online, May 30 and 31.

All programming for both BookExpo Online and BookConline 2020 will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and, will be free and open to the public. Organizers said an additional day will be added in July, with programming focused on booksellers.

(10) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. Stokercon UK is soldiering on with plans for its new dates – Thursday through Sunday, August 6-9 (subject to further restrictions) in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, with luck being held for the first to be held outside of North America, has even added a Special Guest: author and screenwriter M.R. (Mike) Carey.

Mike Carey…initially worked mainly in the medium of comic books. After writing for several UK and American indie publishers, he got his big break when he was commissioned by DC Comics’ Vertigo division to write Lucifer. Spinning off from Neil Gaiman’s ground-breaking Sandman series, Lucifer told the story of the devil’s exploits after resigning from Hell to run a piano bar in Los Angeles: Mike wrote the book for the whole of its initial seven-year run, during which he was nominated for four Eisner awards and won the Ninth Art and UK National Comics awards. More recently he has written Barbarella, Highest House and The Dollhouse Family, which will be released in September of this year as a hardcover collection.

Mike’s first foray into prose fiction came with the Felix Castor novels, supernatural crime thrillers whose exorcist protagonist consorts with demons, zombies and ghosts in an alternate London. These were followed by two collaborations with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise, The City of Silk and Steel and The House of War and Witness. Subsequently, under the transparent pseudonym of M.R.Carey, he wrote The Girl With All the Gifts and its prequel The Boy On the Bridge. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Girl With All the Gifts, for which – at the age of 59! – he received a British Screenwriting award for best newcomer.

The Book of Koli is the start of a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, with the remaining books to be published in September 2020 and April 2021.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 8, 1955 X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition.”  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there. The cast includes Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1928 John Bennett. His very long involvement in genre fiction started with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ended forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better known to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. And let’s not forget his Michael Moorcock comics. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as was White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with  sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. She published over thirty short stories and essays, including collaborations with Dozois and Jack M. Dann, starting off with “Spring-Fingered Jack”. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies She was a much-loved figure at cons. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise, 65. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born May 8, 1967 John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9.
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 39. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok, I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few season of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously, the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Midsomer MurdersDiscoveryYoung Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough thank you.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GAULD CALLED. Shelf Awareness did a Q&A with the popular cartoonist: “Reading with… Tom Gauld”.

On your nightstand now:

I’ve just finished The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. With the world in such a difficult place right now, it’s been very nice to escape into a completely different universe of spaceships and new planets. I’ve also been reading Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales The Bloody Chamber, which is exquisitely dark and beautifully written.

(15) ROUTE MARCH. Apparently Adri Joy took the road less traveled by. Did that make all the difference? Find out in this game review at Nerds of a Feather — “Diverging Paths and Cinnamon Rolls: Adri plays Fire Emblem: Three Houses”.

My first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest edition in the long-running tactical JRPG saga, involved what,  it seems to be agreed, is the most boring route of this complicated branching story. I started off following my gut instincts in the game’s initial choices, and quickly realised I was on the most complicated moral pathway. Trying to keep myself as unspoiled as possible while also figuring out how to avoid locking myself into 40 hours of lawful evil misery, when faced with an (admittedly extremely signposted) choice to that effect, I took a deep breath and broke away from the character who asked me. When you do so, the game switches into a narrative that takes you away from the tried-and-tested Fire Emblem strategy of being the silent strategist to a protagonist Lord and into something else…. 

(16) HOW’S YOUR BIRD? Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has had to cancel Lilac day, but it still has people taking care of nature; Gardener Brendan Keegan reports on “Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls”. Lots of photographs, with detailed explanations.

In November 2018, arborist Ben Kirby and I mounted a half dozen artificial nests throughout the Arboretum landscape. Made from old tree planting baskets and landscape fabric and filled with twigs and wood shavings, the nests were created with a goal to increase nest availability for great horned owls. Incapable of building their own nests, this species typically utilizes nests constructed by other large birds or relies on natural cavities in large trees.

After a season of vacancies, we were lucky when a mating pair of owls moved into one of our artificial nests in late January 2020. Due to the location, we were able to observe and collect data on the entire nesting process while remaining on the ground, a rare opportunity. Since the Arboretum is a Chapter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, our submitted data will help ornithologists better understand great horned owl breeding behavior and population trends.

The photos below chronicle this season’s nesting process, from egg laying in early February to fledging in late April. Since posting photos of active owl nests on social media typically results in increased human disturbance (which can endanger the female and her young), these photos were purposefully withheld until the young had already fledged. The photos were taken from over 150 feet away, with care to limit the time and frequency of each visit in order to minimize disruption.

(17) EGYPTIAN NEWS. In the Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Hendrix say that the Egyptian show “El Nehaya” or “The End” is that nation’s first big-budget sf television show, but it has proven controversial because it foresees that in 2120 (when the drama set) the state of Israel is destroyed and Jews have fled the Middle East.“An Egyptian television drama depicts Israel’s destruction. Israel isn’t happy.”

“This goes back to a narrative from before the peace treaty and everything we’ve done with the Egyptians,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt. “This sees that Israel will be annihilated. It is very disturbing.”

In a highly unusual statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry decried the show as “unfortunate and unacceptable, especially between countries who have had a peace agreement for 41 years.”

It is notable that Synergy, the production company that made the show, has strong ties to the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and its general intelligence agency. “The End” airs on a network that is owned by a pro-government firm. 

(18) ANOTHER BARN DOOR. You know that place on the internet everybody’s moved to, where it’s hard to maintain your privacy?NPR reports “Zoom To Crack Down on Zoombombing, In Deal With NY Attorney General”.

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users’ data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed incredible growth for Zoom. Daily use of the remote-meeting service ballooned to 300 million from about 10 million in a matter of months. As more people logged on, Zoom’s security and privacy flaws became evident.

Hackers began disrupting online school classes, government meetings, cocktail hours and other events in a trend that became known as Zoombombing.

Federal law enforcement and state investigators across the country started paying attention.

“Our lives have inexorably changed over the past two months, and while Zoom has provided an invaluable service, it unacceptably did so without critical security protections,” James said in a statement released by her office. “This agreement puts protections in place so that Zoom users have control over their privacy and security, and so that workplaces, schools, religious institutions, and consumers don’t have to worry while participating in a video call.”

Zoom has pledged to take more steps to block hackers from gaining access to chat sessions and user accounts. It must now run a “vulnerability management program” to identify and avert breaches into livestreaming conversations on the video platform, New York regulators wrote in the deal.

(19) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “Scientists obtain ‘lucky’ image of Jupiter” – BBC story includes photo.

Astronomers have produced a remarkable new image of Jupiter, tracing the glowing regions of warmth that lurk beneath the gas giant’s cloud tops.

The picture was captured in infared by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, and is one of the sharpest observations of the planet ever made from the ground.

To achieve the resolution, scientists used a technique called “lucky imaging” which scrubs out the blurring effect of looking through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere.

This method involves acquiring multiple exposures of the target and only keeping those segments of an image where that turbulence is at a minimum.

When all the “lucky shots” are put together in a mosaic, a clarity emerges that’s beyond just the single exposure.

(20) WE’RE PRACTICALLY CIRCLING THE DRAIN! “‘Nearest black hole to Earth discovered'”—BBC tells where.

Astronomers have a new candidate in their search for the nearest black hole to Earth.

It’s about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million km, in the Constellation Telescopium.

That might not sound very close, but on the scale of the Universe, it’s actually right next door.

Scientists discovered the black hole from the way it interacts with two stars – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.

Normally, black holes are discovered from the way they interact violently with an accreting disc of gas and dust. As they shred this material, copious X-rays are emitted. It’s this high-energy signal that telescopes detect, not the black hole itself.

So this is an unusual case, in that it’s the motions of the stars, together known as HR 6819, that have given the game away.

“This is what you might call a ‘dark black hole’; it’s truly black in that sense,” said Dietrich Baade, emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organisation in Garching, Germany.

“We think this may be the first such case where a black hole has been found this way. And not only that – it’s also the most nearby of all black holes, including the accreting ones,” he told BBC News

(21) FRANK HERBERT RELIC. “Frank Herbert–NBC Interview” on YouTube is an interview done by NBC’s Bryant Gumbel in 1982, probably for the Today Show, where Herbert talks about David Lynch’s Dune movie being released in December 1983, a year before it actually appeared.

(22) LINE UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Gizmodo’s Cheryl Eddy is ready to go: “10 Aliens That Can Just Go Ahead and Abduct Us Right Now”. Number four on her list —

4) Heptapods, Arrival

Traveling with Arrival’s time-fluid, squid-like creatures might be a little logistically complicated, but at least Amy Adams’ linguist character has already figured out the nuts and bolts of communicating with them. They are obviously very wise and highly evolved, and they travel around in their sleek ships encouraging the inhabitants of other planets to be better communicators. That is definitely a cause we’d be willing to ditch Earth to support.

(23) SPACE FARCE. SYFY Wire passes along “Real Space Force chief’s one piece of advice for Netflix’s Steve Carell: ‘Get a haircut'”.

Netflix’s out-of-this-world workplace comedy Space Force hasn’t even launched yet, but now the silly show that accidentally mirrored real developments in the government has already gotten something wrong from its real-life source material. Or, at least, that’s what the real head of the U.S. Space Force says. And “head” is the operative word here, because U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Jay Raymond’s primary note for Steve Carell, who plays his doppelganger Mark R. Naird, is that he isn’t bald enough.

Raymond spoke during a Space Foundation webinar, according to Space.com, and addressed the comedic riff on his entire military branch by pointing out that while he is very bald, Carell is boasting a silvery head of hair.

“The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”…

(24) FOR THE STAY-AT-HOME CROWD. I never knew Tadao Tomomatsu did a Louis Armstrong impression. Here’s his rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/28/20 No, For The Comte De La Scroll It Is Too Little; For Pixel, Too Much.

(1) TURNING THE TABLE. Scott Edelman volunteers to be the next interviewee on the Eating the Fantastic podcast if you’ll think of the questions. Thread starts here.

(2) BALTICON MOVES ONLINE. Michael Rafferty, now Chair, Virtual Balticon 54, and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) have announced “a free Virtual Balticon” over Memorial Day weekend.  

We decided this was the best way to bring the Balticon Community together without contributing to the spread of the illness.

Plans for Virtual Balticon are still in development….

The virtual convention will kick off Friday night May 22nd, 2020 and run until Monday afternoon.  Details on the schedule will be listed on the Balticon website (https://balticon.org).

The shift to a virtual convention this year presents a challenge to many of the artists and dealers who depend on sales made at Balticon for a substantial part of their income.  If you had planned on attending Balticon 54 and making purchases, please consider purchasing directly through the links we will provide at Balticon.org.

BSFS depends on memberships from Balticon for nearly all of its yearly budget, including the seed money for the next Balticon. While the Virtual Balticon will be free of charge, donations would be greatly appreciated.  As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all donations to BSFS are tax-deductible (please contact your tax professionals for full details). Please visit http://www.bsfs.org/donate.htm to donate.

Lastly, we have been sending emails regarding pre-paid Balticon 54 memberships and reservations for Artist Alley, Dealers Room, or Art Show.  If you purchased one of these and have not yet received an email, please contact refunds@balticon.org.

(3) CHOSEN HORROR. At The Line-Up, “Ellen Datlow Recommends 13 Dark & Creepy Books to Read In the Time of COVID-19 (That Are Not Apocalyptic)” . The list includes:

The Library at Mount Char

By Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is an accomplished debut novel. A group of neighborhood children orphaned simultaneously in a devastating event are taken in by a mysterious stranger who becomes their overbearing “father.” Whenever the reader thinks they know what will happen next, the story veers into another direction, perfectly controlled by the author. An excellent, very dark fantasy about the monstrousness of gods. It’s both horrifying and funny, and it hits every mark. 

(4) NGHI VO CONSIDERED. NPR reviewer Jessica P. Wick gets busy “Uncovering The Secrets Of A Fallen Ruler In ‘Empress Of Salt And Fortune'”.

“Accuracy above all things. You will never remember the great if you do not remember the small.”

What details are truly small? Who says they are? Ask yourself as you read The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

This book is not a happy ending book. This is a salt and fortune book: dangerous, subtle, unexpected and familiar, angry and ferocious and hopeful. Here, the truth is delicately, tenderly fished out of darkness. Ugliness is couched in exquisite poetry and the ordinary is finely-drawn; any object, however plain in purpose or silly in function, might be a relic of endurance and a witness to greatness. Nghi Vo’s story of women and intrigue at the end of one empire and beginning of another reveals in flashes that what you think you see isn’t all there is to see. It asks — and answers — the question: What is important? Who is important? Here, the old aphorism “all that glitters is not gold” is particularly apt.

Cleric Chih is on their way to the new Empress’s first Dragon Court, accompanied by their assistant Almost Brilliant (a “neixin” or talking hoopoe with mythical, generational recall of history), when word comes that all sites put under imperial lock during the previous Empress In-Yo’s reign have been declassified. Fortunately, they happen to be near Lake Scarlet, the haunted site of In-Yo’s exile from court “before the mammoth trampled the lion.”

They can’t resist the chance to be first to uncover Lake Scarlet’s secrets about this mysterious but important time in the empire’s history, and are surprised to find the residence there, though locked down, hasn’t been abandoned….

(5) XPRIZE GETS INVOLVED. The “Xprize Pandemic Alliance” intends “to bring the innovative power of the global crowd together with a powerful network of partners who can work together to solve the world’s greatest challenges and enable radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.”

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego is a proud founding member of the XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance, a data-powered global alliance to stop COVID-19. 

The Pandemic Alliance is a global coalition that combines the power of collaboration, competition, innovation, and radical thinking to accelerate solutions that can be applied to COVID-19 and future pandemics. We are focusing on dire areas such as accelerating solutions for remote care, provision of personal protective equipment to the front line, testing access, and food and medicine security for vulnerable populations. 

The Clarke Center joins the Alliance alongside the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Ending Pandemics, Intel, Illumina, IEEE Standards Association, MIT Solve, C2 International, Cloudbreak Health, the Foundation Botnar, McGill University, Nvidia, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, and the PPE Coalition, among others. Dr. Erik Viirre, Director of the Clarke Center, is Medical Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE

(6) GEEZER WORLD. Cosmos declares “Jupiter is the most ancient planet in the solar system”.

…According to the modeling, Jupiter’s inner core grew to the equivalent of about 20 times the mass of the Earth within the first million years. The Sun was still a protostar at this stage, not having become dense enough for hydrogen fusion to begin.

The growth rate then slowed down, but continued, reaching about 50 times the mass of earth three million years later.

“Thus, Jupiter is the oldest planet of the solar system, and its solid core formed well before the solar nebula gas dissipated,” the team writes.

(7) GOODMAN OBIT. Minneapolis-area fan Dan Goodman (1943-2020) passed away March 25. He discovered fandom in New York City in 1962, participating in FISTFA (the city’s “fannish insurgents” group), before moving to the Bay Area and on to Los Angeles. He joined LASFS in 1969 and remained active for several years. When I knew him he worked as a typist at the IRS producing statutory notices of deficiency (which was no trivial job for a typist in those days). We were together in several APAs, not the least of which was the weekly APA-L. Goodman, Jack Harness, perhaps John Hertz,  and I don’t know who else, lived near downtown and helped each other get their contributions in, or delivered finished copies of the APA, and joked about being members of STUD – Shoving Things Under Doorways. He contributed to my early genzines, and even to an issue of File 770 — in #12 (1979) Dan’s article “Just the Facts” used his own fannish biography to satirically demonstrate how anyone bidding for a convention could simulate an impressive resume. Dan was one of several LASFSians who were attracted by Minneapolis’ very congenial fandom and moved there. He edited some issues of the Minn-stf’s newsletter, Einblatt. He was always strongly interested in fiction writing – I’m a little surprised that ISFDB reports only one published story, “The Oldest Religion” which appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated in 1988. His CaringBridge page indicates Dan’s health began a final decline early this year. In a wonderful gesture on February 8, they brought the Minn-stf meeting to him – about 10 people. It certainly sounds like he chose the right place to put down roots.

Dan Goodman (in yellow) at 1972 LASFS Board of Directors meeting. Others visible: (seated) Len Moffatt and Lois Newman; (standing) Elst Weinstein, and in the corner, Larry Niven.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 28, 1959 The Manster premiered. Shot in Japan, it was produced by George P. Breakston as directed by Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane. The screenplay was by Walter J. Sheldon. Sheldon’s script was based on Breakston’s story which he originally titled The Split, presumably because the process that created the monster gave it two heads. (It was marketed as The Split in areas.) It starred  Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Tetsu Nakamura and Terri Zimmern. One reviewer at the time called it “a pathetic pot-boiler” and another noted that “the second head lolled around at random”. The audience at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 30% rating. You can see it for yourself here.
  • March 28, 2003 Tremors: The Series premiered on Syfy. It followed three Tremors films and starred Michael Gross, Gladise Jimenez, Marcia Strassman and Victor Brown. Created by Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson who brought us the entire Tremors franchise, it lasted but thirteen episodes. You can watch the first episode, “Feeding Frenzy” here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 28, 1922 A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian-tinged space opera that was the universe of John Grimes was such. A very good starting place is the Baen Books omnibus of To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. If there’s a counterpart to him, it’d be I think Dominic Flandry who appeared in Anderson’s Technic History series. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t.  (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 28, 1932 Ron Soble. He played Wyatt Earp in the Trek episode, “Spectre of The Gun.” During his career, he showed up on a huge number of genre series that included Mission: ImpossibleThe Six Million Dollar ManShazamPlanet of The ApesFantasy IslandSalvage 1 and Knight Rider. His last genre role, weirdly enough, was playing Pablo Picasso in Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 28, 1933 J. R. Hammond. Looking for companionable guides to H.G. Wells? Clute at EoSF has the scholar for you. He wrote three works that he recommends as being rather good (H G Wells: A Comprehensive Bibliography,  Herbert George Wells: An Annotated Bibliography of his Works and An H G Wells Companion: A Guide to the Novels, Romances and Short Stories). Clute says that his “tendency to provide sympathetic overviews, now as much as ever, is welcome.” (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 28, 1944 Ellen R. Weil. Wife of  Gary K. Wolfe. She wrote a number of works with him including the non-fiction study, Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. They wrote a fascinating essay, “The Annihilation of Time: Science Fiction; Consumed by Shadows: Ellison and Hollywood”, which can be found in Harlan Ellison: Critical Insights. (Died 2000.)
  • Born March 28, 1946 Julia Jarman, 74. Author of a  children’s book series I like a lot, of which I’ll single out Time-Travelling Cat And The Egyptian GoddessThe Time-Travelling Cat and the Tudor Treasure and The Time-Travelling cat and the Viking Terror as the ones I like the best. There’s more in that series but those are my favorites. 
  • Born March 28, 1955 Reba McEntire, 65. Her first film role was playing Heather Gummer in Tremors. Since then, she’s done voice work as Betsy  the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and as Etta in The Land Before Time XIV: Journey of the Brave. She also voiced Artemis on the Disney Hercules series.
  • Born March 28, 1960 Chris Barrie, 60. He’s Lara Croft’s butler Hillary in the most excellent Tomb Raider franchise films. He also shows up on Red Dwarf  for twelve series as Arnold Rimmer, a series I’ve never quite grokked. He’s also one of the principal voice actors on Splitting Image which is not quite genre adjacent but oh so fun.
  • Born March 28, 1972 Nick Frost, 48. Yes, he really is named Nick Frost as he was born Nicholas John Frost. Befitting that, he was cast as Santa Claus in two Twelfth Doctor stories, “Death in Heaven” and “Last Christmas”. He’s done far more genre acting that I can retell here starting with the Spaced series and Shaun of The Dead (he’s close friends with Simon Pegg) to the superb Snow White and The Huntsman. He’s currently Gus in the forthcoming Truth Seekers, a sort of low budget comic ghost hunter series 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) A PSA YOU SHOULD FOLLOW. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] When the Silver Surfer tells you you should practice #SocialDistancingNow, you should probably listen. You really don’t want him to sic Galactus on you. “Silver Surfer Provides a PSA for Self-Quarantining” at CBR.com.

“Hello, True Believers! This is Norrin Radd, Sentinel of the Spaceways and Herald to Galactus, Devourer of Worlds,” begins Radd. “It is important to remember that while I wield the Power Cosmic, you do not and, as such, it is your responsibility to maintain your social distance during this pandemic.”

After delivering the PSA, the Surfer goes on to play electric guitar and sing his own theme song.

(12) LEADFOOT ON THE TIME ACCELERATOR. I thought it was interesting to read how developments from the coronavirus epidemic broke into John Scalzi’s plan to get away from the news while he was on the JoCo cruise: “The Last Best Time”.

(13) LIVE! With everything under quarantine, the nerd-folk duo doubleclicks compiled this list of upcoming live shows streamed directly to your computer screen: “We Recommend These Live Shows You Can Watch From Your House!”

Last week, the Doubleclicks streamed every day and played games, interviewed authors, recorded and even wrote songs! It was really fun, and you can watch all the videos we made up on this YouTube playlist. We’ll definitely do more streaming in the future, but we’re taking a little while to regroup and rest next week. However, we want to recommend some awesome livestreams you should check out, done by people we really enjoy and recommend!

(14) IS THE EFFECT MORE THAN YOU THINK? In the Washington Post, Ron Charles interviews Tom Perrotta, whose 2011 novel The Leftovers shows what happened to America three years after an apocalypse wipes out two percent of the American population. “Tom Perrotta’s ‘The Leftovers’ imagined 2 percent of the population disappearing. That could be our reality.”

…Speaking from his home outside of Boston, Perrotta says he was startled by some people’s scornful response to the premise of “The Leftovers.” “Two percent?” they said. “That’s nothing.”

But that would be 6.5 million Americans, and it could soon be this administration’s economic plan for the United States.

The horror of even contemplating a loss of that magnitude is staggering. “I look out my window, and it’s a beautiful day, and the water comes out of the faucet when I turn it on, and my car works,” Perrotta says. “The infrastructure of the world is intact, but there is this feeling of dread and grief that makes it feel entirely different than what it did a month ago. I wake up and as soon as I go downstairs and come in contact with any information, this heaviness just comes over me that I carry through the whole day. And I think, you know, 2 percent is a lot.”

As he suggested in “The Leftovers,” which was later adapted into an HBO series, Perrotta doubts anybody would survive such a “minor” apocalypse unscathed. “It may not be somebody in your first ring of acquaintances,” he says, “but it’ll be someone in the second and maybe someone right next to you. One of the things it does is really make you aware of just how connected we are.”

(15) SO MUCH FOR THAT. “OneWeb blames pandemic for collapse” says BBC.

OneWeb, the high-profile London-based satellite start-up, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US.

The firm, which has been building a network to deliver broadband across the globe, blamed the Covid-19 crisis for its inability to secure new investment.

OneWeb issued a statement saying it was laying off most of its staff while it seeks a buyer for the company.

The start-up recently launched the 74th satellite in a constellation planned to total at least 648 spacecraft.

The idea is that this network will provide high-bandwidth, low-latency internet connections to any point on Earth, bar Antarctica.

Rumours of a collapse had been swirling around OneWeb this past week. It had raised £2.6bn to implement its project but experts in the space industry speculated that double this sum would probably be needed to complete the system.

The statement released by OneWeb in the early hours of Saturday, London time, said the company had been close to obtaining financing but that, “the process did not progress because of the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of Covid-19”.

(16) NOT SO DIFFERENT. “Neanderthals ate sharks and dolphins”. “You know when he bites sharks with his teeth, babe…”

Neanderthals were eating fish, mussels and seals at a site in present-day Portugal, according to a new study.

The research adds to mounting evidence that our evolutionary relatives may have relied on the sea for food just as much as ancient modern humans.

For decades, the ability to gather food from the sea and from rivers was seen as something unique to our own species.

Scientists found evidence for an intensive reliance on seafood at a Neanderthal site in southern Portugal.

Neanderthals living between 106,000 and 86,000 years ago at the cave of Figueira Brava near Setubal were eating mussels, crab, fish – including sharks, eels and sea bream – seabirds, dolphins and seals.

The research team, led by Dr João Zilhão from the University of Barcelona, Spain, found that marine food made up about 50% of the diet of the Figueira Brava Neanderthals. The other half came from terrestrial animals, such as deer, goats, horses, aurochs (ancient wild cattle) and tortoises.

(17) THE NATIVES ARE RESTLESS. “East Antarctica’s glaciers are stirring”.

Nasa says it has detected the first signs of significant melting in a swathe of glaciers in East Antarctica.

The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent.

But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up.

If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels.

There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m – if it were all to melt out.

“That’s the water equivalent to four Greenlands of ice,” said Catherine Walker from Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/22/19 Dial P For Pixel

(1) LABORS OF LOVE. The Hugo Award Book Club has completed its series of articles on the depiction of labor unions in science fiction. Olav Rokne sent the links with a note, “I welcome any feedback, and appreciate being informed of any omissions.” 

At their peak in 1954, unions represented almost a third of workers in the United States, and it was easy to take their existence — and their action as a counterbalance to the power of capital — for granted. Even employees in non-union workplaces enjoyed gains because employers had to keep up with union shops to retain and recruit labour.

But despite their prevalence in society, labour unions were largely absent from science fictional narratives during the Golden Age, and their few portrayals in the genre are usually either comedic or antagonistic.

As labour activist and science fiction author Eric Flint pointed out atWorldCon76, the major contributors to the development of science fiction — from the dawn of the Golden Age of Science Fiction through this era of union organizing and stability — were largely drawn from academic circles or the upper middle class. Despite working for a living, these authors and editors did not see themselves as part of the proletariat, and thus based their narratives on assumptions that their privileged working relationships allowed them to hold.

Cory Doctorow has been one of the leading lights of the genre’s reappraisal of the role of employment in society and the relationship between workers and employers. Tackling such subjects as employment precarity, labour mobility, and income inequality, Doctorow’s work consistently shows a strong understanding of the labour union world.

Of particular note is his 2010 novel For The Win which depicts a unionization drive amongst workers who are paid to gather resources in a World Of Warcraft-style online game. This depiction shows the necessity of worker organization in the face of capital overreach, and is informed by knowledge of the systemic flaws in traditional labour organizing.

The first unmistakable labour union in science fiction cinema that we were able to find is the Textile and Garment Workers Union depicted in the 1951 Ealing Studios comedy The Man In The White Suit. The film revolves around the invention of an indestructible fabric by a mild-mannered chemist played by Sir Alec Guinness, and the subsequent attempts by business and labour unions to suppress the invention. The depiction of unions in this movie is broad and largely inaccurate, depicting them as collaborating with management and encouraging industrial sabotage.

Despite these inaccuracies about how unions operate, we will be endorsing The Man In The White Suit for 1952 Retro Hugos, . It is in most ways a superb and thoughtful piece of science fiction about the introduction of a new technology, and is elevated by witty dialogue and star-worthy performances (Guinness was nominated for an Academy Award that year for a different comedy from the same studio).

(2) COLD READING. Wil Wheaton has done a free audiocast of a 1931 story from Astounding, “The Cave Of Horrors” by Captain S.P. Meek at Soundcloud.

I needed to get out of my comfort zone, so I went to Project Gutenberg, clicked through a few bookshelves until I got to classic Science Fiction, and decided to do an unrehearsed, essentially live narration of a story that was published in Astounding Stories of Super Science in 1931.

It’s not the greatest story I’ve ever read (if I’d read it before I narrated it, I wouldn’t have chosen it), but it’s a fine representative of that era’s genre fiction writing. I had some fun doing my best impression of someone reading it in 1931, and I recorded it to share with any of you who are interested in this sort of thing.

(3) DAYS OF YORE. Rob Hansen has added reports, photos, and publications from “Brumcon 2 – The 1965 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory site THEN. Charlie Winstone’s conreport sets the stage:

It all started some fifteen months ago, – the Brummies, in a fit of derring-do, talked Ken Cheslin into standing up and calling for the 1965 Convention venue to be Birmingham. This he did, not without some misgivings. After all the British Science-Fiction Association’s Committee was also centred upon Birmingham. Still, there were plenty of Brummies (Easter Brummies, as they were christened by Archie Mercer) around – it was surely not an impossible task to put on a Convention.

(4) THE FINAL COURSE. Scott Edelman welcomes you to dig into dessert with Parvus Press publisher Colin Coyle in Episode 91 of Eating the Fantastic

Colin Coyle

This episode of Eating the Fantastic almost didn’t happen, and not just because it was recorded somewhat spontaneously. No, the reason this episode almost didn’t happen was because instead of digging into dessert, we were afraid we might be spending the night being interrogated by the Secret Service. And if that had occurred, the blame would be entirely on Parvus Press publisher Colin Coyle.

It was all due to his afternoon mission to visit the White House and fulfill Kickstarter rewards relating to his recently released anthology If This Goes On, edited by Cat Rambo. And because that title contains my short story “The Stranded Time Traveler Embraces the Inevitable,” I decided to tag along. We had an off-the-record lunch at Jaleo, but once we we’d completed our mission, we debriefed what we’d just done over dessert at Art and Soul.

We discussed the reason we were glad we got to record the episode rather than spend the night in jail, how the tragic events of Charlottesville inspired him to hire Cat Rambo to assemble the If This Goes On anthology, why he switched over to the Kickstarter model for this book and what surprises he discovered during the process, the reason his company isn’t publishing horror even though he’d like to, the surprising shared plot point slush pile writers used to indicate future American culture was failing, what an episode of West Wing taught him about launching Parvus Press, what he isn’t seeing enough of in the slush pile, the acting role of which he’s proudest from back in his theater days (hint: you’ve probably seen Danny DeVito do it), the advice he wishes he could have given himself when he started out as a publisher, and much more.

(5) RIGHTS GRAB. Peter Grant flags “Another Attack on Author Rights” at Mad Genius Club. He points to an Authors Guild report that the “Los Angeles Times Wants Rights to Books Written by Staff”, which begins –

One of the nation’s leading newspapers is attempting an unprecedented rights grab, according to its writers. In the midst of contract negotiations with its newsroom staff, the Los Angeles Times, purchased last year by biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shionghas proposed that its journalists, as a condition of employment, cede control of any books or other creative works made outside of their daily journalistic duties.

The Los Angeles Times Guild, a trade union representing some 400 newsroom staffers, has called the proposal “a new low in the newspaper industry,” pointing out that no other major newspaper has such strict copyright restrictions. “If we have a book idea related to our work,” according to the Times Guild, “the company wants unfettered power to claim control over whether it gets written, who owns the copyright and what we might get paid for it.”

 In a comment Dorothy Grant asks whether the AG complaint should be taken at face value:

Several thoughts on that: first, we’re not seeing the actual contract clause, we’re seeing what one party to the negotiations has taken public in an attempt to pressure the other side. Which means that the ratio of truth to hyperbole is… unknown.

(6) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. “Many of the short stories that inspired Love, Death + Robots are free online” says The Verge’s Andrew Liptak in a post that supplies the links.

(7) PUNCHING IN. Charlie Martin touts “The Power of Pulp” at PJ Media.  

But have you read any “quality” fiction recently? Between making sure that all the right demographics are presented in the exact right way, and the tendency of “quality” fiction to still be about nothing, most of it is not much fun. In fact, there’s even a technical term for reading that’s supposed to be fun: it’s called ludic fiction. It’s characterized by a particular experience: you get lost in it. You forget you’re reading and you’re engrossed in the vicarious experience.

Have you noticed that the people who stress the importance of “fun” rarely sound like they’re having any?

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 22, 1920 Ross Martin. Best known for portraying Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West. I watched the entire series on DVD one summer some decades back include the films in less than a month from start to finish. Now that was fun! It looks like Conquest of Space, a 1955 SF film, in which he played Andre Fodor was his first genre outing. The Colossus of New York in which he was the brilliant Jeremy ‘Jerry’ Spensser came next, followed by appearances on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, Zorro, The Immortal, Night Gallery, Invisible ManGemini Man (a far cheaper version of Invisible Man), Quark (truly one of the worst SF series ever), Fantasy Island and Mork & Mindy. (Died 1981.)
  • Born March 22, 1930 Stephen Sondheim, 89. Several of his works were of a fantastical nature including Into The Woods which mines deeply into both Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault for its source material. And there’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which is damn fun even if it isn’t genre. 
  • Born March 22, 1931 William Shatner, 88. Today is indeed his Birthday.  I could write a long, detailed Birthday entry but y’all know everything I could possibly say here. Suffice it to that I did enjoy him on Trek for the most part and actually found his acting on TekWar where he was Walter H. Bascom to be some of his better work. Now the short-lived Barbary Coast series featuring his character of Jeff Cable was the epitome of his genre acting career. 
  • Born March 22, 1946 Rudy Rucker, 73. He’s certainly best known for the Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which, Software and Wetware, both won Philip K. Dick Award. Though not genre, I do recommend As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel.
  • Born March 22, 1950 Mary Tamm. She’s remembered for her role as Romana, the companion to the Fourth Doctor in “The Key to Time” story. It seemed liked she was there longer only because another actress, Lalla Ward, played her in the following season. This actress was soon to be married to Tom Baker. She also appears briefly in the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors through the reuse of footage from the uncompleted story Shada. Tamm had only one other genre gig, to wit as  Ginny in  “Luau” on the Tales That Witness Madness series. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 22, 1969 Alex Irvine, 50. I strongly recommend One King, One Soldier, his offbeat Arthurian novel, and The Narrows, a WW II Detroit golem factory where fantasy tropes get a severe trouncing. He’s also wrote The Vertigo Encyclopedia which was an in-house project so, as he told me back then, DC delivered him one copy of every Vertigo title they had sitting in the warehouse.  For research purposes. And he’s written a fair number of comics, major and minor houses alike.  
  • Born March 22, 1978 Joanna Page, 41. Queen Elizabeth I in the first episode of “The Day of the Doctor” on Doctor Who in which the Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor and the War Doctor all make appearances. Other genre appearances are scant but she did play María on Bedlam, a British supernatural series, she was Gladys in a film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and she also played of Ann Cook in  the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s From Hell.  

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • In Baldo someone has come up with a good trick for increasing their reading time.
  • Cats’ fascination with laser pointers is the basis for the science fictional humor in Grimmy.
  • Arctic Circle has a gag inspired by Chang’e-4.
  • A retro tech joke in Bizarro. (How many Filers remember when these were sold in the backs of comic books?)
  • BBC’s article “How a bookshop wolf handles awkward customers” includes lots of illos.

We’ve all heard of the saying “the customer is always right” but when you work in service industries, what can you do to vent your frustration when the customer is rather annoying?

Whether it’s children running riot, requests for the most obscure information, or just plain rude customers, Australian bookshop worker Anne Barnetson has faced it all. But she’s come up with a rather novel way of dealing with such awkward situations.

Anne is the creator of Customer Service Wolf, a comic found on Instagram and Tumblr. It gives a humorous anthropomorphic take on life dealing with strangers turning up in bookshops with strange requests.

(10) PLAYING IN OVERTIME. Tolkien and Hubbard are not the only prolific deceased authors in our midst. See “Isaac Bashevis Singer from Beyond the Grave” in The Paris Review.

As if in fulfillment of his own prophecy, Isaac Bashevis Singer has been astonishingly prolific in death. An untranslated magnum opus, Shadows on the Hudson, was translated into English in 1998, followed by a sequel collection of reminiscences of pre-1914 Jewish Warsaw, More Stories from My Father’s Court, followed by a steady, enviable beat of short stories, either unpublished or published in Yiddish but never translated, stories steadily adding to and enriching Singer’s great twin themes: the magical Yiddishkeit cosmos wrecked in World War II and the scattered, wandering survivors of that wreckage. In the past two years, Singer’s stories have been published in Harper’s and The New Yorker. Another, “The Murderer,” appears in the current spring issue of The Paris Review. Every few months, it seems, there is a Singer dispatch from beyond the grave, another unlabeled bottle floating in on the tide. Reading his bibliography, one would never guess he has been dead nearly three decades. And there will be more Singer for the foreseeable future, as the editor of his estate told The New Yorker: “There are novels, short stories, memoirs, even plays—some of which appeared in Yiddish and some of which … exist only as handwritten manuscripts.” Heaps of Singer’s words are wheeling blindly about in library archives, at the bottoms of desk drawers, manuscripts translated by hand on magazine tear sheets, unilluminated microfilm vibrantly uncollected and unclassified. He and his oeuvre refuse to be still. They seem to wend their way to the surface with something like the residue of Singer’s consciousness, or rather with the uncanny pseudoconsciousness of an automaton, set in motion by a now-dead hand.

(11) GAME IN THE WORKS. Rad Magpie’s mission is to “Support underrepresented creators and radical interactive media.” Their first in-house studio is working on the first Sri Lankan fantasy game to exist called Sigiriya with Mary Anne Mohanraj

Sigiriya is a mobile game set in the ancient Sri Lankan fortress of the same name. Our interactive experience marries heart-centered, narrative-driven gameplay with both fantastical and historical elements.

Our team is working to bring this game to life, and we are currently in the early production phases.

(12) YOU ASKED FOR IT, WE GOT IT.  “Toyota to Help Develop Moon Rover” says the headline, though Daniel Dern comments, “In my initial glimpse I thought it said “Moon River” and wasn’t sure if it was about the song, or they were going ‘Lunar Duckboats!’”

Toyota will be adding some depth to its development prowess when it partners with Japan’s space agency to create a manned lunar rover powered by fuel cell technologies.

According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), though Japan has no plans to send humans into space at this time, the rover could serve as a building block to eventually get them there.

(13) DRAGON LADY. In her New Yorker article “A Battle for My Life”. Emilia Clarke, TV’s Daenerys Targaryen, reveals she had two surgeries for brain aneurysms after season 1 and season 3 of Game of Thrones, and discusses that people should be urgently treated if they have brain or stroke problems.

Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life. I’ve never told this story publicly, but now it’s time.

(14) ABOVE THE STORM. BBC admires this photo taken by Juno: “Planet Jupiter: Spectacular picture of Jupiter’s storms”.

This beautiful picture of Jupiter was assembled from three separate images acquired by Nasa’s Juno spacecraft as it made another of its close passes of the gas giant.

The probe has a colour camera onboard and citizen scientists are encouraged to play with the data to make their own views of the planet.

This one, which is colour-enhanced, was produced by Kevin M Gill.

The US space agency has dubbed it “Jupiter Marble” – a reference to the full disc pictures of Earth captured by satellites down the years that have been called “Blue Marble”.

(15) LOOK OUT, IT’S A JUGGERNAUT! From BBC we learn – “Autonomous shuttle to be tested in New York City”.

A self-driving shuttle service is to be deployed in New York City by the middle of the year.

Boston start-up Optimus Ride will run vehicles on private roads at the Brooklyn Navy Yard site located on New York’s East River.

The shuttle will help workers get around the large site.

(16) CALL FOR A VERDICT. The question is: “Can you murder a robot?” The BBC story covers a lot of ground.

Back in 2015, a hitchhiker was murdered on the streets of Philadelphia.

It was no ordinary crime. The hitchhiker in question was a little robot called Hitchbot. The “death” raised an interesting question about human-robot relationship – not so much whether we can trust robots but whether the robots can trust us.

The answer, it seems, was no.….

Hitchbot is not the first robot to meet a violent end.

Dr Kate Darling, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), encouraged people to hit dinosaur robots with a mallet, in an workshop designed to test just how nasty we could be to a machine.

She also conducted an experiment with small bug-like robots.

Most people struggled to hurt the bots, found Dr Darling.

“There was a correlation between how empathetic people were and how long it took them to hit a robot,” she told BBC News, at her lab in Boston.

“What does it say about you as a person if you are willing to be cruel to a robot. Is it morally disturbing to beat up something that reacts in a very lifelike way?” she asked.

The reaction of most people was to protect and care for the robots.

“One woman was so distressed that she removed the robot’s batteries so that it couldn’t feel pain,” Dr Darling said.

(17) MERGER MASHUPS. Chris Hemsworth on Instagram celebrated the Disney-Fox merger by wearing a Deadpool outfit with a Viking helmet.  Ryan Reynolds marked the merger by wearing mouse ears on his Deadpool outfit on his Instagram post.

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Our love child #thor #deadpool @vancityreynolds

A post shared by Chris Hemsworth (@chrishemsworth) on

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Feels like the first day of ‘Pool.

A post shared by Ryan Reynolds (@vancityreynolds) on

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Why Do Flat-Earth Believers Still Exist?” on YouTube, John Timmer of Ars Technica shows the increasinly flimsy evidence flat earth followers have for claiming the earth is flat.

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