Pixel Scroll 8/22/20 Unobtainium Glistens Like Chrome In All Of The Federation Parsecs

(1) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL. Here are a few more of the many entries about Ray Bradbury today.

The Martian Chronicles is not a child’s book, but it is an excellent book to give to a child—or to give to the right child, which I flatter myself that I was—because it is a book that is full of awakening. Which means, simply, that when you read it, you can feel parts of your brain clicking on, becoming sensitized to the fact that something is happening here, in this book, with these words, even if you can’t actually communicate to anyone outside of your own head just what that something is. I certainly couldn’t have, in the sixth grade—I simply didn’t have the words. As I recall, I didn’t much try: I just sat there staring down at the final line of the book, with the Martians staring back at me, simply trying to process what I had just read.

The fifth episode of my podcast Bradbury 100 drops today. The theme of the episode is biographies, as my interview guest is Jonathan R. Eller, author of three biographical volumes on Ray: Becoming Ray Bradbury, Ray Bradbury Unbound, and Bradbury Beyond Apollo.

Jon is also the Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, and has done more than anyone to explore Bradbury’s thinking and authorship.

… Bradbury’s poetic, metaphor-filled prose was not easy to adapt to the screen, which is perhaps why there have been far fewer screen versions of his work than that of, say, Stephen King. But there were still a number of significant adaptations of Bradbury’s work for both the small and big screen, including some that he was directly involved in as a screenwriter….

01 – It Came from Outer Space (1953)

With the exception of a handful of short stories adapted for various early 1950s anthology TV shows, this was the first relatively major film based on Bradbury’s work and still remains one of the finest. Oddly, it wasn’t adapted from a published story but an original screen treatment he developed for director Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon). 

In the film (the first sci-fi movie to use a 3D filming process), an alien ship crashes on Earth and its crew makes copies of the local townspeople to gather what they need to effect repairs. The aliens are not hostile, but merely want to fix their ship and leave peacefully. This was an unusual idea for the time — the extraterrestrials in most films from the era were decidedly dangerous — and sets It Came from Outer Space apart as a thoughtful yet still suspenseful piece. 

(2) FROM WAUKEGAN. When she was seven years old, Colleen Abel tells LitHub readers, she took something her grandmother said literally: “Growing Up With Ray Bradbury’s Ghost in Waukegan, Illinois”.

…Bradbury, intoning gravely over shots of the artefacts: People ask, Where do you get your ideas? Well, right here. As the camera pans, Bradbury says, Somewhere in this room is an African veldt. Beyond that, the small Illinois town where I grew up. He sits at a typewriter and the keys clatter. One night, watching these credits, my grandmother said to me, “You know, he’s from here.” She meant, of course, from Waukegan, “that small Illinois town” where he grew up and where we sat now in her neighborhood of tiny homes called The Gardens. But I, at age seven, thought she meant here, here in the house we sat in, that he had grown up in the house, perhaps even still lived in the basement which resembled, in its murk and books and clutter, the same office Bradbury sat down to write in during the opening credits of his tv show.

It wouldn’t be a bad premise for a Bradbury story: a young girl, bookish and morbid, discovers an author living in her grandmother’s musty basement. And in a way, he was there. My father’s old room was part of that basement, still set up the way it had been when he lived there, commuting to college and working part-time at a bookstore. One room was floor to ceiling bookshelves and by the time I was in junior high school, I would go down there regularly and pick something out to read. Most of the books were yellowed and falling apart, their covers marked with their original prices: fifteen cents. Among these were a few volumes of Bradbury’s short stories. I would pick one, often The Illustrated Man, and take it back upstairs to the velour armchair and settle in.

(3) “IN AN ATOMIC NUTSHELL.” First Fandom Experience dramatizes young Ray’s fanzine article: “In 1940, Ray Bradbury Asked, ‘Are You Ad Conditioned?’”

The latest video from First Fandom Experience brings to life a three-page screed by a young Ray Bradbury addressing the issue of the incongruous and annoying ads in pulp magazines.

The piece appeared in the Spring 1940 issue of Sweetness and Light, an edgy, satirical fanzine from a faction of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. A full reading of the piece is presented along with historical context and a selection of the offending advertisements. Enjoy!

(4) PIXEL BUDS. Plainly, it’s our duty here to signal boost the review of a product by this name: “Thoughts on Pixel Buds 2: The Buddening” by John Scalzi at Whatever.

1. To begin, they look pretty cool. Like the first generation, they come in their own little charging case, and when they’re nestled in there and the top is flipped open (which is a solidly satisfying tactile experience, by the way), it looks for all the world like a cute little robot with bug eyes (at least in the orange variant).

(5) WEREWOLF. THERE COURTHOUSE. “George R.R. Martin files lawsuit over film rights to a werewolf novella”: the LA Times has the news.

Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin has filed a lawsuit over the film rights to his werewolf novella “The Skin Trade.”

According to the complaint, filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Mike The Pike Productions was granted an option to the film rights of Martin’s novella in 2009. The company subsequently assigned the option to Blackstone Manor, LLC., the named defendants.

Described as a “werewolf noir,” “The Skin Trade” was originally published in 1988 as part of “Night Visions 5,” a horror anthology that also included stories by Stephen King and Dan Simmons. The story follows Randi Wade, a private investigator who is looking into a series of brutal killings in her small town, which eventually leads to her learning about werewolves and other demons. The story won a World Fantasy Award in 1989.

According to the complaint, Blackstone exercised the option on Sept. 2, 2014, and, per the 2009 agreement, it had five years to start principal photography before the rights reverted to Martin.

The complaint alleges that Blackstone “hastily assembl[ed] a barebones cast and crew” a day before the 2019 deadline “to shoot a handful of scenes” for no other reason than to maintain the appearance that it was making the progress necessary to retain the rights. Martin says the “token” production was “insufficient,” comparing the move to a contractor hurriedly building a gazebo in lieu of the agreed-upon skyscraper when faced with a deadline…

(6) WW84. DC dropped a new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 at the DC Fandome event.

Fast forward to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah. With director Patty Jenkins back at the helm and Gal Gadot returning in the title role, “Wonder Woman 1984” is Warner Bros. Pictures’ follow up to the DC Super Hero’s first outing, 2017’s record-breaking “Wonder Woman,” which took in $822 million at the worldwide box office. The film also stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Kristen Wiig as The Cheetah, Pedro Pascal as Max Lord, Robin Wright as Antiope, and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta.

(7) LEFT IN THE SILO. Nicholas Whyte, CoNZealand’s Deputy Hugo Administrator, in “The 1945 Retros that weren’t”, runs the numbers to show why various categories did not make the final ballot.

We didn’t publish the full stats for the 1945 Retro Hugo categories that weren’t put to the final ballot this year, mainly because voting ended only seven days before the Retro ceremony and we had to prioritise fairly ruthlessly.

But after internal discussion, we are publishing them here….

(8) THE SLUSHPILE’S MY DESTINATION. DreamForge Magazine returns with further explanations: “Why We Didn’t Buy Your Story, Part 2”.

What are the numbers again? This time we received over 600 works from hopeful contributors. At a guess, over 2 million words of fiction.

The majority of those writers really tried to send us something they thought we could use. For instance, we’re not a horror magazine. People knew that and sent very little horror. We didn’t get much in the way of apocalyptic dystopia either. Sex and swearing were at a minimum, yet people also recognized we’re not a children’s magazine nor specifically aimed at the young adult market.

By and large, the stories contained hopeful themes, big ideas and presented worlds filled with diversity, empathy, heroism, and hope.

I don’t have the exact numbers, but we read a lot of good stories. Let’s say 25% were “good to excellent.” It could be more. Conservatively, that would be over half a million words.

At $0.06/word, that’s over $30,000 (if we were able to buy all those good stories). While we do a good job of making DreamForge look big-time, that’s more than our annual budget for everything related to the magazine. And if we could somehow invest in all those stories, they would fill our pages for the next 3-4 years.

Second, creating an issue of a magazine is not just about selecting great stories. It’s about creating a reading experience. Think of it as a variety show. If all the stories are literary, philosophical, message pieces with troubled characters navigating complex plots, our readers aren’t going to make it through the whole issue.

Some stories are challenging, and they require a clear head and concentration before delivering a payoff in emotion or thoughtful meaning. And honestly, I don’t want to read those at 11:30 pm after a long day when I open a magazine for a few minutes of relaxation. I check the Table of Contents for a short story that looks light and easy to get through…

(9) ANGUS BUCHANAN OBITUARY. Industrial archaeologist and biographer Angus Buchanan died June 17. He is profiled in The Guardian. There’s a kind of steampunk sensibility to the topic.

Engineers shape economies, landscapes and how people work and live in them. Yet in the past their achievements were little celebrated. Angus Buchanan, who has died aged 90, did much to increase awareness of their endeavours and breakthroughs.

The appearance of his book Industrial Archaeology in Britain as a Pelican Original in 1972 marked a significant step forward for an emerging discipline. It supplied the crucial link between the development of industrial archaeology at regional and national levels in Britain, leading to the conservation, restoration and reuse of buildings, sites and engineering that might otherwise have been lost.

…The culmination of Buchanan’s research came with Brunel: The Life and Times of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (2002). In building the Great Western Railway and important bridges, tunnels and dockyards, the great Victorian engineer changed the face of the British landscape. Innovations at sea included the SS Great Britain, the first screw-driven iron transatlantic steamship, and his designs revolutionised modern engineering.

The biography provided the first fully documented and objective account, placing Brunel’s significance in a historical context. The desire to avoid concentrating on familiar incidents and the legends surrounding them led Buchanan to a thematic approach rather than a chronology, covering Brunel’s overseas projects and professional practices, and the politics and society within which he functioned, as well as familiar subjects, among them his other major ship, the SS Great Eastern.

The [Bristol Industrial Archeology Society] BIAS had a major influence on the preservation of Bristol’s city docks, thwarting traffic planners who wished to build a major road complex across them. In 1970 the Great Britain was returned from the Falklands to the dry dock where it had been built in 1843, and it is now a popular tourist attraction; nearby is another of Brunel’s masterpieces, the Clifton suspension bridge.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 22, 1957 X Minus One’s “Drop Dead” first aired. Based off of Clifford D. Simak‘s story of that name which was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in July of 1956,  it’s a superb tale about a planet with a very obliging inhabitant called The Critter and how it serves the astronauts who land there. The radio script was by Ernest Kinoy with the cast being Lawson Zerbe, Ralph Camargo and Joseph Bell.  You can listen to it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 22, 1880 – George Herriman.  Wrote the immortal and so far unique comic strip Krazy Kat; also illustrated Don Marquis’ poetical tales of Archy and Mehitabel a cockroach and another cat.  Krazy sometimes seems male, sometimes female, which hardly matters; is endlessly the target of bricks thrown by Ignatz Mouse, taking them as a sign of affection; is the subject of protection by Officer Pupp, to whom they are merely illegal.  Other characters, equally unlikely, are also animals (including birds), whom anthropomorphic is equally inadequate for.  Nor does dialectal justly describe the language, nor surreal the landscape.  Here is the theme.  Here is a variation.  Here is an elaboration.  (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1919 Douglas W F Mayer. A British fan who was editor for  three issues of Amateur Science Stories published by the Science Fiction Association of Leeds, England. He was thereby the publisher of Arthur C. Clarke’s very first short story, “Travel by Wire”, which appeared in the second issue in December 1937. He would later edit the Tomorrow fanzine which would be nominated for the 1939 Best Fanzine Retro Hugo. (Died 1976.) (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1920 Ray Bradbury. So what’s your favorite work by him? I have three. Something Wicked This Way Comes is the one I reread quite a bit with The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles being my other go to regularly works by him. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1925 Honor Blackman. Best known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts. She was also Professor Lasky in “Terror of the Vervoids” in the Sixth Doctor’s “The Trial of a Time Lord”. Genre adjacent, she was in the film of Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary as Rita Vandemeyer. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1945 David Chase, 75. He’s here today mainly because he wrote nine episodes including the “Kolchak: Demon and the Mummy” telefilm of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He also wrote the screenplay for The Grave of The Vampire, and one for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Enough Rope fur Two”, which he also directed. (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1946 – Rafi Zabor, 74 Seldom does work from outside our field wholly engage with our spirit.  But The Bear Comes Home is superb.  Naturally we ignore it.  It does have explicit sexual activity, not gratuitous.  In a year when Earthquake Weather could not reach the ballot, of course The Bear could not muster even 5% of the nominations.  Don’t let that stop you now.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1948 – Susan Wood.  Her we do recognize.  Met Mike Glicksohn at Boskone 4, 1969; Energumen together to 1973, Hugo as Best Fanzine its last year; both Fan Guests of Honour at Aussiecon (in retrospect Aussiecon One) the 33rd Worldcon though marriage gone.  Three Hugos for SW as Best Fanwriter; Best of SW (J. Kaufman ed.) 1982.  Taught at U. British Columbia; Vancouver editor, Pac. NW Rev. Books.  Atheling Award, Aurora Award for Lifetime Achievement, Canadian SF Hall of Fame.  One Ditmar.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1952 – Chuck Rothman, 68.  Two novels (Atlanta Nights with many co-authors was –), fifty shorter stories.  Interviewed in Flash Fiction Online Nov 15.  Movie-TV-music blog Great but Forgotten.  Einstein and CR’s grandfather.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1954 – Gavin Claypool, 66.  Los Angeles area actifan.  LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) Librarian.  Won LASFS Evans-Freehafer service award twice; only five people have ever done so.  Reliably helpful to others e.g. at SF cons.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1955 Will Shetterly, 65. Of his novels, I recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, which were both nominees for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, and his sort of biographical Dogland. Married to Emma Bull, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing as you’ll spot Minnesota fans in it. And Emma as the Elf Queen is definitely something to behold! (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1963 Tori Amos, 57. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams, and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman series is based on her. (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1964 – Diane Setterfield, Ph.D., 56.  Three novels.  The Thirteenth Tale sold three million copies (NY Times Best Seller), televised on BBC2.  “A reader first, a writer second….  The practice of weekly translation from my undergraduate years [her Ph.D., from U. Bristol, was on André Gide] has become an everyday working tool for me: when a sentence doesn’t run the way I want it to, I habitually translate it into French and retranslate it back into English.  It’s like switching a light on in a dim room: suddenly I can see what’s not working and why.”  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SUICIDE SQUAD ROLL CALL. Adam B. Vary, in the Variety story “‘The Suicide Squad’ First Look, Full Cast Revealed by Director James Gunn at DC FanDome” says that director James Gunn revealed at DC Fandome that the cast of The Suicide Squad, coming out in April 2021, includes Margot Robbie and Viola Davis from the 2016 film Suicide Squad but also Nathan Fillion, John Cena, and Peter Capaldi as “The Thinker,” a DC villain from the 1940s.  Principal photography was completed before the pandemic hit and the film is completed and ready to go.

… Among the new cast, Gunn said that he reached deep into the DC Comics canon to find a motley crew of villains to populate the movie, and it appears he brought some invention of his own to the project as well.

(14) A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN. “DC FanDome: Snyder Cut of Justice League to be four hours” at Lyles Movie Files.

…A big question was how the Snyder Cut would get released in HBO MAX. Snyder revealed it will be split into four one-hour segments.

Snyder then teased an entire full uninterrupted version as well with maybe the possibility of a solo purchase version.

(15) SOME CELESTIAL OBJECTS WILL BE RENAMED. “NASA to Reexamine Nicknames for Cosmic Objects”. The full statement is at the link.

Distant cosmic objects such as planets, galaxies, and nebulae are sometimes referred to by the scientific community with unofficial nicknames. As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful. NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the “Eskimo Nebula.” “Eskimo” is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Most official documents have moved away from its use. NASA will also no longer use the term “Siamese Twins Galaxy” to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Moving forward, NASA will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate. 

…Nicknames are often more approachable and public-friendly than official names for cosmic objects, such as Barnard 33, whose nickname “the Horsehead Nebula” invokes its appearance. But often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science. 

The Agency will be working with diversity, inclusion, and equity experts in the astronomical and physical sciences to provide guidance and recommendations for other nicknames and terms for review….

(16) HONEST GAME TRAILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Fandom Games asks in this Honest Game Trailer, “Destroy All Humans”, since alien invasion is “the only box left on the 2020 bingo card” why not enjoy this 2005 game where you’re an alien mowing down humans and giving bad Jack Nicholson impressions?

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

Pixel Scroll 6/18/20 On And On They Filed Until They Reached The Sea Of Pixelbilities, Where They Could Scroll No Further

(1) GLORIOUS. Benford and Niven’s third and final book in their Bowl of Heaven series is out, and they’ll be doing a Powell’s Books Zoom event on June 30, 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

Written by acclaimed, multi-award-winning authors, Gregory Benford (Timescape) and Larry Niven’s (Ringworld), GLORIOUS (Tor Books) concludes the Bowl of Heaven series praised by Booklist as “a solid adventure and entertaining speculation on the lives of alien creatures.”

In the journey that began with the New York Times bestseller, Bowl of Heaven and its sequel, Shipstar, audacious astronauts encounter bizarre, sometimes deadly life forms, and strange, exotic, cosmic phenomena, including miniature black holes, dense fields of interstellar plasma, powerful gravity-emitters, and spectacularly massive space-based, alien-built labyrinths. The alien civilization is far more advanced than our own, and difficult for our astronauts to comprehend. The astronauts must explore and document this brave, new, highly dangerous world, while also dealing with their own personal triumphs and conflicts — their loves and jealousies, joys and disappointments.

Benford and Niven are masters of the science fiction genre and a sci-fi power duo. Together they have combined their talents and expertise to create an unforgettable series for science-fiction fans everywhere.

(2) MY PRECIOUS. Michael Dirda’s resolve to get rid of some of his books has been sorely tried — as happens to so many of us — “By day, I’ve been trying to cull my book collection. But at night, eBay beckons” in the Washington Post.

… Alas, my plan to sort and cull my thousands of books — described last week in my Zippy Shell column — failed to make allowance for human nature. For even as I was straining my back by carrying boxes up the stairs to donate or sell to the noble used book dealers of Washington, come bedtime I would go online to take a quick peek at the current offerings from L.W. Currey, John W. Knott, Richard Dalby’s Library, Type Punch Matrix, Wonder Book and Video or Capitol Hill Books. It didn’t matter that I ached like a stevedore at the end of a double shift. During daylight hours, the world applauded a crusading Dr. Jekyll energetically focused on discarding and recycling printed matter, but once night fell Mr. Hyde would emerge and, while fiendishly cackling, type arcane titles into the search engines of viaLibri, eBay and Addall. Typically, when a friend recently recommended H.B. Marriott Watson’s “The Adventurers” (1898), there was suddenly nothing I wanted more in the world than a copy of this forgotten piece of swashbuckling Victoriana….

(3) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. UK publication Infinity Magazine subsequently deleted the public post screencapped below.

(4) GENESIS. Although Mark Lawrence takes J.K. Rowling and Ursula Le Guin as texts, more than anything his post “Influence” is a warning to readers who want to infer the source of a writer’s ideas based on similarities to other works.

One of the questions I’m most often asked in the gazillion blog interviews I’ve done is (second only to “Where do you get your ideas?“):

What are your influences?

It’s a question I’ve always had difficulty answering and am saved from mainly by being able to point at two very clear influences for my first two trilogies.

Let’s note that influence comes in many forms, not least: writing style, characters, ideas/topics, and book structure.

(5) COMING IN 2021. HBO Max dropped this sneak peek at Zack Snyder’s Justice League today.

(6) WE WON? The BBC reports “Six movies resuming production after coronavirus”; 5 are genre.

While lockdown may have provided us with the chance to catch up on some old movies, there’s only so many you can watch before you crave something new.

Agreed? Agreed.

Well, fear not, because around the world some of the big-hitters are starting to re-commence production – which was of course halted by Covid-19 – in a variety of socially-distanced ways.

Here are just six of the films to keep your fingers crossed for then in 2021, when the cinemas are hopefully back in business.

Avatar 2

The long-awaited sequel to James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi blockbuster was able to re-start filming in New Zealand this week, because the country is almost coronavirus free.

Cameron and producer Jon Landau told the press Down Under that part two of the planned five-part film series; rumoured to be called The Way of Water (oh yeah, it’s set under water this time, by the way) would bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars back into the country following the pandemic.

Landau shared a photo on Instagram earlier this week as the production got under way.

It will also bring some more big names including Kate Winslet and Vin Diesel to add to returning original stars Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington.

Avatar 2, which is intended to work as a standalone feature (you won’t need to have seen the first one, in other words), will focus on the children of Sully and Neytiri, who are by now leaders of their clan.

The film is now slated for a December 2021 release, with film five in the diary already for 2027 – for those of you who like to plan ahead.

(7) CLOCKING IN. The Root spreads the word: “Tick Tock: Watchmen Will Be Free on HBO for a Few Days Starting on Juneteenth—You Must Watch It”.

…But, you only have a limited time—This offer will only be available Friday June 19 through Sunday June 21. You have 3 days to watch the debut season, which is a total of 9 episodes. Since everyone should be binging experts by now, that’s light work!

…In addition to its groundbreaking portrayal of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Watchmen is a must-watch due to its timely thesis on white supremacy. In fact, it’s worth a revisit or two to truly reflect on its themes in a critical way. I certainly plan to revisit it.

So go ahead and watch Watchmen and discuss the episodes thoroughly. View the show for free online via HBO.com and via On Demand.

(8) HEAR FROM HUGO FINALISTS. Saturday’s episode of Essence of Wonder will have the “Hugo finalists for Short Story and Editors”. June 20 at 3p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

Nibedita Sen, Fran Wilde, Alix E. Harrow, SL Huang, and Shiv Ramdas will join Karen Castelletti to discuss their nominations for Best Short Story.

That panel will be followed by “A Mini Show With Lior Manor, Mentalist.”

Then, at 4:40p.m. Eastern will follow a “Panel Discussion With Hugo Awards Finalists in the Best Editor Short Form Category” —

Ellen Datlow, Lynne Thomas, Neil Clarke, Lynne M Thomas, and Michael Thomas will join Gadi to discuss their nomination and work.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1971 — Larry Niven’s All the Myriad Ways, his third collection, was published by Ballantine Books. Costing $.95 and having 181 pages, it included a number of stories of interest such as the first Gil the ARM story, “The Jigsaw Man”, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” and “What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?“. It is currently available from all the usual digital suspects. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 18, 1862 – Carolyn Wells.  A hundred seventy books, many for children, many more mystery fiction, also poetry, plays.For us, Folly in Fairyland – reprinted 2016 – no, not that, “Folly” is a nickname for Florinda; anyway, see here.  And here is A-L of her Animal Alphabet; when you look at the rest of this Ink-Slinger’s Profile you’ll recognize Mark Twain, but you should know Skippy was a popular 1923-1945 comic strip.  There’s more, but I’ll stop now.  (Died 1942) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1889 – Elisabeth Holding.  More mystery fiction; no less than Tony Boucher applauded its “subtlety, realistic conviction, incredible economy”.  For us, he praised Miss Kelly too, about a cat who learns to speak with humans: “one of those too-rare juvenile fantasies with delightful appeal to the adult connoisseur.”  We can also claim three shorter stories, translated into Dutch, French, Italian.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1908 Bud Collyer. So far as genre is concerned, he’s best-remembered from radio, starring in the dual role of Clark Kent and Superman beginning in early 1940 on The Adventures of Superman on the Mutual Broadcasting System, a role he also would do in the later Superman and other cartoons such as Aquaman and the Batman/Superman Hour. He was posthumously named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. (Died 1969.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1917 Richard Boone. He did only two genre roles, one of which — playing Maston Thrust Jr. in The Last Dinosaur — I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen. The other however is one that nearly everyone here has heard, yes, heard, as he voiced Smaug in the Rankin/Bass animated The Hobbit. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1926 – Allan Sandage, Ph.D.  Important next-door neighbor: an astronomer, possibly a great one.  Regarded for thirty years as the pre-eminent observational cosmologist.  Published two atlases of galaxies; five hundred papers.  Warner, Crafoord, Gruber Prizes; Eddington, Cresson, Bruce Medals; Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.  See here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1931 Dick Spelman. A fan and a legendary book dealer who was active at SF conventions from the late Seventies  through the early Nineties. He chaired Windycon IX in 1982. He was a member of the board of directors of Chicon IV, and ran the Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons. In 1991 he sold his book business to Larry Smith and retired to Orlando, where he was active in local fannish affairs. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1942 Roger Ebert. He got his start as a fanzine writer while in high school, publishing the Stymie zine and having his writing appear in Xero, Yandro and many other zines such as KippleParsection and Psi-Phi. In university, he was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association. His fannish autobiography is How Propellor-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors and Kids in Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System. Mike has much to say about him here. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1942 – Redmond Simonsen.  Game designer; indeed credited with coining that phrase, and “physical system design”.  Founding editor of Ares magazine.  Charles Roberts Awards Hall of Fame.  King of Clubs in Flying Buffalo’s 2008 Origins Poker Deck.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1947 Linda Thorson, 73. Though Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was John Steed’s best-known partner on The Avengers, she was not his first nor his last. His last one would be Tara King played by this actress. She was the only one to be a real spy. Interesting that other than an appearance on Tales from The Darkside, her only other genre performance was on The Next Gen as Gul Ocett in “The Chase” episode”. (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1949 Chris Van Allsburg, 71. For some twenty years now, the local Narrow Gauge Railroad has ran a Polar Express every Christmas season compete with cars decorated in high Victorian fashion and steaming cups of hot chocolate. It always sells out for the entire month. Allsburg‘s Polar Express book is just magical for me and I enjoy his Jumanji every bit as much. He illustrated A City in Winter which was written by Mark Helprin — highly recommended. (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1951 – Vivian Vande Velde 69.  Fiction for children and young adults.  Two dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories.  Edgar Award for Never Trust a Dead Man, also School Library Journal Book of the Year.  Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize.  Paterson Prize. “When our daughter was born, I quit my job….  Since I was home all day, I had to either take housework more seriously or come up with a good excuse why I couldn’t…. Writing turned out to be harder work than I thought…. getting published was even harder…. 32 different publishers … before number 33 said yes.”  [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1971 – Sarah Hines Stephens 49.  Two Wonder Woman stories, here’s one; two about a girl (I mean really a girl, she’s in 6th Grade) whose study of insects grosses out her friends, but then invaders invade and she develops insectile powers (not all insects are bugs, but I can’t help that, the title wouldn’t have been as cool if it had been Bugged Girl); four dozen in all, some with co-authors, some re-tellings, some non-fiction.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TERRAN PRIZE. George R.R. Martin announced that Maurice Haeems will receive the scholarship he funds to bring a writer to the Taos Toolbox:  “Haeems Wins Terran Prize”.

…With that in mind, back in 2018 I established THE TERRAN PRIZE,  to bring an aspiring SF writer from abroad to the Taos Toolbox, the graduate level writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams runs every summer in the mountains of northern New Mexico.  The Prize is given annually and covers all tuition and fees to the Toolbox (but not travel).

…Maurice was born in Mumbai and has a bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the University of Mumbai and an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Over the last 30 years, he has lived in Mumbai, London, Hong Kong, Taipei, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dubai while pursuing professional careers in mechanical engineering, investment banking, and software entrepreneurship.

(13) WILL THIS CHOPPER GET IN THE AIR? In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport discusses the Mars mission to be launched in July and how the Mars rover Perseverance has a helicopter attached, nicknamed “Ingenuity,” which will be the first aircraft to flit on another planet. “NASA rushing to complete Mars launch before planet moves out of range. Mission to include first-ever helicopter exploration.”

… In addition to probing for signs of ancient life on and below the Martian surface, the Perseverance mission would also take to the skies. The Ingenuity helicopter would attempt to fly — an exceedingly difficult task given that the “atmosphere on Mars is only one percent the density that we have here on Earth,” Wallace said. “Trying to control a system like this under those conditions is not easy.”

NASA said it hopes to get at least three flights from the helicopter, but it stressed that it was purely a technology demonstration mission and that it would take each one as they come.

(14) DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT. Count on Jon Del Arroz to bring you yesterday’s 770 content today!

(15) HALLOWEEN TREE. But here’s today’s Bradbury news, via Deadline:“Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Halloween Tree’ In The Works As Movie At Warner Bros With Will Dunn Adapting”.

We have learned that Will Dunn has been tapped by Warner Bros to adapt Ray Bradbury’s 1972 fantasy novel The Halloween Tree

…Bradbury wrote and narrated Hanna-Barbera’s 1993 feature-length animated version of the novel for television, for which he won the 1994 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.

(16) NOT-QUITE-THE-NEXT-GENERATION. On the other hand, here’s some much older Roddenberry news — JDA might like that even better! From TrekMovie in 2018: “Unearthed: Pre-Roddenberry ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Pitch Was A Wildly Different Show”.

…The 8-page concept pitch, entitled “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” was conceived by producer Greg Strangis (War of the Worlds, Falcon Crest) over the summer of 1986 and is set during a 10-year war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It tells the story of the U.S.S. Odyssey, a ship ferrying a group of cadets on their first deep space assignment and tasked with delivering a document to Organia that could ultimately change the course of the war.

While some of the ideas in this concept can be seen in what ultimately became Star Trek: The Next Generation (such as a young Klingon officer as part of the crew), this original pitch bears little resemblance to the show that went on to have seven successful seasons. One of the more creative ideas was how the original captain dies in the pilot, but “continues to ‘live’ in the ship’s computer” as a hologram who can be summoned for advice….

So would this character have turned into the Emergency Holographic Captain?

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

Pixel Scroll 5/20/20 Don’t Wait To Get Filed, There Are Pixels To Scroll And Boxes To Tick

(1) TAP INTO THE COMMUNITY. Cat Rambo gives writers a list of tips about “How to Ask for Things” at the SFWA Blog.

One thing that can really boost a writer in their early career is getting help from a more experienced writer. The fantasy and science fiction genre has a long and valued tradition of “paying things forward,” mentoring and assisting newer writers to pay back the way they themselves were helped when they first came onto the scene….

Accordingly, I join others telling new writers not to be afraid to draw on this tradition and ask for things. But I do have some tips for making those asks more successful.

Above all: be specific, and do as much of the work for the other person as you can. The reference letter where I have the URL to submit it, the applicant’s statement of purpose, and their notes of stuff I might want to hit are more likely to get written than the one where I have to ask or search online for the information…

(2) NOT USING WESTERN UNION. NPR’s Annalisa Quinn finds that “‘The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes’ Is A Lackluster Prequel To ‘The Hunger Games'”.

With her Hunger Games novels, Suzanne Collins harnessed a combination of twisty plots, teen romance, dystopian worldbuilding and subtle intimations of cannibalism to sell more than 100 million books around the world.

The premise was unbeatable: Authoritarian regime forces children to fight to the death on live TV; rebellion ensues. But much of the series’ appeal came from the spiky charisma of protagonist Katniss Everdeen, the sharpshooting teenager who wins the games and starts a revolution while choosing between two boys who are as alike in cuteness as they are different in Weltanschauung.

Collins’ new novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is a baggy, meandering prequel to the events of The Hunger Games that tells the story of Katniss’ nemesis and Panem’s authoritarian ruler, Coriolanus Snow. With his Roman tyrant’s name, surgically altered face and breath smelling of blood and roses, Coriolanus appeared as a distant villain throughout most of The Hunger Games series. It’s only the last installment that gives him a touch of mystery — in its final pages, sentenced to public execution, he instead dies laughing, choked on his own blood.

…The question of how much of character is innate, how much formed, becomes a more explicit — OK, painfully obvious — theme in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The novel is a plinth for two opposing worldviews. The cruel Hobbesian Gamemaster tells Coriolanus that the hunger games are a reminder that people are monsters kept only in check by strong rule: “What happened in the arena? That’s humanity undressed. … That’s mankind in its natural state.” Meanwhile, in spite of the cruelty she suffers in the arena, Lucy Gray believes that there is “a natural goodness built into human beings.” The debate matters, the Gamemaster says, “[b]ecause who we are determines the type of governing we need” — a republic or a tyranny.

(3) ICONIC ACTRESS DEPARTS BATWOMAN. “Ruby Rose leaves Batwoman – and other stars who exited major roles” – BBC has an overview.

The Australian actress Ruby Rose is to leave her role as comic book superhero Batwoman after just one series.

Rose said it had been a “very difficult decision” not to return to the show, which is shown in the UK on E4.

Batwoman, which began on the CW network last year, is the first superhero show to have an openly gay lead character.

Its producers said they were “firmly committed” to the show’s “long-term” future and would re-cast the role with another member of the LGBTQ community.

Rose, who is openly gay, said she was “truly grateful… to everyone who made season one a success”.

The 34-year-old said she had “the utmost respect” for everyone involved and that the decision to leave had not been “made lightly”.

(4) GETTING EVEN. Even if you’re working at home that presence is probably lurking in Zoom. Does James Davis Nicoll suspect what might happen after you read “Five Revenge Tales Featuring Treacherous Bosses and Evil Overlords”?

…David Drake’s mercenary troupe, Hammer’s Slammers (commanded by Friesland’s Colonel Alois Hammer), was formed to suppress an uprising on Friesland’s colony-world Melpomone. The foreign mercenaries were offered settlement on wealthy Friesland in exchange for their services, as well as a chunk of cash. But after the mercenaries crushed the rebellion, Friesland’s government decided that it wasn’t such a great idea to settle battle-hardened mercenaries in their midst. Nor did it seem like a good idea to let the mercenaries sell their skills to other employers, since said employers could well be Friesland’s enemies. Best idea: kill off the now-superfluous soldiers. Friesland expects that their own Colonel Hammer will acquiesce. They are wrong. Hammer sides with his soldiers. Forewarned, the Slammers obliterate their would-be assassins and become the very destabilizing force that Friesland had feared.

(5) FULFILLING A ROLL. In “A City Locks Down to Fight Coronavirus, but Robots Come and Go”, the New York Times studies the success of an emerging technology.

If any place was prepared for quarantine, it was Milton Keynes. Two years before the pandemic, a start-up called Starship Technologies deployed a fleet of rolling delivery robots in the small city about 50 miles northwest of London.

The squat six-wheeled robots shuttled groceries and dinner orders to homes and offices. As the coronavirus spread, Starship shifted the fleet even further into grocery deliveries. Locals like Emma Maslin could buy from the corner store with no human contact.

“There’s no social interaction with a robot,” Ms. Maslin said.

The sudden usefulness of the robots to people staying in their homes is a tantalizing hint of what the machines could one day accomplish — at least under ideal conditions. Milton Keynes, with a population of 270,000 and a vast network of bicycle paths, is perfectly suited to rolling robots. Demand has been so high in recent weeks, some residents have spent days trying to schedule a delivery.

(6) THOMAS OBIT. German film composer Peter Thomas, who died May 19, aged 94. Cora Buhlert says that since she couldn’t find an English language obituary, she wrote one herself: “In Memoriam: Peter Thomas”. Thomas provided the soundtracks for a lot of SFF works, including the legendary SF TV series Raumpatrouille Orion as well as the 1959 science fiction film Moonwolf and a lost TV adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. A lot of the Edgar Wallace thrillers, for which he composed the music, are borderline SFF as well.

(7) LIPPINCOTT OBIT. Charles Lippincott (1939-2020), whose work marketing Star Wars changed the way movies are publicized, died May 19 following a heart attack last week. He was 80. The Hollywood Reporter traced his beginnings:

Lippincott worked on campaigns for a number of groundbreaking films, including Michael Crichton’s Westworld (1973); Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot (1976); Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979); and Flash Gordon (1980). But it was his work on Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) that left the biggest mark, and he helped reshape how movies are marketed.

Craig Miller, in his recent book Star Wars Memories, notes that Lippincott went to USC Film School at the same time as George Lucas. At the Star Wars Corporation —

Charley was responsible for a lot. He made sure every character, every name, every image was properly copyrighted and trademarked. He made the licensing deals (along with Marc Pevers, an attorney who was Vice President of Licensing at 20th Century Fox) for the merchandise that, despite the enormous box office gross, was the real profit center for Lucasfilm. He was even part of the pitches to the 20th Century-Fox Board, to help convince them to make the movie.

Charles Lippincott

Lippincott’s other film publicity and advertising credits include Judge Dredd (which he also produced) and Comic Book Confidential (which he wrote and produced), which starred Star Wars’ Mark Hammill.

I’ve always been grateful to him for the chance to bask in the reflected glory of Star Wars when, in my first meeting as LASFS president, held at the 1976 Westercon, I introduced his promotional pre-release Star Wars slide show.

You can find many posts about marketing and Star Wars industry history at his blog From the Desk of Charles Lippincott.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 20, 1950 Dimension X’s “The Lost Race” was playing on NBC stations nationwide. Ernest Kinoy adapted the story from Murray Leinster’s “The Lost,” first published in the April 1949 of Thrilling Wonder Stories. A space crew find themselves shipwrecked on a world where the ruins of a long dead spacefaring civilization hide a deadly secret that has much power to destroy the present as it did the past.  Matt Crowley, Kermit Murdock and Joseph Julian were the cast. You can listen to it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 20, 1799 – Honoré de Balzac.  His complete works total 20,000 pages.  We can claim six novels, three dozen shorter stories, translated into English, German, Romanian, sometimes more than once.  What of The Quest for the Absolute, whose alchemist hero at the end cries Eureka! [Greek, “I have found it”] and dies: is it fantasy?  (Died 1850) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics and other companies as well. He was prolific enough that historians of the field estimate he wrote more than four thousand comics stories, including 1,500 for just DC Comics. For DC, he created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-in novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1911 – Annie Schmidt.  Mother of the Dutch theatrical song, queen of Dutch children’s literature.  Hans Christian Andersen Medal.  Poetry, songs, plays, musicals, radio and television for adults.  Two fantasies for us, Minoes (tr. as The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof), Pluk van de Petteflet (tr. as Tow-Truck Pluck).  One of fifty in the Dutch Canon with Erasmus, Rembrandt, Spinoza, Van Gogh, Anne Frank; see here.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1925 – Roy Tackett.  “HORT” (Horrible Old Roy Tackett, so named by Bruce Pelz; while RT was alive, anyone hearing this responded “Oh, I know Roy, and he’s not that old!”) is credited with introducing SF to Japan.  Active since 1936, drifted away in the late 1950s, returned upon finding the Coulsons’ fanzine Yandro, published a hundred issues of his fanzine Dynatron.   Co-founded the Albuquerque (New Mexico) SF Society and Bubonicon.  Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, 1976; report, Tackett’s Travels in Taffland.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXI and the 55th Worldcon.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 92. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. Its narrator is a feline who speaks and who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series which gets better in characterization as it goes along. She also did some more traditional genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1940 Joan Staley. She showed up twice as Okie Annie on Batman in “It’s How You Play the Game” and “Come Back, Shame“. She played Ginny in Mission Impossible’s two-parter, “The Council”, and she was in Prehistoric Valley (Dinosaurs! Caveman! Playboy mates in bikinis!) (Died 2019) (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1946 – Mike Glicksohn.  A great loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) comparable to Harry Warner; three Fan Activity Achievement awards.  Founding member of Ontario (Canada) SF Club.  With Susan Wood published the superb fanzine Energumen, Hugo winner 1973; with her, Fan Guests of Honour at the 33rd Worldcon; his trip report, The Hat Goes Home (he famously wore an Australian bush hat).  Co-founded the fanziners’ con Ditto (named for a brand of spirit-duplicator machine).  One of our best auctioneers at Art Shows, at fund-raisers for cons and for traveling-fan funds.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1949 – Mary Pope Osborne.  Children’s and young-adults’ book author best known for the Magic Tree House series, sixty of them so far; 164 million copies sold; animé film grossed $5.7 million, donated to educational projects.  Iliad and Odyssey retelling books, also myths e.g. Echo, Atalanta, Ceres; Thor, Baldur.  Thirty chapbooks.  Camped six weeks in a cave on Crete.  Two separate terms president of the Authors Guild.  Says she tries to be as simple and direct as Hemingway.  Honorary Doctorate of Letters, U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1951 Steve Jackson, 69. With Ian Livingstone, he founded Games Workshop and  also the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, the two most dominant aspects of the UK games industry before it came to be essentially wiped by the advent of videogames. I’m fairly sure the only one of his works that I’ve played is Starship Traveller which I’d been playing around the same time as Traveller. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1954 – Pat Morrissey.  Thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors; Magic, the Gathering cards; limited-edition prints; tattoos; Einstein Planetarium at Smithsonian Institute; Philadelphia Museum of Science; sometimes as Pat Lewis, Pat Morrissey-Lewis.  See herehere.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1954 – Luis Royo.  Prolific Spanish artist; covers in and out of our field, comics, a Tarot deck, CDs, video games; a domed-ceiling fresco in Moscow (with his son Romulo Royo).  Spectrum silver award, Inkpot award.  See hereherehere.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 59. Best known role is as Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1968 Timothy Olyphant, 52. He’s been cast in the next season of The Mandalorian where he might be Sheriff Cobb Vanth which in turn means he’d be wearing Bobo Fett’s salvaged armor. And he was Sheriff Seth Bullock in the Deadwood franchise which must at least genre adjacent given the great love of it by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) A KINDER CUT. Apparently, we’ll get to find out. “What if the Snyder Cut of Justice League is actually great?” Jeffrey Lyles of Lyles Movie Files has hope.

…All of which to say is I’m actually very interested in the HBO Max launch 2021 reveal of the Snyder cut of Justice League. I’m surprised it needs to wait another year to debut unless Warner Bros. is throwing out some more cash for some post production elements. If anything the Snyder cut will be a win because it shouldn’t feature a digitally removed mustache version of Cavill’s Superman with the odd lip CGI.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Snyder said while he’s never watched the version Joss Whedon completed, fans “probably saw one-fourth of what I did.” Snyder added, “It will be an entirely new thing, and, especially talking to those who have seen the released movie, a new experience apart from that movie.

(12) SPACEX MISSION. “Astronauts arrive at Kennedy for historic launch” – BBC has the story.

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for their historic mission next week.

The pair’s flight to the International Space Station (ISS) will be made in a rocket and capsule system provided by a commercial company, SpaceX.

Nasa has traditionally always owned and operated its space vehicles.

But that is a capability it gave up in 2011 when it retired the last of the space shuttles.

The agency now intends to contract out all future crew transportation to low-Earth orbit.

Hurley and Behnken flew into Florida from the agency’s human spaceflight headquarters in Texas where they have been in quarantine.

They’ll continue protecting their health at Kennedy as they get ready for Wednesday’s planned lift-off.

Their rocket, a Falcon-9, and capsule, known as Dragon, will be wheeled out to the spaceport’s famous launch pad – complex 39A – in the next few days for its static fire test.

This will see the Falcon ignite briefly all nine of its first-stage engines to check they are fit to go.

(13) TURNOVER AT NASA. But why did you resign? NASA doesn’t usually remind me of The Prisoner, “Nasa: Doug Loverro steps down days before crewed launch”.

The head of Nasa’s human spaceflight programme has stepped down just days before a “historic” launch.

Doug Loverro resigned on Monday, Nasa announced, less than a year after his appointment.

…No official reason for Mr Loverro’s departure has been announced, but a leaked copy of an email sent to Nasa employees mentioned a risk taken earlier in the year “because I judged it necessary to fulfil our mission”.

“Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences,” the message continued.

While Mr Loverro offered no further explanation, he told the Axios news website that his decision to leave the agency was unrelated to the upcoming launch. “I have 100% faith in the success of that mission,” he said.

Mr Loverro was appointed in October last year. His deputy, Ken Bowersox, will become the acting head of human spaceflight.

(15) BIG BIRD. And BBC has the word: “Megaraptor: Fossils of 10m-long dinosaur found in Argentina”.

Palaeontologists have found the fossils of a new megaraptor in Patagonia, in the south of Argentina.

Megaraptors were large carnivorous dinosaurs with long arms and claws measuring up to 35cm (14in) in length.

They also had powerful legs and long tails which made them more agile than the Tyrannosaurus rex and allowed them to catch smaller herbivorous dinosaurs.

The new megaraptor is one of the last of its group, before dinosaurs became extinct, the scientific team says.

(16) TAKE ONE TABLET AND CALL ME IN THE MORNING. “Gilgamesh tablet: Bid to confiscate artefact from Museum of the Bible reports the BBC.

US prosecutors are seeking to confiscate a rare ancient tablet from a Christian museum co-founded by the president of retailer Hobby Lobby.

The 3,500-year-old artefact, from what is now Iraq, bears text from the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest works of literature.

Prosecutors allege that an auction house deliberately withheld information about its origins.

Hobby Lobby said it was co-operating with government investigations.

It bought the tablet from the auction house in a private sale in 2014 for $1.67m (£1.36m) for display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington.

The office of the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York says the tablet was illegally imported into the US.

(17) JEOPARDY! Last night’s Jeopardy! contestants struggled with this one, says Andrew Porter.

Category: Adventure Novels.

Answer: In this novel the surname of a pastor, his wife & 4 sons is not given in the text; the title was meant to evoke a 1719 novel.

Wrong questions: “What is Gulliver’s Travels?” and “What is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?”

Correct question: “What is Swiss Family Robinson?”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “This is What The Matrix Really Looks Like Without CGI!!!–Special Effects Breakdown” on YouTube, Fame Focus looks at how the special effects crew of the matrix used a combination of CGI, wire work, rear projection, and miniatures to acheive the spectacular special effects of The Matrix.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/27/20 Say, Isn’t That The Scrolled Pixel Of Filothrace?

(1) BAD DOG. “No Doctor Who spoilers will adorn future Pixel Scrolls,” promised Mike Glyer, after spending the day being chastised by File 770 commenters.

(2) BAD IDEA THAT’S DESTINED TO HAPPEN? Alex Kurtzman says it’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide…or something like that: “The Future of ‘Star Trek’ and Why the ‘Doors Are Just Opening’ for a Film-TV Crossover” at The Wrap.

Now that “Star Trek” has beamed Jean-Luc Picard back up into its universe, the sci-fi franchise’s captain is already plotting its next course. And that may include mind-melding the film and TV universes after more than a decade apart.

When Viacom and CBS agreed to re-merge, after spending the past 14 years as separate companies, the film and TV rights to “Star Trek” once again came under the same corporate roof. CBS TV Studios controls the TV side, while Paramount has steered the Enterprise on the film part of the universe.

Alex Kurtzman, who oversees “Star Trek” for CBS TV Studios, believes it’s only a matter of time before the film and TV worlds of “Star Trek” collide.

 “The ink has just dried on the merger and the doors are just opening. So I think anything is possible at this point,” he told TheWrap. “I can’t imagine that CBS and Paramount, in their infinite wisdom, would say lets create two ‘Star Trek’s and have them be separate. That doesn’t seem like it would be a good strategy to me.”

(3) MONEY? GONE IN A FLASH! “DC Comics has its own super hero-themed credit cards” at CNET. The Justice League says, “Charge! it.”

If you’ve ever wanted to show off your love of DC Universe super heroes with a themed credit card, now’s your chance. DC Comics has teamed up with Visa to launch a series of credit cards with entertainment rewards. 

You can choose between seven different designs: animated Batman images for the character’s 80th anniversary; the Batman symbol; an animated Superman opening his shirt to the logo underneath; the Wonder Woman symbol; The Flash’s symbol; an animated Harley Quinn; and the whole Justice League in animated form. 

(4) LIST OF THINGS THAT WOULD BE BAD. CrowdScience asks “Could we survive an extinction event?” – available at BBC Sounds.

Super-sized volcanic eruptions and giant asteroids crashing in from outer space are the stuff of disaster movies. They have listener Santosh from South Africa slightly concerned. He’d like to know what’s being done in real life to prepare for this kind of event.

Although the chance of these events occurring is low, Santosh isn’t entirely wrong to be worried: Earth has a much longer history than humans do, and there’s evidence that several past extinction events millions of years ago wiped out the dominant species on the planet at the time, as we’ve heard before on CrowdScience. The kind of extraordinary geological and extra-terrestrial hazards thought to be responsible for the death of millions of lives do still exist. So is there really any way that humans could survive where the dinosaurs – and plenty of other species – have failed? 

Presenter Marnie Chesterton finds out by meeting experts who are already preparing for the remote but real possibility of the biggest disaster we could face. It turns out that in real life most things we can think of which could cause an extinction event are being watched closely by scientists and governmental agencies. 

How worried we should really be by the possibility of a sudden super-volcanic eruption at Yellowstone in the USA, or one of the other enormous volcanoes dotting our planet’s surface? Marnie heads into an underground bunker near the remote Scottish coast to find out if hiding out is a viable survival option. Now a museum, Scotland’s Secret Bunker, formerly RAF Troywood, is one of a network of nuclear shelters built by nation states during the Cold War. 

And she hears about one of the combined space agencies most ambitious projects yet: NASA and ESA’s Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission to crash an impactor into an asteroid’s moon to find out whether we could knock any potentially problematic collisions off-course well before Earth impact

(5) PAUSEWANG OBIT. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Gudrun Pausewang, a German YA author who occasionally ventured into SFF, died on January 24 at the age of 91. Ms. Pausewang’s forays into science fiction were mainly dystopian such as the 1983 novel The Last Children of Schewenborn, a story about life and death (but mainly death) after a nuclear war, and the 1987 novel The Cloud about the fallout from a nuclear disaster, which sits on the reading list of many German schools. She also wrote less gloomy fare on occasion such as the 1972 modern fairytale “The Merman Behind the House”. I wasn’t a huge fan of her work – way too gloomy for my tastes – but she was certainly an important voice. Here is an English language obituary: “Anti-nuclear author Gudrun Pausewang dies”.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 27, 1980 Galactica 1980 premiered on ABC. A spin-off from the original Battlestar Galactica series, it was the result of a massive letter writing campaign in the days before email which made the network actually pay attention. Alas it performed quite poorly and was canceled after the initial order of ten episodes. I remember Lorne Greene as Commander Adama was the only major returning cast member, but I’ll freely admit I’ve not seen either series in decades so that could be inaccurate. The DVD release twenty seventy years later would be carry the tagline of “The Original Battlestar Galactica’s Final Season”. 
  • January 27, 1998 The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy premiered on UPN. Written by Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist, it was directed by Joe Dante. It starred  John Corbett, Carolyn McCormick, Rod Taylor, John Pyper-Ferguson, Elisabeth Harnois and J. Madison Wright. It was intended as a pilot for The Osiris Chronicles series but that never happened though similar concepts can be seen in Roddenberry’s Andromeda series. It is available for viewing here.
  • January 27, 2008 Attack of the Gryphon premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel. It was directed by Andrew Prowse, with a cast led by Amber Benson, Jonathan LaPaglia, and Larry Drake. It was one in a series that included a film called Mansquito. Really. Truly. Like most of the Sci-Fi Pictures original films series, neither critics or reviewers were impressed with the story, SFX or acting. It’s got no rating at Rotten Tomatoes and the scant number of Amazon ratings are all over the place.
  • January 27, 2008 Journey To The Center Of The Earth premiered. It was directed by Eric Brevin. It starred Brendan Fraser, Anita Briem, and Josh Hutcherson. Surprisingly, at least to me, it received positive reviews from critics, and was a huge box office success. It currently holds a 51% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 27, 1756 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. On the strength of The Magic Flute. (Died 1791.)
  • Born January 27, 1940 James Cromwell, 80. I think we best know him as Doctor Zefram Cochrane In Star Trek: First Contact , which was re-used in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly (Part I)”.  He’s been in other genre films including Species IIDeep ImpactThe Green MileSpace CowboysI, RobotSpider-Man 3 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He played characters on three Trek series, Prime Minister Nayrok on “The Hunted” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jaglom Shrek in the two part “Birthright” story, Hanok on the “Starship Down” episode of Deep Space Nine and Zefram Cochrane once again as noted before on Enterprise
  • Born January 27, 1950 Michaela Roessner, 70. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer for Walkabout Woman. Her The Stars Dispose duology is quite excellent. Alas, none of her fiction is available digitally. 
  • Born January 27, 1956 Mimi Rogers, 64. Her best known known SFF role is Professor Maureen Robinson in the Lost in Space film which I did see in a theatre I just realized. She’s also Mrs. Marie Kensington in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and she’s Orianna Volkes in the Penny Dreadful hitchhiker horror film. She’s got one-offs in Tales from The Crypt, The X-Files, Where Are You Scooby Doo? and Ash v. Evil Dead.
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 63. He’s both an artist and writer so I’m not going to untangle which is which here. What’s good by him? Oh, I love The Dark Knight Returns, both the original comic series and the animated film, though the same not no true of Sin City where I prefer the original series much more. Hmmm… What else? His runs on Daredevil and Electra of course. That should do. 
  • Born January 27, 1958 Susanna Thompson, 62. She played Dr. Lenara Kahn in Deep Space Nine’s “Rejoined” episode and was the Borg Queen in three episodes of Voyager. Back here on Earth, she was Moira Queen on Arrow. She’s also had roles in Alien Nation: Dark Horizon, The LakeBermuda Triangle, Dragonfly, KingsThe Gathering and she had two different one-offs on Next Gen before being cast as the Borg Queen. 
  • Born January 27, 1963 Alan Cumming, 57. His film roles include his performances as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Fegan Floop In the Spy Kids trilogy, Loki, god of Mischief in Son of the Mask (a really horrid film), Nightcrawler In X2 and Judas Caretaker in Riverworld
  • Born January 27, 1966 Tamlyn Tomita, 54. I’m fairly sure I first saw her in a genre role on the Babylon 5 film The Gathering as Lt. Cmdr. Laurel Takashima. Or it might have been on The Burning Zone as Dr. Kimberly Shiroma. And she had a recurring late on Eureka in Kate Anderson, and Ishi Nakamura on Heroes? She’s been in a number of SFF series in one-off roles including Highlander, Quantum Leap, The Sentinel, Seven Days, FreakyLinks, Stargate SG-1 and a recurring as late as Tamiko Watanabe in The Man in The High Castle.
  • Born January 27, 1969 Patton Oswalt, 51. He gets his Birthday Honors for voicing Remy in Ratatouille, a truly lovely and rather tasty film. He also played Eric, Billy, Sam and Thurston Koenig in a recurring and fascinating role on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. And let’s not overlook that he’s been Max for the part several years on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Damn, I almost forgot he voiced Space Cabbie on Justice league Action!

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • B.C. has an unlikely solution to arachnophobia.
  • Pearls Before Swine shows that space aliens can be part of really bad puns.

(9) HATCHET TO PRATCHETT. The Guardian’s Alison Flood thinks “Discworld fans are right to be nervous about the BBC’s ‘punk rock’ The Watch”.

We Terry Pratchett fans have been lucky in recent years. We were given Good Omens, which thanks to co-author Neil Gaiman’s shepherding and incredible performances from David Tennant and Michael Sheen, was a joy to watch. And we were told that BBC America was developing The Watch, a series based on Pratchett’s stories about Ankh Morpork’s City Watch. Yes, we were a little nervous to read that Pratchett’s fierce, dark, sardonic stories were to become a “startlingly reimagined … punk rock thriller” that was “inspired by” the books. But we stayed faithful, for it was promised that the show would “still cleav[e] to the humour, heart and ingenuity of Terry Pratchett’s incomparably original work”.

But nerves were jangling even more fiercely on Friday as the first glimpses of the forthcoming show were shared by the studio. They look … kind of cyberpunky? Is that electricity? Where is their ARMOUR? Should we have been more wary about that “inspired by”?

(10) A PLANET STORY. Cora Buhlert, in “Retro Review: ‘The Jewel of Bas’ by Leigh Brackett”, discusses another 1944 work eligible for CoNZealand’s Retro Hugos.

… “The Jewel of Bas” is a glorious pulpy adventure story that manages to offer up plenty of twists and turns,…

(11) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter sometimes finds the wrong questions more amusing than the right ones on this game show:  

Category: Novels by Chapter Title

Answer: From a Verne work: “Boldly down the crater”

Wrong Question: “What is ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’?”

(Right question: “What is ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’?”)

And they weren’t finished —

Final Jeopardy: Poets.

Answer: A Dartmouth dropout, he received 2 honorary degrees from Dartmouth — in 1933 & 1955

Wrong questions: “Who is Whitman?” and “Who is Thoreau?”

Right question: Who is Robert Frost?

(12) PARENTAL SUPERVISION. On Facebook, Worst of Tumblr shows photos of kids who are crying, with parents’ explanation of what incited the tears.

(13) TRADITION. “Photographing One Of America’s Oldest Tofu Shops” on NPR.

Growing up in Portland, Ore., in the ’90s, tofu could be hard to find. It would be a long time before ramen joints spread across the city, before national chains like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods had their own store-brand tofu.

But like soba noodles, nori, rice and fish, tofu is a staple of Japanese home cooking. So my parents regularly made a 15-minute drive west, across the Willamette River, to stock up at Ota Tofu.

The old-school company still makes its tofu by hand in small batches, navigating a growing demand for plant-based foods. But what I didn’t realize then is that it’s also a cultural institution — the oldest tofu producer still operating in the country, Ota Tofu has fed Portland’s Japanese American community for more than 100 years.

Eileen Ota, a former owner of Ota Tofu, notes that other tofu producers existed earlier in the United States, but many ceased operations because of one event: the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

(14) MYTH FULFILLMENT OR METAL FATIGUE? As The Week put it: “A brawny visitor to Disneyland managed to pull a model of Excalibur out of a model stone, thus arguably revealing himself as the future king of England.  A friend fo the future king, whom he identified only as ‘Sam,’ says he’s ‘a pretty buff dude.” Also at CinemaBlend: “A Disneyland Guest Literally Pulled The Sword Excalibur From The Stone”.

A few days ago the sword, which sits in front of the carousel, went missing, and while it was believed to have something to do with an upcoming refurbishment of the attraction, it seems that’s not the case. WDWNT reports that the site has been told by somebody in the know, that the hilt of the sword was actually pulled, or more accurately, broken, by a guest who pulled on it so hard that it came out.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Obst” on Vimeo, Jan Eisner asks the question, “If fruit could move, what would they do?”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/18/19 The Man Who Maneuvered In Corbomite

(1) DUBLIN 2019 MEMBERSHIP DEADLINE. They say no at-the-door memberships or day passes will be sold, so join now.

(2) COMPLAINT ABOUT DUBLIN 2019 POLICY REVEAL. KerenL tweeted:

(3) CATS MUSICAL. Ready or not, coming to theaters this Christimas: “‘Cats’ musical drops first trailer with Taylor Swift and people are seriously divided”.

Taylor Swift, whose cat Bombalurina is shown reclining and enjoying Catnip in the footage, announced the trailer had dropped Thursday — a day before it was scheduled to be released.

“I’m a cat now and somehow that was everything #Catsmovie” Swift tweeted.

Directed by Tom Hooper, the first trailer introduces a major cast which includes Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella, Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy, Idris Elba as Macavity and James Corden as Bustopher Jones.

(4) TIS THE SEASON. Speaking of hairballs, here’s just what everyone’s looking to add to their holiday tree! From Hallmark: “Star Trek™ Tribble Fabric Ornament With Sound and Motion”.  

(5) INTO THE HALL. In a ceremony held at Balboa Park just ahead of the convention: “Batman Inducted Into Comic-Con Hall of Fame”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The ceremony inducting Batman into the Comic-Con Museum Hall of Fame — the first fictional character to be awarded the honor — was the crowning moment of “The Gathering,” a special celebration that doubled as a preview of The Batman Experience, a pop-up exhibit in the Balboa Park location that will eventually become the physical home of the Comic-Con Museum running during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, and a fundraiser for the Museum.

Both “The Gathering” and The Batman Experience are part of DC and Warner Bros.’ wider celebration of the 80th anniversary of the release of Detective Comics No. 27, which introduced Batman to the world, a yearlong event that has already included events at South by Southwest and a USO tour featuring DC’s Lee and Batman comic book writer Tom King.

(6) PITTING HIMSELF AGAINST THE CHALLENGE. The second Ad Astra trailer has dropped. Comes to theaters September 20.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

(7) UNIQUE. Who else writes like her? James Davis Nicoll advises Tor.com readers where to find “Five SFF Works Reminiscent of Andre Norton”.

What other authors wrote books with thematic similarities to the books of Andre Norton? Too bad that no one has ever asked me that question. Let’s pretend that someone has asked. Here are five suggestions.

(8) ANIME STUDIO FIRE DEATHS. BBC’s overview: “Kyoto Animation fire: Arson attack at Japan anime studio kills 33”.

At least 33 people died and dozens were injured after a man set fire to an animation studio in the Japanese city of Kyoto, officials say.

Police said the 41-year-old suspect broke into the Kyoto Animation studio on Thursday morning and sprayed petrol before igniting it.

The suspect has been detained and was taken to hospital with injuries.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the incident was “too appalling for words” and offered condolences.

It is one of Japan’s worst mass casualty incidents since World War Two.

Kyoto Animation, known as KyoAni, produces films and graphic novels, and is well regarded by fans for the quality of its productions.

…Reports say the man is not a former employee – but eyewitnesses say he appeared to be angry with the animation studio.

They said he ran away from the building towards a nearby train station after the fire started but fell to the ground. Some reports said he was pursued by employees of Kyoto Animation.

…The Asahi Shimbun newspaper quoted a 61-year-old neighbour as saying she clearly heard the man shout: “You ripped me off.”

The suspect was injured and was being treated in hospital, so police could not immediately question him, NHK said.

This article contains both fan reactions and brief descriptions of the company’s numerous popular creations: “Kyoto Animation: Fans heartbroken by deadly anime studio fire in Japan”

“One of the main things that stands out about Kyoto Animation is the quality of the animation itself,” said Ian Wolf, an anime critic for Anime UK News. “It’s very viewer-friendly.”

The distinctive visual style and level of polish leads to a look that is instantly recognisable, Wolf said.

“The studio makes very little in the way that is controversial… little that is violent or sexual. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to attack it.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 18, 1911 Hume Cronyn. Way back in the Forties, his first genre role was as Gerard in The Phantom of The Opera. Since then he’s appeared in such well-known films as CocoonCocoon Returns and Batteries Not Included along with the more obscure outing of Richard Burton’s Hamlet. (Died 2003.)
  • Born July 18, 1933 Sydney Jay Mead. Industrial designer and concept artist, best known for his designs for  Aliens,  Blade Runner and Tron. Mead once said in Borrowing an idea from Los Angeles (NYT 20 July 2011) that “I’ve called science fiction ‘reality ahead of schedule.’” An eight-minute film on him, “2019: A Future Imagined” can be seen here.
  • Born July 18, 1938 Paul Verhoeven, 81. Direction, screenwriter and producer. Responsible for RoboCop , Total Recall,  Starship Troopers and the creepy Hollow Man. Mind this is the man who also did Basic Instinct and Showgirls.
  • Born July 18, 1943 Charles Waugh,76. Anthologist and author, whose anthology work up to 2013 numbered over two hundred titles (!), mostly done with Martin H. Greenberg but a handful done with other co-editors as Greenberg died in 2011. Name a subject and there’s likely an anthology on that subject that he had a hand in.  I have not read, nor do I have the very least desire, to read his two novels with Deepak Chopra. 
  • Born July 18, 1952 Deborah Teramis Christian, 67. She’s an author and game designer. has designed and edited role-playing game materials for Dungeons & Dragons such as Tales of the Outer Planes, Bestiary of Dragons and Giants, Dragon Dawn, and Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms.  She also writes fiction under the name Deborah Teramis Christian with genre novel such as The Truthsayer’s Apprentice and her latest, Splintegrate.
  • Born July 18, 1967 Paul Cornell, 52. Author of the Shadow Police series which is quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who, Primieval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won two Hugo Awards for best fancast.
  • Born July 18, 1967 Vin Diesel, 52. His first genre role was as the delightful voice of The Iron Giant. He next shows playing Riddick in Pitch Black, the first in The Chronicles of Riddick franchise. He’s Hugo Cornelius Toorop in Babylon A.D. and he’s the fascinating if enigmatic voice of Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy and other MCU films. He’s apparently in the next two Avatar films but I don’t see his role determined. 
  • Born July 18, 1980 Kristen Bell, 39. Veronica Mars. Genre, well not really, but a lot of y’all watch it. She also voiced Jade Wilson in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies which I highly recommend as it’s highly meta.
  • Born July 18, 1982 Priyanka Chopra, 37. As Alex Parrish in Quantico, becoming the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur gets a good laugh by combining a UFO and a cave painter.

(11) THE BUD LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE STARS. On the theory that everyone can play this for laughs, until someone gets killed, “Bud Light is offering free beer to any alien that makes it out of Area 51”.

The world is ready to finally see the secrets hidden inside Area 51. And if one of those secrets happens to be living aliens, well, we have good news — they’ll be greeted with free cans of Bud Light.

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Bud Light, initially posted on Twitter, “We’d like to be the first brand to formally announce that we will not be sponsoring the Area 51 raid.”

However, the brand quickly backtracked off that alienating claim, saying, “Screw it. Free Bud Light to any alien that makes it out.”

(12) COMIC-CON BEGINS. And The Onion is there.

(13) LOYAL FANS. Billboards demanding Warner Bros,#ReleaseTheSnyderCut of Justice League appeared where they’ll hopefully be seen by people on their way to San Diego Comic-Con.

(14) ANOTHER SDCC TRAILER EVENT. From The Hollywood Reporter:“‘It Chapter Two’ Trailer Launch Kicks Off Comic-Con”.

The audience got an early look at the new trailer, which debuted online Thursday morning. The presentation, taking place on Comic-Con’s preview night, is dubbed ScareDiego and is held off the San Diego Convention Center grounds, and unofficially kicks off the Con in terms of movie panels. The event, now in its third year, is growing and this year was held at the Spreckels Theatre with comedian and late night show host Conan O’Brien serving as moderator.

(15) CLOSE ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK. James Davis Nicoll’s contribution to the Apollo 11 anniversary observance is “Remembering the Moon Landing: Michael Collins’ Carrying the Fire” at Tor.com.

…Collins was the Command Module Pilot. While the Lunar Lander descended to the Moon’s surface, it was Collins’ task to remain with the Command Module in Lunar orbit….

Rather than making any attempt at a dispassionate, neutral history of the Apollo Program, Collins provides a very personal account, a Collins-eye view of the American path to the moon. It’s not a short process, which is why it takes 360 pages before Collins and his more well-known companions find themselves strapped into the largest, most powerful man-rated rocket to have been launched as of that date. Before that…

(16) CHICAGO STYLE DOG. I hate to think I’ll missing out on this: “You Can Now Stay In An Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Overnight With Airbnb”.

Starting on July 24, Oscar Mayer’s iconic 27-foot-long Wienermobile is available to book overnight on Airbnb. Seriously. This is not a drill.

True hot dog fans know that the Wienermobile has pretty much travelled all across the country, spreading positive vibes and love for, well, wieners. And until now, no one has been able to spend more than a few hours in the famous Oscar Mayer vehicle, which makes this overnight camp-out option kind of a big deal.

Per their press release, the hot dog distributer has confirmed that its Wienermobile will be available to those staying in the Chicago area between August 1-4. Just in time for Lollapalooza!

(17) KGB. Ellen Datlow has shared her photos from the July 17 Fantastic Fiction at KGB where Theodora Goss read from her new collection Snow White Learns Witchcraft and Cadwell Turnbull read from his recently published novel, The Lesson.

(18) IT PAYS NOT TO BE IGNORANT. Congrats to Rich Horton who won $66.67 playing last night’s HQ mobile-based trivia contest. One of the questions was:

“Which Hugo-winning writer did NOT write an episode of STAR TREK?”

The choices were:

  • Robert Bloch
  • Norman Spinrad
  • Robert Heinlein

Says Horton, “I’m sure I don’t have to tell many people that Heinlein never wrote a Star Trek episode.”

(19) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Apparently this is another thing you leave behind when you simulate a lunar mission: “Russia’s Sirius Moon project leaves crew hungry for steak”.

What do you crave after spending four months cooped up in a mock spaceship?

“A tasty steak!” was Anastasia Stepanova’s swift reply, when she emerged from her Sirius-19 quarters, along with five other space guinea pigs.

The team of four Russians and two Americans – sent to Moscow by Nasa – were isolated, but stayed on terra firma. So, no weightlessness or cosmic radiation to worry about.

But in other respects the Sirius-19 experiment was designed to imitate conditions on a flight to the Moon.

Ms Stepanova’s colleagues were also looking forward to tasty food, though cosmonaut Yevgeny Tarelkin, commander of this “mission”, said he was missing his family.

They had big fridges and grew their own vegetables under artificial light. But the diet was hardly mouth-watering: mostly kasha (buckwheat porridge), puree and canned food.

(20) FLAME ON. Mashable makes sure we know “Drones with flamethrowers are a thing you can buy now”. (Was this a Prime Day deal I missed?) [Via David Langford.]

As if drones weren’t frightening enough, now they can be equipped with fire-spitting flamethrowers? Oh gawd.

Throwflame’s TF-19 WASP drone attachment is capable of shooting targets with flames from 25 feet away. Every gallon of fuel capacity will get you 100 seconds of firing time. 

According to Throwflame, the TF-19 WASP is made from carbon fiber and designed for drones with a five-pound payload capacity or more. In the video above, the flamethrower is shown mounted to a DJI S1000 drone.

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Lis Riba, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Justice League: Non-Spoiler Movie Review

By Daniel P. Dern: So we went to see the new Justice League movie over the weekend. It was OK enough (more on that below), but at the same time, I didn’t come away with the happy I-just-saw-a-enjoyable-movie feeling that I got from, say, Thor: Ragnarok or Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2.

Here’s some quick thoughts — non-spoilers unless you haven’t even seen the main trailer. (And I’ll ROT13 any potential spoilers.)

Note: I’ve been reading comics long enough — starting in the single-digit age, when comic books were still a dime (although they soon jumped to twelve cents) — to remember the League’s first appearance, in 1960 (in The Brave and the Bold #28). (Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, debuted in 1956, Showcase #4 — I remember reading it, though probably not when it came out, but have clearish memories of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern in 1959 (Showcase #22), who were among the League’s original members (which did not include Superman or Batman). And, with some multi-year hiati, I’m still reading, through a mix of buying, librarying, and (legitimate) digital access. At heart, I’m a DC fan. Yes, I’ve read lots of Marvel, and bunches of indies — but I have less (if any) emotional attachment to how non-DC capes (heroes) get movie-ized.

Justice League, like the first Avengers movie, is a mix of “putting the band together for the first time,” “origin recaps for characters who’ve already been in one or more films (for this “universe”), and “fighting the ‘Big Bad'(s)” (to use the obvious Buffy-ism). Thankfully, not Lex Luthor; instead, Fgrccrajbys naq onmvyyvbaf bs Cnenqrzbaf obbz-ghovat va sebz Ncbxbyvcf (sebz Wnpx Xveol’f Sbhegu Jbeyq).

Given how incredible dark, dour, dismal, grumpy and/or sometimes unacceptably off-canon many of DC’s preceding superhero flicks have been (e.g., much of the Dark Knight Batman trilogy, much of The Man of Steel, much of Suicide Squad, not to mention Batman v Superman (whose events precede this movie) – Wonder Woman happily dodged these bullets, and Green Lantern had other, different problems), Justice League had a depressingly low bar to beat — from its fellow DC flix.

On the other hand, just a month or so ago, we got Thor: Ragnarok from Marvel, showing how much fun a super-scheme-and-punch-fest could be. And on the gripping hand, and pretty much concurrent with Justice League, over on the “small(er) screen” was the remarkably credible Supergirl/Arrow/Flash/Legends of Tomorrow “Crisis On Earth X” (pronounced “eks” rather than “ten”) four-part cross-over of DC heroes, arguably a movie-length four-acter.

In my opinion, Justice League did some things quite well:

  • Quick (or -ish) introduction of the new (within movie context) heroes Aquaman, Cyborg, and Flash
  • Why Bats is building a team. (In the original Justice League origin, heroes converge via different parts of the Big Bad, and post-triumph, decide to form a club.)
  • Good action/fight scenes.
  • Great chatter and banter amongst heroes.
  • Some sense of reality, e.g., Batman being severely bruised post-fight.

But. But.

Very dull Big Bad. As one friend I chatted with said, no character there. Contract that with Thor: Ragnarok, where we were treated to Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death, along with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (sometimes as a Bad), and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster. No shortage of style there, in acting, wardrobe or action.

I think that’s why I came away uninspired. Nothing (major) annoyed me. As with Thor: Ragnarok, thankfully neither New York City nor Washington D.C. were trashed. I enjoyed the heroes bantering, some of the derring-do-ing. But — like the first Avengers movie — having a handful of heroes go up against a world of baddies, that’s basically a way-outnumbered war movie.

The Justice League, throughout their (comic) career, have been at their best fighting more well-defined foes (or groups of foes). Kanjar Ro. Despero. Felix Faust. Luthor & his super-bad-friends. Splitting up into smaller teams, coming together for the big boffo win. And doing more than just physical fighting — also more problem solving, detective work, and the like.

Still: if you’re a DC fan, go. You’ll get enough (good) out of it. If you’re not a comic/superhero fan, and haven’t seen Thor: Ragnarok yet, do that. (If you’re a Marvel fan, I find it hard to believe you haven’t seen T:R yet.)

Beating a low bar, sigh, better than not doing so.

Here’s hoping the next Justice League movie (presumably based on the final “Easter Egg”) has better Big Bads.

Meanwhile, I’ve been told that the Director’s Cut of Batman v Superman makes somewhat more sense — and/but is somewhat longer. To the library web site I go!

Pixel Scroll 11/25/17 In The Scrolling, The Mighty Scrolling, The Pixel Scrolls Tonight

(1) A-WEEMA-WEH. Derek Kunsken, one of the guests of honor, tells Black Gate readers about “The 4th International Science Fiction Conference, Chengdu, China, November 2017”.

Among the international guests were authors Michael Swanwick and Ted Komsatska from the USA, Taiyo Fujii from Japan, Robert J Sawyer and I from Canada, and editors Neil Clarke from the USA, Francesco Verso from Italy, con organizer Crystal Huff from the USA, and a few others. A few of us got to visit the Panda breeding facility the day before the conference started.

…Incidentally, China is interested in hosting a WorldCon, and some of my expedia searching has shown me that flights from Ottawa to Chengdu were in the neighborhood of $900 Canadian, and the hotel they got us in downtown Chengdu was about $110 Canadian a night. I don’t know how much more or less expensive that is compared to Helsinki or Dublin, but I would vote for a Chinese bid on a WorldCon!

Black Gate adds this background about the author —

Derek Künsken writes science fiction and fantasy in Gatineau, Québec. His first novel, The Quantum Magician, is being serialized right now in China in the magazine SFWorld before its publication in book form in the spring.

(2) ALL BRADBURY, ALL THE TIME. Hillsdale College historian Bradley J. Birzer, in “Out of the Shire:  Life Beyond Tolkien” in The American Conservative, recommends several writers for Tolkien fans, but “of all 20th century fabulists, Ray Bradbury comes closest to equaling Tolkien’s literary and imaginative powers.”

If you look at what’s playing on your television, at what’s showing at the local cinema, at what video games your children are playing, or at what is selling in the young adult section of your neighborhood Barnes & Noble, you’ll see something that is at once deeply cultural and deeply countercultural at the exact same moment: Romanticism.

It’s difficult to know exactly where the movement started, though most historians and literary scholars would give the nod to Edmund Burke and his second great work, On the Sublime and the Beautiful. From Burke’s treatise, almost all modern Romantic thought arose. Burke’s presence is, at times, implicit, and, at times, blatant in the works of such critical figures as Wordsworth and Coleridge, but it can be found throughout most of the romantic poetry and art of the early 19th century. It’s not hard even to imagine Burke’s shadow lingering over Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral. In his own writings on Western civilization, Christopher Dawson argued that the rise of Romanticism, whatever its excesses and failings, was as important to Western civilization, as the re-discovery of Hellenic thought in the Renaissance. Whatever its original and essential intent, Romanticism successfully saved Christianity from the utilitarianism and rationalism of the 18th century, Dawson continued. In its recovery of medieval Christianity in the early 19th century, the Anglo-Welsh Roman Catholic scholar asserted, the Romantics actually discovered “a new kind of beauty.”

From its earliest origins, one can trace Romanticism’s history through the 19th century and into the early 20th century through figures as diverse as Friedrich Nietzsche, G.K. Chesterton, and Willa Cather. Perhaps most importantly for Western culture, however, was its manifestation in the vast mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien….

(3) TOP LGBT SFF. Rocket Stack Rank has consulted the ratings for excellent stories and come up with the “Best LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2015-2016”.

Greg Hullender sent the link with a note: “We’ve been talking about doing this for a while, but we finally got it put together. Note that this is just 2015-2016. Because we depend on scores from other reviewers (including the 4 annual anthologies plus Hugo and Nebula nominations), the earliest we could do anything like it for 2017 would be April 2018, so our current plan is to do 2017 in June for Gay Pride Month and try to make that a regular thing.”

In addition to regular monthly ratings we’re going to start publishing occasional lists of excellent stories from particular subsets of Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF). We’ve previously done this for Hard Science Fiction, and this month we’re doing it for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) stories.

As always, our focus is on the stories, not the authors. These are stories with memorable LGBT characters—not necessarily stories by noted LGBT authors. These include excellent stories in which a key character merely happens to be an LGBT person as well as stories where the LGBT angle is crucial to the plot.

Also, these are stories that had at least one recommendation from a “prolific reviewer” (that is, any reviewer who reads at least 500 stories a year from major print and online sources); no single reviewer can really capture the tastes of all readers, so drawing from a pool of reviewers makes it more likely that we haven’t omitted anything.

(4) BLACK FRIDAY. New Zealand’s Weta Workshops is running a Black Friday sale through Monday. All kinds of figures and paraphernalia from Lord of the Rings and other films they’re associated with.

(5) UNICORN ANTIDOTE. This will cure your post-ceramic stress — JJ calls it “Brain bleach for the wine caddy.” If you need that explained, consider yourself lucky.

(6) TIMEY-WIMEY. Holiday shipping has run amok:

(7) XL5. Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard turned on the TV and found this new show on channel 1962 — “[November 25, 1962] Great Balls of Fire!  (Gerry Anderson’s new series, Fireball XL5)”

I’ve mentioned in a past article that Britain has Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future.  Now we also have Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol.  Not the hero of a comic strip, but rather of a children’s television show from Anderson Provis Films (APF), which you may all remember from when I talked about their production last year, Supercar.

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson are back with another Supermarionation series, Fireball XL5.  Supermarionation is their term to describe puppets that speak using electronic synchronization, and the Andersons have used it to great effect, creating a brand new medium for SF.

(8) KIT SHIRT. Francis Hamit, whose movie script has been winning prizes, offers the “Christopher Marlowe fan T-shirt” through Zazzle.

Check out the CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE fan t-shirt that I designed at Zazzle.co.uk. We did this because we have about 1,400 Facebook friends in London and we need to sell something to prove that we are actually in business. Zazzle seemed like the easiest way to do this and we already own the art. We also have a similar product. on CafePress.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE SLEUTH’S BOSS. The Financial Times’ Henry Mance profiled Mark Gatiss, a writer for Doctor Who and the showrunner for Sherlock, where he also plays Mycroft Holmes: “‘We will all be dust soon’: Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss on death, despair and drama”. (Usually these are behind a paywall, but I was able to see this one. Caveat non-emptor.)

When asked if Sherlock Holmes has Asperger’s, Gatiss says, “I don’t think it (Asperger’s) is a disorder.  You can read Conan Doyle and think he is–you can diagnose him. Clearly that is based on people who have manic mood swings.  We made Mycroft the Niles to Holmes’s Frasier, who apparently feels nothing–though of course he does, he just keeps it under control.”

When asked if there will be more episodes of “Sherlock,” Gattis says, “Dunno.  Honestly.  It’s the first time we haven’t had to make plans for 18 months down the line.  The last episode of Sherlock was both “a possible natural ending, and a possible place for them to do another one.”

Gattiss’s next project, with Mark Moffat, is a version of “Dracula” which will appear on the BBC in 2019.

(11) WORTHY OF THE VOGONS. History.com found a by-product of its cipher-cracking project: “This Supercomputer Was Programmed to Think Like the Zodiac Killer. No Wonder Its Poetry is So Creepy”.

Now Knight, CARMEL and a team of code-breaking researchers are working with the HISTORY Channel to try and crack the Z340, the Zodiac killer’s most impenetrable cipher. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the self-named murderer terrorized Northern California with a succession of random killings and taunting letters to the police and newspapers. Four of those communiqués contained ciphers filled with perplexing letters and abstract symbols. Cryptologists consider the Zodiac’s 340-character cipher, sent to The San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969, a holy grail of sorts.

As part of Knight’s research into what computers can do with language, CARMEL can churn out complex verse on any given topic within a matter of seconds.

(12) PARTS OF SPEECH. Fast Company explains why “John Waters Doesn’t Need To Make Movies To Make Trouble”.

Despite the fact that he has “never graduated from anything,” John Waters was invited by the Rhode Island School of Design to deliver its 2015 commencement address. In his speech, Waters urged the graduating class to cause trouble. “Go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully,” he advised. “Design clothes so hideous they can’t be worn ironically. Horrify us with new ideas. Outrage outdated critics. Use technology for transgression, not lazy social living. Make me nervous.”

Understandably, the speech went viral, or as Waters puts it, “it had a little trip.” In April of this year, the speech was turned into a book called, Make Trouble. Now, that book has been turned into a vinyl record of the same name, released by Jack White’s Third Man Records. Waters recorded the audio at his dining room table in his New York apartment in an afternoon. “But it took me three days to write it,” he says in mock defensiveness.

(13) SCORING THE COVERS. Camestros Felapton has started the ball rolling with “The Book Cover Thing 2017: Draft Long List”. Jump over and add your suggestions.

A reminder of how this works. There is no eligibility period.

  1. A draft long list is made from finalist from the Hugos, Nebulas and Clarke Awards, as well as the winners of book categories from the Dragons.
  2. To the long list we add book covers suggested in the comments by anybody (and yes that includes Phantom as per last year). Also I may add additional covers to keep it interesting.
  3. The covers are then scored on a set of criteria (see below).
  4. Points are totaled and the highest scoring cover(s) are the winners.
  5. Winning artist/designer gets a JPEG of Timothy.

(14) CULTURE WARRIORS. And while you’re visiting Camestros’ blog, check out the full-length edition of Doris V. Sutherland’s lyrical comment:

Jason Rennie was ill
When the Hugos stood still
But Superversive’s where he stands
And Chuck Tingle was there
While lacking underwear
Dec Finn was the most Pius man
But something’s not right
With Vox Day and John Wright
They got caught in a No Award jam
Then at a deadly pace
It was in cyberspace
And here’s how the message ran…

(15) IT’S WEIRD. Bookmunch recommends this compilation of 2016 weird fiction: “We are living in an apocalyptic moment and we have a duty to be witnesses” – Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Four ed. Helen Marshall

Helen Marshall is the guest editor for this year’s book. An award winning writer and creative writing lecturer, she comes at weird fiction from a very different angle to last year’s editor Simon Strantzas. This is no bad thing. The key to weird fiction is its malleability. Last year, Strantzas put together a very horror centric anthology, with weird fiction’s key players such as Robert Aickman, Rob Shearman (who will be guest editing volume five) and Ramsey Campbell at the forefront. Marshall instead has assembled a vastly different kind of anthology, which demonstrates the vastness of the genre. Yes, there are horror stories in here, most notably Usman T Malik’s ‘In the Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro’, but then there are also stories like Irenosen Okojie’s magnificent ‘Outtakes’, or Aki Schilz’s ‘Beating the Bounds’, both of which are highlights of a brilliant book.

(16) LOOKING AHEAD. Paul Kincaid, whose book about Iain M. Banks came out earlier this year, talks about his next book in “A Priest chronology”.

So, my next book will be about Christopher Priest and will be published by Gylphi, which is something that makes me inordinately pleased. I’ve started the reading and note taking that inevitably accompanies such a task. But I’ve also put together a chronology of his books and short stories, just as a way of keeping everything straight in my mind.

(17) CHOW TIME. Aaron Pound continues cooking his way through Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook — “Ad Astra Review – C3PO by Ef Deal”

Review: C3PO is a pretty simple recipe. It more or less consists of a can of crushed pineapple with chopped bell pepper, onion, and pecans all mixed into a pile of cream cheese. That is basically it. The only change I made from the text of the recipe was that I used a red bell pepper instead of a green bell pepper, mostly because I had a red bell pepper on hand. The end result is a spread than can be used on crackers or fresh vegetables. The end result is also delicious.

(18) AN ETHNIC FIRST. The Washington Post’s Noah Berlatsky, in “With ‘Justice League,’ now there’s a Jewish superhero played by a Jewish actor on the big screen”, notes that The Flash is the first movie superhero to be Jewish, and he looks at other Jewish superheroes in the comics, including The Thing, who was revealed to be Jewish in the early 2000s.

I’m sure this statement will provoke some disagreement among people who pay attention to firsts in films. Depending on how you look at it, you could argue that the first superhero was also the first Jewish superhero. Superman, after all, was created by two Jews, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and fans have found some (often overstated) traces of Jewish cultural influence in his creation.

There’s also Thing of “The Fantastic Four,” who wasn’t officially declared Jewish in the comics until the 2000s, and hasn’t been identified as Jewish in the films. But he was often seen by fans as a working-class ethnic stand-in for his creator, working-class ethnic Jew, Jack Kirby. The X-Man Kitty Pryde was Jewish in the 1980s, and the X-Man villain Magneto was retconned into a Holocaust survivor at about the same time.

Flash, though, is the first character in our ongoing superhero film frenzy who is identified specifically as Jewish — he mentions he’s Jewish quickly, offhand, when he first meets Batman (Ben Affleck).

(19) SCORCHED PLASTIC. The Lego Millennium Falcon – if you haven’t already ordered, you’re screwed: “What’s $800 And Already Sold Out? This Lego Star Wars Ship”.

It made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. But a new buildable version of Han Solo’s famous Millennium Falcon is currently stalled.

Those hoping to snag one of Lego’s new Star Wars sets for the 2017 holidays will likely be disappointed. It’s currently sold out online. After a September release only to its VIP list, the company promises it’s working as fast as it can to “make more sets available and keep our LEGO builders happy.” At a cool $799.99 and more than 7,500 pieces, it’s the expensive, easy-to-lose gift that keeps on giving.

Dang, these went faster than Worldcon 76 hotel rooms.

(20) FOR YOUR TREE. Of course, these are still available — “Holiday Gift Idea: ‘Elvira Christmas Ornament’”. I don’t suppose that comes as a surprise.

Sculpted by artist MATTHEW BLACK and painted by DAVID FISHER, these specialty Mistress of the Dark ornaments come in two versions; Standard has Elvira in black dress, while the Limited Edition has her in red and is limited to 500 pieces.

(21) TURNED DOWN. The news behind Deadline.com’s report “Time Responds To Donald Trump’s “Incorrect” Claims Of Turning Down Person Of The Year — Update” is inspiring things like Will Brown’s tweet —

(22) DUDE. Two compilations of “Super Café” videos from How It Should Have Ended.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #20

The Pre- Last Jedi Fall Movie & TV Roundup

By Chris M. Barkley:

Replicants are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” Rick Deckard, Blade Runner

Blade Runner (1982, ****) with Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Joanna Cassidy. Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, Directed by Ridley Scott. Bechdel Test: Failed.

I have seen Blade Runner only twice, once during its initial theatrical run and The Final Cut, a 2007 DVD release that director/producer Ridley Scott personally oversaw. It has to be said that for a 35-year-old film, it holds up incredibly well.

Nestled down in 27th place on the 1982 list of box office films, making almost $34 million on a $27 million dollar budget, Blade Runner was considered a financial failure at the time. It might have fallen into obscurity, had it not been hailed as a cinematic masterpiece by film critics, movie fans and the sf community at large.

Visually, Blade Runner has never been more dazzling. Scott, following up Alien, teamed with Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, and David Dryer and production design by Lawrence G. Paull created a rather environmentally dark, nightmarish backdrop which the director once called “Hong Kong on a very bad day.”

The removal of Deckard’s voice over narration and the addition of an ambiguous ending vastly improve the Final Cut over the previous six versions that were made before 2007.

It was the consensus opinion at the time that Rutger Hauer practically stole the film acting-wise with his portrayal of Roy Batty. And as far as I’m concerned his performance still rather iconic, but the real surprise is Harrison Ford, who wisely underplays and grounds Rick Deckard in reality, which actually helps contrast his character with Batty’s. Each is desperate in their own way, Batty to extend his and fellow replicant’s lives and Deckard, who simply wants to survive in the endlessly grimy, nightmarish dystopia.

As Deckard hunts the fugitive replicants, the theme of identity and humanity is weaved throughout the narrative; are humans like Deckard (whom I firmly believe is human) becoming less so? Or are replicants, programmed to be as human as possible, are more so than their masters? These are the questions that will mark Blade Runner as an enduring classic for years to come.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, ***1/2) with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes, Screenplay by Hampton Francher and Michael Green, Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Bechdel Test: Fail.

As one of 2017’s most intriguing and anticipated films, Blade Runner 2049 had an almost impossible pedigree to live up to; the 1982 sf classic film Blade Runner. And for the most part, director Denis Villeneuve, producer Ridley Scott, screen writers Hampton Francher and Michael Green and cast, succeeded.

Ryan Gosling plays a Nexus-8 blade runner named K, charged with running down and ‘retiring’ renegade replicants still roaming free on Earth. When K finds a long-buried body on a routine mission, the discovery comes to the notice of Niander Wallace, a reclusive billionaire who now owns the Tyrell Corporations assets. As K’s superior Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) orders him to quietly investigate of the homicide, Wallace dispatches his murderous replicant aide-de-camp, Luv (Sylvia Hoekes) to recover the remains and monitor K’s every move…

Director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins and producer Ridley Scott spared no expense to recreate and expand upon the environs of Blade Runner; from the even darker, damper city streets of Los Angeles, the lonely hydroponic farms of the countryside to the desolate landscape of the dead city of Las Vegas, Blade Runner 2049 is filled with a series of stunning images that enhances the story.

The questions regarding the humanity of replicants go even deeper here, as KD9-3.7 (later renamed Joe) seems to be content running down replicants equal to or lesser than him. We see that he is given a certain latitude in his activities off duty, which includes a salary, a place to live and a virtual girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas), who, we are led to believe is there solely to mollify himself. The trade-off is that K is rigorously tested with a modified “Voigt-Kampff” test on a regular basis, which measures the safety parameters of his programming. K’s treatments during the tests are compelling, brutal and chilling.

But Blade Runner 2049 has a flaw that prevents me from declaring it as an equal to its progenitor and that’s its portrayal of women. The images of women, as objects of searches, whims and desires of the male protagonists dominate the core of the film and not in a good way. As an example, it fails the Bechdel when two women in authority have a conversation, but it’s only about a male protagonist. It’s also rather sad not to see any LGBTQ representation in the year 2049, because we know they are not going to vanish, even in a eco-dystopia presented here.

While Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes do excellent work, the real revelation here is Harrison Ford, who gives an Oscar caliber performance as an older, more grizzled and haunted Rick Deckard.

The underlying mystery (which I will not spoil here) sets up a seemingly insolvable conflict between humans and replicants, and remains an open question by the end of the film. Will there be more? Only time will tell. The ambiguous ending presented actually works. But, if there is more of a story to tell, I’m sure we won’t have to wait another thirty-five years.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, (2017, ***1/2) with Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Oliver Platt and Connie Britton. Written and Directed by Angela Robinson. Bechdel Test: Pass!!!!!

I think if the Merchant-Ivory production company were to make a film about the three creators of Wonder Woman, it would look EXACTLY like this.

This film is a recounting of the intertwined lives of William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their mutual muse/lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) and the creation of an American icon.

Given the era in which they engaged in what was considered then as being unconventional and scandalous, writer-director Angela Robinson dials back to more titillating aspects of their relationship and, in a tasteful and restrained manner, focused more on the practical (and problematic) aspects of how they lived and loved together. The most fascinating aspects of the film, to those paying VERY close attention, is spotting the few vital elements in the troika’s lives that slowly coalesce into the eventual creation of Wonder Woman.

Angela Robinson’s screenplay was based on her own research and is in many ways, historically inaccurate in some instances to serve the dramatic purposes of the film. But if you want a truer version of their story, pick up a copy of Jill Lepore’s 2014 book The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Vintage, 2015.)

If a film like Hidden Figures can be nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, I can only hope that those same nominators can extend the same courtesy to Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, because it will certainly have a place on honor on my ballot.

Stranger Things 2 (2017, nine episodes, ***1/2) with Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalie Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Dacre Montgomery, Matthew Modine, Sean Astin and Paul Reiser. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer. Bechdel Test: Passed.

When we last left our favorite dimension-busting heroes, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been rescued from the “Upside Down” by his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour), Will’s best friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin) were saved from an “other side” were-beast by supergirl Eleven (Mille Bobby Brown), various teenage, angst driven subplots (except for poor Barb) were resolved and the world was saved.

And if you believe THAT, I’ve got a slightly used Correllian freighter I wanna sell you.

Season two picks up more than a year later, at Halloween. While the majority of the town of Hawkins, Indiana prepares for trick or treat:

Will is still suffering PTSD (and more) from his time from the “Upside Down”.

Sheriff Hopper is harboring Eleven in a remote location in an attempt to shield her from the outside world, with mixed results.

Eleven discovers a secret Hopper has been keeping from her which leads to other devastating revelations.

Some new kids, a mysterious step brother and sister (Dacre Montgomery and Sadie Sink) hit town and are responsible for some rampant speculation.

Is Joyce’s nerdy new boyfriend Bob, who works at the local radio Shack, too good to be true?

The “Department of Energy’s” new head of management looks eerily like that corporate weasel in 1986’s Aliens, which, strangely enough, still two years away from being released in this timeline.

Barb’s parents hire a conspiracy theorist (Murray Bauman) to find out what happened to her.

Dustin acquires a “pet”.

And there is a bigger and badder menace lurking on the other side of the “Upside Down” that is actually BIGGER and BADDER!

The problem with any sort of sequel is whether or not it can equal or surpass its progenitor. It’s very clear the creators of Stranger Things, writer-directing twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, know their genre tropes, the cultural history of the 1980’s (when they were kids themselves), their characters and what sort of story they want to tell.

The cast not only interact well together (as their Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series can attest), you can sense that they are having a great time doing it.

Some critics and viewers have expressed dismay or anger in particular about Episode Seven, “The Lost Sister”, which, I will say not to present too much of a spoiler, is Eleven centric. As a viewer and a fan, I felt that this particular part of the story was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for Eleven to find out and experience for herself, in order for the character to continue her journey towards understanding herself. It also happens to be, in my opinion, the best single episode of Stranger Things (so far).

Netflix has greenlit Season Three for next year and the Duffer Brothers have stated that they have a fourth and final season on the drawing boards. The whole world will be waiting and watching for what comes next. I’m betting it will be even more amazing than we can possibly imagine.

Thor: Ragnarok, (2017, ****) with Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum and Anthony Hopkins. Screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost based on The Mighty Thor created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber. Directed by Taika Waititi.

Among all of the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is generally agreed that the Mighty Thor is easily one of the most pompous and boring member of the Avengers.

Oh, there is no doubt the first film and The Dark World were very competent, workman like adventures that ably fill in Thor’s backstory, establishes Asgardian history and advances the MCU storyline forward. But let’s face it; Chris Hemsworth is great looking while kicking everyone’s ass and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki practically steals every scene he’s in.

So it was (for a while at least) a real head-scratcher when the first trailers and promotional ads came out, viewers were inclined to laugh out loud at the antics from the cast. But title of the film, the old Norse term “Ragnarok” roughly meaning doomsday, suggests some dire events are in store for Thor and company.

And indeed things are quite dire as the film opens; Odin is missing from Asgard thanks to Loki’s treachery and Thor strong arms him into a search, which in turn leads to an amusing cameo by Doctor Strange (as played by a slightly bemused Benedict Cumberbatch) and touching, but entirely too brief reunion with Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Then Hela, the goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) shows up and all hell breaks loose. Then there’s the matter of the Hulk popping up unexpectedly, wanting to beat our hero’s face in as hard as possible.

Had Ragnarok been handled with a straight and narrow narrative, it would have been another ordinary action film bridging the lead up to the inevitable showdown with Thanos. So, Marvel think tank called an audible on the line of scrimmage and subversion became the order of the day.

Yes, Ragnarok is devastatingly funny but also leavens the humor with tragedy and a tinge of regret. The cast eagerly takes up the challenge and delivers performances swing between being dramatic and self-deprecating that dance up to the line of parody but never crosses it.

Besides the screenwriters, New Zealand director Taika Waititi is mainly responsible for injecting the rather wry and scathing sense of humor this movie needed.

The result is that Ragnarok can be ranked among the best of the sixteen MCU films. See it!

Justice League, (2017, ***1/2) with Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds and Henry Cavill. Screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, Story by Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder, based on Justice League of America created by Gardner Fox. Directed by Zack Snyder (with Joss Whedon). Bechdel Test: Passed.

I have no doubt that a lot have you have heard that the Justice League movie sucks. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 43% rating. NPR’s Bob Mondello said “nice try”. Rolling Stone said it was loud, noisy fun. The Hollywood Reporter said it was “ugly and boring” while Uproxx opined that what this movie really needed was Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.

And, in the interests of full disclosure, I’ve been a reader and a fan of the Justice League of America ever since my cousin Michael first placed a copy of August 1966 issue (number 46, if you’re scoring at home) in my hands on a hot summer afternoon.

Well, surprise, I didn’t like Justice League, either.

I LOVED IT!

Sure, it had a basic plot that bears more than a few similarities with the first Avengers movie; the Earth is being menaced by an alien invasion. But the strength of the film (as it was in The Avengers) is the story of how a group of heroes who are basically loners, come together.

Set just after the tragic death of Superman, the world not only mourns, but seems to be coming apart at the seams. Between random acts of terrorism and encounters with alien para-demons, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) seek out to recruit some super-powered help; a lightning fast speedster (Ezra Miller), a cyborg enhanced with alien technology (Ray Fisher) and the King of Atlantis (Jason Momoa).

The screenplay, by director Zach Snyder, Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon doesn’t make it easy for them to come together as a team, but when they do, it is a thing of cinematic beauty. The direction, split between Snyder and Avengers alum Whedon, hits all the right notes at precisely the right time.

Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck anchor the film with their performances, but they give enough space to the newcomers, and they shine. Making Ezra Miller’s Flash a nerdy motor mouth (as he’s portrayed in numerous animated renditions) was a safe, but smart move. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is a bit of an enigma, but his character seeming leaves plenty of room to explore in future adventures. But the real revelation in Justice League is Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, giving a forceful, swaggering, in your face, breakout role that will permanently put to rest all those countless putdowns comedians have heaped on the character for decades.

In the days since the opening, I have read many critical reviews of Justice League that have lambasted the story structure, the “lame” villain, the preponderance of CGI effects, the Amazon warriors costumes, Henry Cavill’s troublesome upper lip (oops, SPOILER!) and a host of other nit-picking details. What a majority of them consistently fail to realize or acknowledge is that DC movies are not Marvel movies and vice-versa. I have been admiring Justice League and other DC films for what they are, not what other people think they should be.

By the way, it might be a GOOD IDEA to stick around to the VERY end of the credits, just as you would for the other guy’s films because you might miss an item or two that may interest you. Just Sayin’…

Pixel Scroll 11/21/2017 Come On Over For Scrolled Pixel With All The Trimmings

(1) TOWARD A MORE GRAMMATICAL HELL. McSweeney’s John Rauschenberg explains it all to you in “Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, Reimagined for Linguistic Transgressions”.

First Circle (Limbo):
Autocorrect

Here wander the otherwise virtuous souls who were forced into grievous errors by autocorrect programs. They sit in silent masturbation, only rising once every hour to chant eerie koans such as “ducking auto cat rectal.”

Second Circle:
The Serial Comma

One half of this circle is populated by souls who are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons and the infernal mistresses of hell. The other half are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons, and the infernal mistresses of hell. The difference between these two situations seems to matter a lot to both halves. Neither side will listen to you when you suggest that they could avoid this level entirely.

And so on.

(2) EVEN PIXAR. The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters, in “John Lasseter’s Pattern of Alleged Misconduct Detailed by Disney/Pixar Insiders”, says that longtime Pixar CEO John Lasseter has been suspended following sexual harassment allegations.

Rashida Jones is still credited as a writer on Toy Story 4, the next installment in the beloved franchise. But, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, the actress and her writing partner at the time, Will McCormack, left the project early on after John Lasseter, the acclaimed head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, made an unwanted advance.

Jones and McCormack did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Disney declined to comment on the alleged incident though a studio source said the departure was over “creative differences.” Multiple sources spoke with THR but asked not to be named out of fear that their careers in the tight-knit animation community would be damaged.

Based on the accounts of former Pixar insiders as well as sources in the animation community, the alleged incident was not an isolated occurrence. One longtime Pixar employee says Lasseter, who is well-known for hugging employees and others in the entertainment community, was also known by insiders for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Multiple sources say Lasseter is known to drink heavily at company social events such as premiere parties, but this source says the behavior was not always confined to such settings.

(3) MELTDOWN AT LITTLE ROCK’S COSPLAY CON. PopCultHQ extensively covers last weekend’s most disappointing event — “Chaos at Cosplay Con & Anime Experience #CCAE2017”.

November 17 & 18th was the weekend for the Cosplay Con and Anime Experience in North Little Rock, AR. This convention didn’t have a stellar list of top-name celebrities, but it had a good line-up. Their headliner was Ciara Renee from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Other guests included Cig and George from SYFY’s Faceoff, Joshua Monroe from Cosplay Melee, and actor/voice actor Robert Axelrod.

Ticket prices weren’t bad for a new convention. The day of the con weekend passes were only $30, Friday passes were $15, and Saturday were $25.

This cosplay con and anime experience promised to be, “The ultimate community focused convention” and was marketed as “…a celebration of comic books and pop culture that showcases the exceptional works of talented Cosplayers, writers, artists, illustrators and creators of all types.”

Instead, this turned into a complete disaster that caused so much stress and anxiety for some that at least one person ended up in the hospital. There are so many things with this con, that I’m just going to give you a list of what I have heard so far and then I will expound on a few of them;

  • Bad communication all around
  • Guests weren’t paid
  • Caterer wasn’t paid
  • No break relief for vendors
  • Vendors were not allowed food or drink at their booths
  • Vendors were forced to accept ‘vendor bucks’ without compensation
  • No Load-in information or map provided for Vendors
  • Guests were kicked out of the hotel when the convention credit card was rejected
  • Not all of the Costume contests occurred
  • Owner avoided guests and wasn’t even seen in the vicinity of the convention for a large portion of the show
  • Owner suspected to be operating with a false identity
  • Continual schedule changes during the event
  • Staff wasn’t paid
  • Volunteers didn’t get fed
  • VIP packages weren’t entirely as promised

The article delivers a paragraph or more about each bulleted complaint and accusation, largely gathered from the victims’ Facebook comments.

(4) FOR CERTAIN VALUES. Camestros Felapton dissects the moral values of the new Netflix series in “The Punisher – An Artfully Crafted Moral Vacuum”.

But this is not a general review. What I wanted to discuss was the wisdom of making the show in the first place. I certainly had my doubts when it was announced and it was also clear that Marvel were nervous about making a show centered on a character defined by his gun-fueled killing sprees. While any of the TV/Movie versions of Marvel characters have some scope for re-invention, The Punisher has to act as a one man extra-judicial death squad. A plot line can expand his motivation or show other aspects of his character and he doesn’t even need his distinctive skull logo but sooner or later if he doesn’t kill lots of bad guys then he simply isn’t The Punisher.

…But this fourth space for superheroes to occupy for non-otherworldly threats poses problems for Marvel (and for DC). This vacuum was eluded too but not examined in Captain America: Civil War. Captain America’s stance not to sign the Sokovia Accords was not well examined or explained. Instead, the rightness of his stance is largely just assumed as an extension of Steve Rogers own integrity. That manages to just about work in that film so long as you don’t pay too much attention to it but on closer examination Rogers really has to choose to be either an agent of the state or a vigilante. If you call yourself ‘Captain America’ then you can either be a soldier employed and held accountable by the state or your indistinguishable from a nutty ‘militia’ hiding in a compound and plotting against the BATF.

The Punisher series gets this. It really is genuinely aware of these issues – mainly because they become unavoidable when your central character uses military equipment to murder criminals without trial.

(5) TRANSHUMAN. C.P. Dunphey’s The Year’s Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology is out from Gehenna & Hinnom.

As technology progresses, so does its connection with mankind. Augmentations, cybernetics, artificial intelligence filling the void that the absence of flesh will leave behind. In Transhumanism, we fine our imminent future. Whether this future is to be feared or rejoiced, depends on the individual.

Will technology replace mankind? If AI becomes self-aware, is a war imminent?

C.P. Dunphey, critically acclaimed author of Plane Walker and editor of the bestselling Year’s Best Body Horror 2017 Anthology and Hinnom Magazine¸ has collected 25+ stories from the best up-and-coming authors in science fiction for Gehenna & Hinnom’s sophomore collection, The Year’s Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology. From veteran award-winning authors like Julie Novakova, to popular horror authors like Chad Lutzke, the anthology presents no shortage of entertaining, mind-bending science fiction.

(6) THE REST OF THE FOOTAGE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Steven Soderbergh Reveals The BackStory on His Viral Lucasfilm Rejection Letter”, interviews Soderbergh, who says the rejection letter from Lucasfilm (reported in the Scroll awhile back) was for some short films Soderbergh sent them and he’s actually not surprised that Lucasfilm rejected the films.

The inspirational message went viral, no doubt encouraging every dreamer with Hollywood ambitions. But the question remains: just what was on the videotape that Soderbergh submitted to Lucas? A proposed sequel to Return of the Jedi? A pitch for a standalone Ewok movie? Soderbergh’s theory for how Han Solo completed the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs? Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment, Soderbergh revealed that the tape in question had nothing to do with that galaxy far, far away. “I sent them a 3/4-inch tape that had two of my short films on it,” the director says, chuckling at his youthful hubris. “I was not surprised that it got kicked back! There aren’t enough decimal points to count how many packages George Lucas was getting at that point, and probably still gets.”

Soderbergh adds that the short films in question didn’t have any science-fiction elements, although one of them told a story that might have resonated with the director of the nostalgia-drenched teen classic American Graffiti….

(7) YELLOW LIGHT. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Why ‘Justice League’ failed — and where DC goes from here”, says that the low box office returns for Justice League has cast Warner’s plans for greenlighting 10 “DC Creative Universe” films, including Flashpoint, Cyborg, and Justice League 2 into question.  Part of the problem is that DC has no one equivalent to Kevin Feige at Marvel implementing quality control and that th stand-alone success of Wonder Woman leads DC and Warner to support quality “stand-alone films” rather than insisting that all its superhero properties “feed into a universe.”

A little more than three years ago, Warner Bros. announced ambitious plans for its DC Comics properties.

The film studio would undertake no fewer than 10 DC movies, chief executive Kevin Tsujihara said. It would introduce various characters and build up to a pair of “Justice League” ensemble pictures, which in turn would allow it to spin off more stand-alone movies. The template? Rival Marvel, which began with “Iron Man” in 2008 and four years later evolved into a massively successful “Avengers” film, which then became the gift that kept on giving (17 movies and counting, including the current smash “Thor: Ragnarok.”)

This past weekend, all those plans blew up.

(8) MISSING KIT REED. One of the writer’s students tells about how he kept in contact with the author: “Alexander Chee on the life, work and loss of his mentor, Kit Reed” in the LA Times.

The first day of Kit Reed’s advanced fiction class, sitting in the yellow Victorian house I would come to know simply as “Lawn Avenue,” was my first time for so many things. I had never been taught by a professor in her own home, for example, and I remember I couldn’t stop looking at it all. I had never been in a home full of that much art, or with walls painted white or black, or in rooms full of chrome furniture, Lucite lamps, and mirrors— there was an offhand glamour to it all that I loved from the start. This was the kind of home you hoped professors at Wesleyan University had, or at least I did, and I sat nervously, excited, aware that I was lucky to be there as she listed off her rules for the class. We had to turn in 20 pages every other week—she ran the class like a boot camp—and she told us never to call her before noon, as she was writing and wouldn’t answer.

Another first: I’d never had a professor tell me I could call at all, and I don’t know that any of them ever did tell me, besides her. It never occurred to me to call my professors outside of class. Her willingness to accept a call was an openness to another kind of connection and conversation with us, one that, for many of us, would go on for the rest of the time we knew her.

(9) BEWES OBIT. Rodney Bewes (1937-2017): British actor and writer, died November 21, aged 79. Genre appearances included Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972), Jonah and the Whale (1975), Jabberwocky (1977), The Spaceman and King Arthur (aka Unidentified Flying Oddball, 1979), Doctor Who (two episodes, 1984).

(10) CASSIDY OBIT. David Cassidy (1950-2017): US singer and actor, died 21 November, aged 67. Genre appearances included The Flash (one episode, 1991), Kim Possible (voiced one episode, 2004).

(11) REESE OBIT. Is playing an angel considered genre? From CNN: “Della Reese, ‘Touched by an Angel’ star and singer, dies at 86”.

For nine seasons on CBS, Reese played Tess on “Touched by an Angel,” tasked with sending angels to Earth to help people redeem themselves.

“We were privileged to have Della as part of the CBS family when she delivered encouragement and optimism to millions of viewers as Tess on “Touched by an Angel,” CBS said in a statement to CNN. “We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 21, 1924 – Christopher Tolkien

(13) GENRE WHIFF. Poul Anderson always advised writers to engage all five senses. But what is a signature science fictional smell? “Ellis Brooklyn’s “Sci Fi” perfume convinced me, a fragrance monogamist, to switch scents”.

I tried “Sci Fi” from Ellis Brooklyn. Everything about this perfume is intriguing. The name, the packaging, the fact that it’s vanilla but in no way smells like what I imagined a vanilla-forward scent to be. When I think of “vanilla perfumes,” I think of the Body Fantasies body spray I bathed myself in during middle school. But Sci Fi’s vanilla is something utterly different.

Sci Fi, like a Ray Bradbury novel, pulls you in and confounds you. It begins with notes of vanilla bean, swirls into a cloud of orange and freesia, and then finishes with a bright smack of green tea. One day of wearing Sci Fi and I knew this was my next scent. I was making the switch.

(14) DISHING ABOUT THE DISH. NASA Watch has the good news: “NSF Decides Not To Shut Down Arecibo”.

Statement on NSF Record of Decision on Arecibo Observatory, NSF

“On Nov. 15, 2017, the National Science Foundation (NSF) signed its Record of Decision for the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. This important step concludes the agency’s decision-making process with respect to the general path forward for facility operations in a budget-constrained environment and provides the basis for a future decision regarding a new collaborator.”

(15) COSMIC STOGIE. You’re not from around here, are you — “Bizarre shape of interstellar asteroid”.

These properties suggest that ‘Oumuamua is dense, comprised of rock and possibly metals, has no water or ice, and that its surface was reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over long periods of time.

Although ‘Oumuamua formed around another star, scientists think it could have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our Solar System.

(16) MANSON, HUBBARD AND HEINLEIN. Click-seeker Jeet Heer finds them this week with “Charles Manson’s Science Fiction Roots” in New Republic.

In 1963, while a prisoner at the federal penitentiary at McNeil Island in Washington state, Charles Manson heard other prisoners enthuse about two books: Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and L. Ron Hubbard’s self-help guide Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950). Heinlein’s novel told the story of a Mars-born messiah who preaches a doctrine of free love, leading to the creation of a religion whose followers are bound together by ritualistic water-sharing and intensive empathy (called “grokking”). Hubbard’s purportedly non-fiction book described a therapeutic technique for clearing away self-destructive mental habits. It would later serve as the basis of Hubbard’s religion, Scientology.

Manson was barely literate, so he probably didn’t delve too deeply into either of these texts. But he was gifted at absorbing information in conversation, and by talking to other prisoners he gleaned enough from both books to synthesize a new theology. His encounter with the writings of Heinlein and Hubbard was a pivotal event in his life. Until then, he had been a petty criminal and drifter who spent his life in and out of jail. But when Manson was released from McNeil Island in 1967, he was a new figure: a charismatic street preacher who gathered a flock of followers among the hippies of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.

…As vile and sociopathic as he was, Charles Manson did have a gift for absorbing the zeitgeist, which is one reason he held such a powerful sway over the cultural imagination. Manson picked up Stranger in a Strange Land in the same spirit that he learned to strum a guitar and offer exegeses on Beatles lyrics. It was a way for him to ride the wave of cultural change. Manson remained infamous all these decades not just because he inspired mass murder, but also because he did so by manipulating some of our most powerful myths.

(17) BAD LUCK. Wrong place, wrong time? A civilian’s frustration at trying to shoot the demolition of the Georgia Dome — “‘Move bus, get out the way!'” (video).

An unlucky camera operator waited 40 minutes to film a stadium demolition – but was thwarted at the last moment.

(18) VIRTUAL MOVIE MUSEUM. Yourprops.com is the “free online museum for your movie props, costumes and wardrobe.” There are myriad photos of movie props (original and replica), wardrobe (original and replica costumes), production used items (crew jackets, shirts and gifts, storyboards, artwork, etc.).

For example: “The Dark Tower, Hero light up Breaker Kid’s Devartoi Watch”.

(19) WHEN NORTH MEETS EAST. At Adweek, see “Sensei Wu Saves Santa, Who Saves Christmas, in Lego’s Fun Holiday Ad”.

Lego Australia is out with a largely winsome addition to the Christmas advertising pile—a stop-motion animation about a Lego Santa finding his way home to save Christmas, thanks to a little surprise help from a spirited stranger.

The minute-long spot from CHE Proximity opens with a Lego North Pole—or Lego Christmas Town, as the brand calls it—set on a living room floor. It’s abuzz with holiday activity, when a human-Godzilla foot comes crashing down on the blissful scene, causing a specific Lego reindeer to squirt very specific Lego poop in fear—graphic sound effects included—while general catastrophe ensues everywhere.

(20) TODAY’S VIDEO. A lure to the dark side in these snippets of The Last Jedi – “Tempt.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Chris Barkley, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/17 I’ll Be Over Here Eating My Lunch Alone On The Pixelground

(1) TURKEY FIRST. ULTRAGOTHA chastized me for yesterday’s Scroll title:

Mike, Mike, Mike. Please. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet! Can’t we have our Pixellated Turkey with Scrollbean Casserole and all the fixins before being subject to Scrollnuts Roasting on an Open Glyer?

(2) ATTENTION REDWOMBAT READERS. T. Kingfisher’s Clockwork Boys is available for pre-order.

For those following along at home, this is the Thing With The Paladin And The Ninja Accountant. And it is Book One! It is not a standalone! Book Two will be out, hopefully February-ish! (It is, however, a duology, not a trilogy or whatever.)

(3) LINE UP AND SIGN UP. The makers of Pacific Rim Uprising are offering someone a chance to be in the movie – sign up at Jaeger Academy.

Do you have what it takes to become a Jaeger Pilot? Welcome to Jaeger Academy, where you will learn to pilot the most powerful machines to ever walk the Earth, and become the most heroic version of yourself. Enlist now to test yourself in Pan Pacific Defense Corps missions for the chance to become immortalized in the Hall of Heroes, have your name in the film credits, name a Jaeger from the film, and more! Join the Uprising now to stand tall for all humanity.

 

(4) A LIST OF THE BEST. The B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog calls these 25 books “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017”. I’m surprised that this is the first time I’ve heard of a third of these titles. And their runner-up list has several titles I expect to be award nominees.

Which brings us to the books below—25 titles that stood out in a particularly strong year for SFF, a year during which many of us looked to the speculative to help us grapple with the strangeness around us—or to offer us an escape from it. Taken collectively, they are: provoking, thoughtful, compelling, challenging, unique. And, most certainly, they are all so very 2017. These are the best science fiction and fantasy books of the year. (Never fear, short fiction fans: we’re covering anthologies and collections in a separate list—horror too.) 

(5) ELEVENFOX. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog also has the cover reveal for Elevenfox Gambit, actually titled Revanant Gun.

Yoon Ha Lee Answers 5 Questions About Revenant Gun

What are we looking at on the cover of Revenant Gun?
The cover shows my protagonist Jedao’s flagship (“command moth,” in the parlance of the books), called the Revenant, and the Fortress of Pearled Hopes.

(6) LE GUIN, MOTHERHOOD, AND WRITING. David Streitfeld does the asking in “Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin” at the LA Review of Books.

When did you write?

After the kids were put to bed, or left in their bed with a book. My kids went to bed much earlier than most kids do now. I was appalled to learn my grandchildren were staying up to 11:00. That would have driven me up the wall. We kept old-fashioned hours — 8:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m. I would go up to the attic, and work 9:00 to midnight. If I was tired, it was a little tough. But I was kind of gung-ho to do it. I like to write. It’s exciting, something I’m really happy doing.

Does being in the Library of America make you feel you’ve joined the immortals? You’re now up there with all the greats — Twain, Poe, Wharton.

I grew up with a set of Mark Twain in the house. Collections of authors’ work were not such a big deal. And my agent was hesitant about the contract, since the pay upfront was less than she’s used to settling for. She’s a good agent. Her job is to make money. What I did not realize is that being published in the Library of America is a real and enduring honor. Especially while you’re still alive. Philip Roth and I make a peculiar but exclusive club.

(7) MWA AWARDS. Mystery Writers of America announced the recipients of its 2018 Special Edgar Awards – Grand Master, Raven and Ellery Queen:

Jane Langton, William Link, and Peter Lovesey have been chosen as the 2018 Grand Masters by Mystery Writers of America (MWA). MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality.  Ms. Langton, Mr. Link, and Mr. Lovesey will receive their awards at the 72nd Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on April 26, 2018.

…The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.  The Raven Bookstore and Kristopher Zgorski will receive the 2018 Raven Award.

The Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017. The store was opened in 1987 by co-owners Pat Kehde and Mary Lou Wright. Kehde kept the store for 28 years, weathering the Borders storm with a plan to “stay the same size and cultivate [the] clients.” Heidi Raak took over the store in 2008. Current owner and poet Danny Caine took over in August of 2017; he is a longtime employee of the shop. The Raven has two store cats, Dashiell and Ngiao.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.” This year the Board chose to honor Robert Pépin. Mr. Pépin began his literary career in 1964 as a translator of English-language novels. Since then he has been a translator, editor, and publisher of some of the most important authors of the past century including Lawrence Block, Alex Berenson, C.J. Box, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, James Church, Miles Corwin, Martin Cruz Smith, and Robert Crais.

[Hat tip to Locus Online.]

(8) MORE ON TOLKIEN SAINTHOOD. Here is an initiative of the Student Association of Roman pontifical universities and sponsored by the Conference of rectors of Roman pontifical universities.

(9) DENISE DUMARS. The SPECPO blog interviewed a veteran sf poet who’ll be at Loscon this weekend: “From Sheet Lightning to Paranormal Writing: An interview with Denise Dumars”.

Looking back at your first poetry collection Sheet Lightning to now, what’s changed most about your process in putting a manuscript together?
I rarely think in terms of “putting together a manuscript” when it comes to poetry and short fiction. The poems come one at a time, and rarely do I have a theme for a collection. My most recent collection is an exception to that rule: Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal was a themed volume; more than half the poems dealt with paranormal research of the type that I find really funny—you know, the ghost hunters and all their gadgets. But the other half of the book is more serious as it deals with New Orleans and the paranormal. Every collection is different. Right now I have a collection of haiku that I’m trying to figure out where to send—it’s call the Punk Rock Picnic Haiku, as it was written over time as I went to punk rock concerts with the rest of my elderly punk set at Liquid Kitty, a club that was recently bought by someone who turned it into a rich businessman’s lounge. The haiku series is a memorial to a time and place. I keep meaning to create a collection of specifically science fiction poems and a collection specifically of horror and dark fantasy poems.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) PRIME TIME. GeekWire says the Electric Dreams release date has been set:

Amazon today announced that its new anthology series “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” will premiere on Jan. 12, exclusively on Prime Video. The much-anticipated streaming series will be comprised of 10 standalone episodes, each set in different worlds — five to 5,000 years in the future…

 

(12) MOON MEN. Bad Astronomer Phil Plait enjoys himself while demolishing another conspiracy theory in “No, that’s not a stagehand in an Apollo astronaut photo”.

I was checking Facebook Sunday, and saw I was tagged in a post by Evan Bernstein, from Skeptics Guide to the Universe. Dreading what I’d see if I went to the page, I clicked the link anyway. I can’t help it. Bad astronomy is like catnip to me.

I wasn’t disappointed. Evan had a link to an article in NewsweekNewsweek — that is a credulous account of a guy on YouTube who calls himself Streetcap1. This particular video shows an image from the Apollo 17 mission, which landed two astronauts on the Moon in December 1972.

… That’s clearly the figure of a human. I think we’d all agree on that. Where I part ways with Streetcap1 is that he is guessing that’s a stagehand or someone else standing there when this photo was taken. In his video he points out features he thinks he sees on the figure, including — and I swear I’m not making this up — long hair. Because this was “back in the early ’70s.”

Yes. He said that.

(13) LET ‘ER RIP. Camestros Felapton is decompressing from the first season of Star Trek: Discovery by launching a weekly review of older Trek TV episodes — “Trek Tuesday* – Errand of Mercy”.

The obvious pretext for including this episode as background for Discovery is that it is the first Klingon episode. Like Discovery, Starfleet finds itself rapidly falling into war with the Klingons. However, my main reason for picking on it is as an example of what Discovery is failing to do, which is to examine some of the assumptions of Star Trek that arise out of its post-WW2 and US hegemonic roots.

… Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet, leaving Sulu in charge of the Enterprise with strict others to skedaddle if the Klingon fleet turns up. Kirk and Spock find the Organians to be a technologically primitive people, with little in the way of government. The Organians lsiten politely to Kirk’s offer of Federation membership and help against the Klingons but they politely decline. Shortly thereafter the Klingon fleet arrives and invades Organia.

It needs to be said that the Klingons are both comical and appalling. The Klingon army is a few guys marching across the set. The makeup manages to be racist in a way that is insulting both to black people and Chinese people – apparently they literally used shoe polish. The Klingon commander, Kor, is perhaps the most urbane Klingon in the Trek canon beating even Christopher Plummer’s Shakespeare quoting Klingon from the movies. At this point in Trek, the Klingons are just a generic military dictatoship, more 1984 than the syncretic mix of Viking-Samurai from later versions.

(14) DEADER THAN A SUPER DOORNAIL. The Hollywood Reporter’s Ciara Wardlow asks the question n“Has ‘Justice League’ Killed the Superhero Origin Story?” and argues that the answer is “Yes.”

At first glance, this may appear like the Warner Bros.’ DC universe taking shortcuts in order to try to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there is something else important to be considered. Namely, that the MCU’s Phase One strategy to build up to The Avengers is no longer an option. It’s too reliant on solo origin stories. Even within Phase One, audiences were getting a little restless with the formula by the time Captain America: The First Avenger rolled around only two months after Thor.

There’s nothing wrong with origin stories, and even just this year we got a great one with Wonder Woman. But the cinematic reboot craze jumpstarted by 2005′ Batman Begins lead to such an explosion of origin stories that the market has grown saturated. There is still a niche or two left available here and there. “Quality female superhero origin story” was still wide open for Wonder Woman, and can probably fit a few more entries before things start getting too crowded. But origin stories revolving around one Great Big Hero are naturally going to end up hitting the same narrative beats and plot points. Switching up various elements can keep things interesting for a while, there are limits that the superhero genre is inching very close to surpassing — a boundary where pleasantly or at least tolerably familiar crosses into the territory of boringly repetitive.

(15) LIFE IMITATES ART. “Finally, You Can Have Breakfast at Tiffany” – the New York Times has the story.

There are certain movie scenes that are so iconic that they still retain their importance in the pop-culture lexicon, even decades later. When Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn, stepped out of a yellow cab and sauntered to the window of Tiffany & Co. in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” playing in the background, such a scene was created.

As Holly ate a croissant and carried a cup of coffee, she was still, unfortunately, on the outside of the building. Since 1837, Tiffany’s has been a preeminent luxury jeweler and not a place where you could actually have breakfast. However, that changed on Friday, with the opening of the Blue Box Café, at the company’s venerable flagship store at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City. Menu items will be seasonal and reflect a sophisticated take on a variety of New York dishes.

Located on the fourth floor of the building, which houses a recently renovated home and accessories section, the café is a bright, airy space, with the “Breakfast at Tiffany” breakfast starting at $29….

(16) SKILLZ. Finally, a school that teaches something students believe will be useful after they graduate…. The BBC explains “Why Singapore is training professional gamers”.  (Video preceded by obnoxious ad)

 A career in gaming would once have been unthinkable in Asia. But with the global e-sports market forecast to hit $1.5bn in three years, Singapore wants to help train new gamers how to go professional.

(17) PIG BELLY. Why this one won’t melt as quick as expected: “Antarctic glacier’s rough belly exposed”.

The melting Antarctic ice stream that is currently adding most to sea-level rise may be more resilient to change than previously recognised.

New radar images reveal the mighty Pine Island Glacier (PIG) to be sitting on a rugged rock bed populated by big hills, tall cliffs and deep scour marks.

Such features are likely to slow the ice body’s retreat as the climate warms, researchers say.

(18) CUISINE ALCHEMY. Carrots in blackberry yogurt? “The surprising ingredients behind common foods” (video).

Some of our daily staples are made of strange things that enhance their taste or their looks, or make them cost-effective.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Goodbye Uncanny Valley” in Vimeo, Alan Warburton looks at the state of computer graphics today, including a look at edgy projects that are on the verge of development in the future.

[Thanks to Nancy Sauer, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]